Month: August 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Seahawks @ Chargers first half notes

Some first half thoughts…

Seattle’s offense was a hot mess early on — but it’s not overly concerning. These pre-season games are perfect for a relatively structured, passing offense to excel. Philip Rivers can run endless picks, crossing routes and slants with a bit of Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead mixed in. Seattle’s attack is based on controlled chaos and Marshawn Lynch. It’s hard to create chaos in pre-season and Lynch had only one drive.

Even so, it would’ve been nice to see some cohesion. Russell Wilson was flustered throughout the first half. When he did get time he overthrew Jimmy Graham down the seam.

On a more positive note, Seattle’s first two picks in the 2015 draft will prove to be their best since 2012.

Tyler Lockett again flashed in the return game (see above). He sets up the blocks well and finishes. That’s what he does. The blocking was very good too. Frank Clark also had another big first half. On one play he bull rushed the center into the backfield to split a sack with Jordan Hill. On another play he started at left end with Michael Bennett inside on a 3rd and 5. The left-side pressure/attention created a sack for Bruce Irvin.

Rivers got a little chesty on one Clark rush where he drilled the quarterback into the ground. King Dunlap took a 15-yard penalty for dragging Clark off Rivers. The very next play was the Lockett return-TD. That extra bit of space probably aided Lockett’s passage to the end zone. We should probably give Clark an assist…

In general the Seahawks look more aggressive on key downs. We’re seeing all-out attack at times with the best pass rushers all on the field. They’re timing the snap count well (unlike last year) and getting into the backfield. It’s too early to say whether this is a Kris Richard installed wrinkle or good form, but it looks intriguing.

Lynch was coaching Lockett up at one point before the end of the half.

The O-line struggled on the left side on first viewing. Alvin Bailey, starting at left tackle, was beaten badly by 255lbs Kyle Emanuel on a play where Justin Britt also whiffed on an inside rush. On the previous play Britt was flagged for holding.

There didn’t appear to be too many issues with Drew Nowak at center. Garry Gilliam looks very comfortable at right tackle.

Wilson has missed a few easy throws in pre-season. Right before the end of the half he threw behind Jimmy Graham. It was catchable but awkward — and Graham dropped it.

K.J. Wright left the game with a shoulder injury but the announcers said he was cleared to return — the team decided against it as a precaution.

Overall a typical Seahawks road game. Ugly at times, too many penalties — and still winning. It’s 2:30am. Further thoughts later.

Announcing a new draft podcast for 2015

So here’s some awesome news — for the 2015 season we’ll be doing a weekly NFL Draft Podcast with the brilliant Kenneth Arthur. We’ll discuss prospects, talk about possible Seahawks targets, have some guests on the show. It’ll be called ‘3000 NFL Mock Draft’ and we’re going to start next week.

We discussed the new show in this weeks ‘Real in the Field Gulls’ Podcast (see below) and also talked about Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, the offensive line and some other subjects involving the Seahawks.

Check it out…

Why the Kam Chancellor hold out could go beyond week 2

Kam Chancellor’s hold out shows no signs of ending

With no sign of the stalemate ending, here’s a couple of quick thoughts on the situation. Having gone this far it really doesn’t benefit Chancellor to report for the first two games unless the Seahawks make an attractive offer. St. Louis and Green Bay on the road — two tough games — have the potential to strengthen his position. An 0-2 Seahawks team would be under pressure to end the holdout. Alternatively, if they win both or go 1-1, Chancellor won’t have much to gain by holding out any further heading into a stretch of winnable games.

How key would Chancellor be in weeks 1-2?

The Rams are traditionally slow starters. They’re 1-7 in season openers over the last eight years, with many of those games at home. They lost 34-6 to the Vikings at home last season. Their win came in 2013 — a tight victory against Arizona. They’re also 2-1 in home games against the Seahawks in the last three years — and that probably should be 3-0. Seattle really struggled in their 2013 victory and were lucky to escape with a win.

Many will focus on the battle between St. Louis’ fearsome defensive line and Seattle’s inexperienced O-line. It could be a red-herring. The Seahawks won in St. Louis in 2013 with Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie playing tackle. Last year Russell Wilson was reasonably well protected and made several big plays. Seattle often plays sloppy in St. Louis and that might be the greater key to winning the game. They’ve allowed momentum-shifting big plays and too many special teams gaffes. Cut those out and they have a good chance to win the opener.

