The Seahawks have many issues at the moment as the rebuild continues under Pete Carroll. Clearly the team is in need of someone capable of rushing the passer consistently and effectively. Whilst the Seahawks have found production from their young group of receivers, do they still lack that #1 guy that can scare teams into greater coverage? Do they need more in the secondary? And perhaps more than anything – can they answer the question about the long term future at quarterback?
Having said that, the first round of the draft isn’t the only way or necessarily the easiest way to fill those holes. I wrote at the end of August about how difficult it has been in recent years to find effective pass rushers in the first round. This year’s group of big name quarterbacks have flattered to deceive and you have to ask whether the Seahawks could trust their long term success in the hands of Locker, Luck or Mallett in round one. When I watch the Seahawks’ offense I still think it lacks an identity. Of course there’s the recognisable presence of Matt Hasselbeck, but at 35-years of age he’s more game-manager than game-winner these days. There’s promise amongst the young receivers, but not a dominant playmaker. Like most teams it’s a running back committee, yet none of the backs have stood out in a struggling run game.
Finding one guy to hang your hat on would, for me, be of tremendous benefit for the Seahawks. Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama) could be that guy.
Of course it’s not the en vogue suggestion these days is it? People often don’t want to discuss drafting a running back early. The feeling is that backs can be found later on and that the days of one franchise runner carrying the load are in the past. None of that is false. Why I want to argue the case for going against this though is my belief that Ingram is capable of lifting a team so much from day one that it’d potentially give the Seahawks an identity as soon as the pick was called.
He may have the complete package. He’s a thick-set guy with ideal size (5’10”, 215lbs) who owns the kind of one-cut ability needed to thrive in a ZBS. He’s got great vision and patience and consistently sets up his blocks better than a lot of guys in the NFL. He’ll run over you or around you – it’s a great no-nonsense style and determination to get the job done which is emphasised by how difficult he is to bring down. Watch Ingram after the initial contact – even on a good solid tackle he’ll make an extra buck or two. He’s got a tremendous stiff arm and hand punch to keep away defenders, not to mention the perfect balance even when he’s knocked off track. Ball security – one fumble in his career so far. That’s it. Need him to pass protect? You get the sense he enjoys it (almost) as much as he does running for a big play downfield. Does he have elite speed? No. He isn’t Chris Johnson in that aspect. Still, he’s plenty fast enough and shows quick acceleration to burst through an opening and kicks through the gears quickly. His top end speed isn’t CJ2k, but his burst should secure a solid time at the combine next year over 40-yards.
In two games this year against Duke and Arkansas, he has 308 yards and four touchdowns. This follows his Heisman winning season last year when he recorded 1658 rushing yards and 17 TD’s, accompanying three further scores in the passing game.
My only concern coming into this year was whether the physical style might lead to injuries – and he missed the first two games this year with a knock. I guess that will happen. Knowshon Moreno had a physical style at Georgia but never so much as left the field after a hard hit. He comes into the NFL and has issues galore. It’s the risk you take when drafting a running back, but it’s important to remember one of the knocks on Adrian Peterson was his durability and he’s had barely any issues at the next level.
Drafting Mark Ingram won’t solve Seattle’s pass rush problems, it won’t secure the quarterback of the future. What it does secure is someone to build around on offense the same way Minnesota built around AP. The Seahawks can’t go out and sign Steve Hutchinson at guard, but if they continue to improve the offensive line (and it’s been a vast improvement so far, even without Russell Okung) there’s no reason why Ingram can’t come into the league and have the same impact as Peterson. He might be that good. Is it a luxury? Some would say yes. I would say no – because whilst like anyone else you’d love to see questions answered elsewhere first, sometimes a guy is too good at his position to ignore. Running back might be a more neglected position these days, but Ingram is going to be a star. That warrants consideration.
– Akeem Ayers (DE/OLB, UCLA) was at his dominant best this weekend as the Bruins stunned Texas. He had a sack, forced fumble and an interception on the day. I’ve written about him a lot on this blog, but he’s one to watch. He can play the LEO position in Seattle and he’s just a fantastic playmaker. He can rush off the edge with his hand in the dirt and he can drop back and cover. He’s the kind of guy you bring in and spend days working out packages to maximise his talent.
– Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue) might be starting to demand greater respect. He was given a third-round grade by the draft committee last year and returned to Purdue. It’s important to remember that Aaron Curry was given the same grade once, returned to Wake Forest and ended up being a top five pick. Kerrigan may not go that far up the boards, but he’s drawn strong comparisons to Chris Long (2nd overall, 2008) and has five sacks in four games, including two more this weekend against Toledo. He’s a relentless pass rusher off the edge who some believe can be a 10-sack a year guy in the NFL.
– Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) had another big punt return touchdown this weekend against West Virginia. Aside from being virtually a lockdown corner so far this year, he’s registered over 500 return yards and two interceptions. He’s big (6’1″, 221lbs) fast and athletic and will set the combine on fire next year. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s a lock for the top ten next April.