The Rams used a dink-and-dunk passing game to great effect last year against the Seahawks. Kam Chancellor played but was far from 100% healthy. It’s harder to run endless crossing routes with a big imposing strong safety ready to deliver a hit over the middle. Even so, it’s hard to imagine the difference between a win and a loss being Chancellor’s presence in the secondary. It really comes down to the Seahawks playing a much cleaner game in St. Louis.

Green Bay are the type of opponent where you just want everyone available because they’re a really good team. It’s hard enough to win in Lambeau without any avoidable absentee’s. However, there’s one big key for the Seahawks that doesn’t involve Chancellor.

Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers were kryptonite to the Packers. Dom Capers’ defense is well organised but very orthodox. Despite many attempts they never got to grips with Colin Kaepernick running the read-option. San Francisco and Harbaugh went 4-0 against this Packers team:

2013 playoffs — 49ers win 23-20 @ Lambeau
2013 regular season — 49ers win 34-28 @ Candlestick
2012 playoffs — 49ers win 45-31 @ Candlestick
2012 regular season — 49ers win 30-22 @ Lambeau

In the 2012 playoff game, Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and ran for 181. In the 2013 playoff game he passed for 227 and ran for 98 yards. He passed for 412 yards in the 2013 regular season game.

The Packers had no answer.

In fairness they didn’t have much answer for Seattle’s trickery in week one last year either. In the NFC Championship game — without Percy Harvin and with an unusually low-key game plan — Green Bay found a way to impact Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks didn’t run the ball and Wilson was under constant duress working from the pocket. If they learn from that experience, they’ll use a lot more of the Lynch-Wilson combo with the read-option. They need to be somewhat creative. Capers’ defense isn’t the best when adapting to the unknown.

Aaron Rodgers will still score points in the game and while you’d rather have Chancellor play — again it probably isn’t the deciding factor. Seattle’s ability to limit the damage on defense and keep scoring on offense will be important. In 2012 they sacked Rodgers eight times in a half and shut down the Packers offense. This could be a night for the newly dangerous D-line rather than anyone in the secondary.

For those reasons it might be worth the Seahawks maintaining their position a little while longer. Admittedly that doesn’t account for the loss of leadership. Chancellor is clearly more than just an imposing strong safety — he’s a vital part of the locker room and his return would no doubt provide the entire team with a huge lift. That’s a loss the Seahawks will have to suffer if they maintain their understandable hardline stance on the hold out.

Both parties can make a case for waiting until after week two to assess their options. If the Seahawks go 2-0 with two tough road wins minus Chancellor, what leverage does he have? If they go 0-2, there will be intense pressure to get Chancellor back on the field with a heavier wallet.

Evan Mathis signs with the Broncos

Evan Mathis visiting with the Seahawks (and some entertaining flirting on social media) suggested a move was possible. In reality, they didn’t have enough cap room to make it happen without some serious moves.

Today he agreed a $2.5m deal with the Denver Broncos (it can rise to $4.5m). So what now for Seattle?

Continuity is a good thing for an offensive line and some consistency with the starters has to be a positive. The same line that played relatively well against Kansas City gets another chance against the Chargers.

The question marks come at center. They met with Samson Satele. That’s surely not because they’re totally convinced with Drew Nowak and Lemuel Jeanpierre. Nowak has upside and might grow into the role — but Jeanpierre is a solid, known commodity. Unless Nowak can really convince this week, Jeanpierre — or an outsider like Satele — might snatch the starting role.

Samson Satele visits Seahawks

This is more evidence that the Seahawks are unsatisfied with the center play in pre-season. Satele started for the Dolphins in 2014 but with Mike Pouncey moving from guard this year, he found himself without a job.

The Raiders traded for Satele in 2009 when Tom Cable was Head Coach in Oakland. He’s played a lot of football over the years and would offer a solid stop-gap option with familiarity of the scheme.

At this stage the Seahawks adding a new center seems almost inevitable. It also suggests if Evan Mathis does opt for the Seahawks (his agent says he’ll pick a team this week) then one of Mathis or Britt could be asked to snap.

They’re tight against the cap which makes you wonder — will they do a deal with Kam Chancellor to create some room? Give him an extension, some more guarantees and maybe reduce his 2015 hit? That way you kill two birds with one stone. You get Chancellor in and you upgrade your O-line. It might be easier to justify to your other stars if you can claim you wanted to extend Chancellor anyway to make this kind of move. It might keep the wolves from the door next year (although probably not…).

While Satele is solid and has center experience — Mathis is the prize O-line free agent on the market. Having been linked with Seattle this week, it’d almost be a disappointment for Seahawks fans to miss out.

Pete Carroll said today Mathis’ meeting went well and he’s an option. “We got the information we needed“. He also suggested some complexity to a potential deal and that they’d need to make some other moves to make it happen.

Whatever happens, it’s time to start looking at the center class for the 2016 draft.

Will the Seahawks consider another change at center?

Brian’s Tweet above raises an interesting point. Yesterday we discussed Seattle’s biggest issue on the offensive line — which to me at least is protecting the right side. Garry Gilliam is an athletic yet thoroughly untested commodity, suddenly thrust into the starting role mid-way through the pre-season schedule. Justin Britt’s skill-set matches up nicely to left guard. If you sign Mathis you’re still relying on Gilliam or Britt to solve the problem at right tackle.

However, that kind of glosses over the situation at center. Lemuel Jeanpierre and Drew Nowak have been competing for the start. Jeanpierre is a solid, no-thrills center who performed reasonably well in Max Unger’s absence over the years. Whenever Unger was healthy, however, he was straight back into the line-up with no questions asked. Nowak has the greater athletic upside yet, like Gilliam, he’s a big unknown commodity.

I didn’t see a great deal wrong with Nowak’s tape against Kansas City after a closer viewing today — but tape-review is only part of the equation. Understanding line calls, being able to read a defense and help with adjustments is what makes the transition to center a little tougher than working to play guard. There’s no way for us to know how Nowak is handling these duties.

Mathis is listed at 6-5/301lbs and Max Unger at 6-5/305lbs. Mathis is a superior athlete (one of the best in the league all considered) and a SPARQ demon. He has the athletic profile Jeanpierre lacks and the experience and understanding that perhaps Nowak lacks.

In other words, it makes some sense to wonder whether the Seahawks are asking him to consider signing to play center.

Whoever gets the job now is going to have little time to strike up some chemistry with Russell Wilson. If this is going to happen presumably it would have to be pretty quickly to see how it works in the final two pre-season games. Even if the plan is use Mathis at guard and move Britt to center — he’s going to need to get working as soon as possible.

It’s something to contemplate with the situation becoming pretty quiet today after Mathis’ Saturday physical. Mike Garafolo says the visit was productive:

While Mathis has also been having some fun on social media

The worst case scenario is the five starters against Kansas City continue in their roles. It was a solid performance by the offensive line against a tough opponent. We should find out soon whether Evan Mathis will be added to the mix — either at guard or center. Even without him, Friday’s performance was a marked improvement on the previous outing against Denver.

Further thoughts following Seattle’s loss to Kansas City

This picture’s a bad example, but Seattle’s starting O-line performed well in Kansas City

Do the Seahawks need Evan Mathis?
This was a silly question 24 hours ago. However, there were positive signs for the offensive line in Kansas City and Justin Britt looks a lot more comfortable at left guard. Mathis is taking a physical with the Seahawks today although it’s unclear if he’s even remotely likely to sign with interest elsewhere. If they sign Mathis, he’s your left guard. It’d basically be an admission that Britt was a busted pick — and I’m not sure Seattle will go down that road just yet even if Mathis provides more of a sure thing. Britt’s strength and tenacity works well inside and one of his first blocks against the Chiefs saw him drive a defender five yards off the LOS. At right tackle Gary Gilliam equally showed a lot of potential against a tough pass-rushing D-line with only one serious whiff. On the evidence of last night the Seahawks have finally identified their best five guys and maybe it’s time to let them run with it. They made their bed on the O-line by trading Max Unger and letting others walk (eg Breno Giacomini). They encouraged change. Now they have to let the young guys learn and gel. Mathis would be an expensive, albeit appealing, stop-gap. He doesn’t solve Seattle’s biggest issue — protecting the right side of the line. Mathis in some ways is a luxury that upgrades left guard but doesn’t address the issues they have defending speed on the right side. It’s up to Gilliam to own that spot. I’m not convinced they’ll think the cost is worth adding Mathis to move Britt out of the line-up.

Graham needs to be a focal point
We know the Seahawks aren’t going to change their philosophy to accommodate one player and the last thing they want to do is change the offense dramatically for Jimmy Graham. They made that mistake with Percy Harvin. Yet Graham isn’t an orthodox tight end and it’ll be a waste if he’s tasked to help out a young offensive line in pass protection. Even though he isn’t in an air-raid attack like the Drew Brees scheme in New Orleans — he’s a genuine superstar pass catcher and it’s Seattle’s duty to exploit him and use him as much as possible. Is it a false concern to expect anything else? Possibly — but look at the major reduction in Zach Miller’s productivity when he swapped Oakland for Seattle. Whether it’s first down, third down, in the red zone — Graham is nearly impossible to cover 1v1. He might play tight end — but really that just secures the best mismatch. When they targeted him against KC in a short flurry you could see how effective he was. The Seahawks have, for the first time under Pete Carroll, a genuine big target and game-changer catching passes. Go to the well. It’ll be fascinating to see two things. 1 — how the appearance of Marshawn Lynch impacts the way teams approach Graham and 2– whether the Seahawks can get him his targets every week, even if they have to force things a little. He’s that good.

Are we seeing a minor shift in identity on defense?
For so long the secondary was the main focus — rich in talent and attitude. The defensive line has always had good players (it did depend on Chris Clemons for a pass rush between 2010 and 2012) but it’s never been the foundation of the defense. With the Legion of Boom banged up (and in one case sat at home) it’s timely that Seattle’s D-line appears better than ever. Michael Bennett has carried on his form from the end of last season and is emerging as one of the game’s truly elite disruptors. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are complimenting Bennett with pressure off the edge. Yet it’s the new-found depth that ultimately shines through. Frank Clark already looks like a second round steal and Cassius Marsh is capable of spelling the starters adequately. Jordan Hill and Ahtyba Rubin offer a nice blend of size and pass rush while Brandon Mebane looks quicker than ever. If the LOB needs a little extra help this year — they might just get it from this unit. The D-line is loaded.

Thoughts on the Kansas City game

Michael Bennett was the best player on the field and it wasn’t even close. He lived in the backfield from start to finish. He had success working inside and the edge. His sack ended a promising two minute drill for Kansas City to end the half.

When Bennett plays this way he’s virtually unstoppable and genuinely one of the elite defensive players in the league.

The front seven overall looked very impressive. Brandon Mebane had a big sack and looked very stout playing next to Ahtyba Rubin. Frank Clark wasn’t supposed to feature as he nurses an ankle injury but still made a tipped pass in the first quarter.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner were right behind Bennett in terms of impact. Wright had two big TFL’s and always seemed to be involved. Wagner’s pick six showed great awareness — although Alex Smith again showed his maddening limitations. He doesn’t improvise and is tied to the call. He occasionally scrambles but that’s about it. On the pick he tried to fool Wagner with a very basic look-off to the left.

Dion Bailey made some big hits and looked like he was enjoying himself — while DeShawn Shead showed off his versatility as a corner/safety hybrid.

The offense stuttered for a while before finding some rhythm late in the half. All eyes were on the pass protection which was generally good. Gary Gilliam looks raw but was mostly effective. Justin Houston brushed him off with a speed move forcing Russell Wilson to quickly dump the ball off towards Christine Michael. It was the only significant whiff by Gilliam in pass-pro. He showed a nice base and good footwork. He has natural leverage.

Justin Britt started with a big impact block driving his guy five yards off the LOS. He just looks a lot more comfortable at left guard. Overall this half signified a major improvement on seven days ago against another good pass-rushing defense. Strangely enough it was the run-blocking that suffered somewhat especially when Robert Turbin was on the field. Christine Michael made more of his snaps, including this block to knock Dee Ford out of the game:

Jimmy Graham is the missing link this offense has been crying out for. A box-out big target with plus athleticism. Look at this mismatch running the seam against safety Ron Parker. All he has to do is hold position and work the back-shoulder throw. It’s perfect and a cheap reception. The Seahawks needed this badly.

Missed tackles were a minor issue. Pete Carroll complimented the tackling last week against Denver. There were several whiffs in the first half tonight.

I’ll add second half thoughts on Saturday, it’s 2:31am here.

Some thoughts on the Kam Chancellor hold out

Kam Chancellor appears ready to extend his hold out into the regular season

ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who courted some controversy a year ago after a report on Michael Sam’s showering habits, has recently taken to fighting Kam Chancellor’s corner as his holdout lingers without any sign of ending.

On August 7th Anderson wrote a report on Facebook that felt more like a press release from Chancellor’s agent. It went into great detail about his salary and what he was seemingly asking the Seahawks to do. She noted the QBR rating of opposing quarterbacks facing Seattle without Chancellor. She noted how many snaps he’d played since 2010.

Anderson even offered the following opinion:

My impression of Chancellor is that he’s a man of principal who gives his life path a lot of thought and meditation, and that he’s methodical about his options.

Today she appeared on the Brock and Salk show to discuss the situation. The two hosts very graciously credited her with “owning” the story while she again proceeded to do Chancellor’s bidding.

It was a slightly difficult and not altogether neutral view of the situation.

It’s nothing compared to the difficult position Seahawks fans find themselves in when considering this impasse.

You won’t find a single fan with a bad thing to say about Kam Chancellor. Not only is he a tremendous strong safety, he’s everything a working fan wants to see on their team. A physical, uncompromising style. A tone-setting force. That enviable chess-piece every other team wishes they had. He seems to always play his best football in the post-season — and the regular season stuff isn’t half bad either. He’ll play hurt, play for his team mates and lead by example.

And yet increasingly fans are starting to question the motives of this highly respected member of the LOB.

Football might be a business to the players. It’s true that teams will cast individuals aside with little care or second thought. Yet to the fans it’s just a game. A release from the mundanity of everyday life. And when they see multi-millionaire’s going on strike because they want even more money — it’s hard to understand.

The players argue they put their bodies on the line every Sunday for 16 weeks a year for entertainment. That might be the case — but what about the guy who works 12-hour shifts on a building site for an annual salary less than the amount Kam Chancellor is willing to give up in fines for missing one day of training camp?

Is that guy not equally putting his body on the line? Is he allowed to sign a contract and then not turn up when he decides he wants more money?

How can he be expected to see Chancellor’s side of the story on this situation?

If he holds-out into the regular season, he’ll be throwing millions of dollars ($1M in fines and $4.45M in 2015 guaranteed money) down the drain. And for what? He’s still contracted to the Seahawks until 2017. He’d have to show up in week 10 to record an accrued season, otherwise he’d be under contract until the end of 2018. If he plays the last six games does he hold out again next year? And the year after?

By the time he hits free agency he’d be 30 years old, having wasted millions in salary and potential fines. Is a 30-year-old Chancellor going to command a massive new contract on the open market? Or would he just be wasting a ton of cash, the best years of his career and an opportunity to lead this team to another Championship or two — cementing his legacy as one of Seattle’s all-time greats?

Granted he probably senses that at age 30 he’ll be close to the end of his career. The time to earn is now, during his peak. It’s just too bad he already signed the coveted second-contract. He and his agent made their bed — now they must sleep in it. The Seahawks showed a ton of faith to reward Chancellor early with a handsome contract. Should they now be punished because the market has flipped in their favour?

This seems to be at the heart of the hold-out. Chancellor has to play the ‘I’m irreplaceable’ card. He has no other play to make if he wants more money today. The only way he can prove he’s irreplaceable is to miss games with the hope the team struggles in his absence. As a fan, how can you begin to understand that stance? It’s the only leverage he has.

He has to force the Seahawks to act, otherwise they won’t. Why would they? If they buckle for Chancellor they have to deal with Michael Bennett next year. Or Richard Sherman. Or Earl Thomas.

And isn’t that the beauty of this roster? It’s not reliant on one player on either side of the ball in the way Houston relies on J.J. Watt or Green Bay Aaron Rodgers. Losing Chancellor would be a blow — but you’ve still got Bennett, Mebane, Avril, Irvin, Clark, Wagner, Wright, Sherman, Thomas, Williams and others.

Would the Seahawks panic in week six if one of their key players suffered an injury? Did they panic when they lost Mebane last year? Of course not. It’s next man up. And it’ll almost certainly be that way if Chancellor prolongs his hold out into the regular season.

As things stand they have $5m in free cap space. Unfortunately that’s really -$1m as around $6m is required for the 52nd/53rd player on the roster, Injured Reserve and the practise squad. So they really don’t have the cap space to give Chancellor a pay increase.

Anderson’s point regarding signing-bonus conversion is all well and good — but why should the Seahawks make that move? They know full well they’ll be setting a bad precedent for any other player who wants to pull a similar stunt in the future. Chancellor and his agent signed the deal. Now they’re trying to force the Seahawks into a move they don’t have to make.

This stand-off doesn’t appear to be benefiting anyone other than Josina Anderson’s Facebook page.


Adam Schefter reaffirms Anderson’s note that Chancellor is willing to hold out during the regular season.

The report on Evan Mathis is intriguing. Is it an attempt by the Mathis camp to jump start his market? It reads like a ‘come and get me’ plea. After all, he’s supposedly asking for a handsome salary (he wanted more than $5.5m a year from the Eagles) — and as we noted in the piece, Seattle has almost no cap room to play with.

Alternatively — do the Seahawks have to find a way to slot Mathis into the roster? Even if it means sacrificing another player? The offensive line is clearly a concern. Mathis is a tried and tested guard and would instantly upgrade the unit (albeit as merely a stopgap).

At the moment it’s just a visit he might not even make.

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