Archive for August, 2016

Podcast: Players to watch in CFB, Seahawks thoughts

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Topics covered:

— What the Vikings will do without Teddy Bridgewater
— Trevone Boykin
— The offensive line situation
— The play of the Seahawks running backs, including Troymaine Pope, Alex Collins, and Christine Michael
— Why Alabama football has dominated college football
— Who to watch this season as the 2016 college football year kicks off
— Who to follow for the 2017 NFL Draft

Seahawks 53 man roster projection & notes

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Will safety Steven Terrell make the final cut?

1. Russell Wilson
2. Trevone Boykin

This position is set in stone.

Running backs
3. Thomas Rawls
4. Christine Michael
5. C.J. Prosise
6. Alex Collins
7. Will Tukuafu

Troymaine Pope played well in the first two pre-season games but let’s consider the whole summer. When the likes of Rawls, Michael and Prosise were missing time during camp — Collins was taking a lot of the workload and a ton of snaps. He gained rave reviews during the mock game they played. The Seahawks have cut productive pre-season RB’s in the past and Pope might be the latest casualty. Either way, it’s the #4 running back spot. They’ll hope this player rarely sees the field in 2016.

Tight ends
8. Jimmy Graham
9. Luke Willson
10. Nick Vannett
11. Brandon Williams

Graham appears healthy enough to avoid starting the year on PUP. Vannett’s injury at least sounds minor enough to avoid that status too. Brandon Williams was recently described by Pete Carroll as a core special teamer and appears destined to make the roster.

Wide receivers
12. Doug Baldwin
13. Jermaine Kearse
14. Tyler Lockett
15. Paul Richardson
16. Tanner McEvoy
17. Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams or Kenny Lawler

The first four names are a shoe-in. There are two big questions remaining. Who wins the #5 WR spot and will they look to keep a #6 too? Tanner McEvoy has been a playmaker averaging 25.6 YPC (per Field Gulls) in pre-season. He also drew the big P.I. call against Minnesota which technically was another explosive play.

McEvoy is incredibly raw and would present three gambles:

a.) Can he make plays when it matters during the regular season?
b.) Can he contribute to special teams?
c.) Do you want to risk losing one of your other, more polished receivers?

Carroll suggested he will miss the Oakland game with a groin injury and expressed some sadness about that. That hinted at a costly missed opportunity for the player and the team — especially if others stand out against the Raiders with extended playing time.

The idea of keeping a sixth receiver would allow them to carry McEvoy and avoid losing another. This could be especially important at the start of the season due to the injury issues at TE (McEvoy, if healthy, could be used as a bigger target). It’s also worth noting that the likes of Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith were all cut in the past and weren’t lost forever. They did, however, lose fourth round pick Chris Harper when he was cut in 2013.

Offensive Line
18. Bradley Sowell
19. Mark Glowinski
20. Justin Britt
21. Germain Ifedi
22. Garry Gilliam
23. J’Marcus Webb
24. Rees Odhiambo
25. Joey Hunt
26. Jahri Evans

The Seahawks carried nine O-liners last year. The first seven names listed are virtual locks at this stage. Joey Hunt took the second team reps vs Dallas ahead of Patrick Lewis. The Seahawks can save around $1.2m by keeping Hunt as the backup center over Lewis. They might prefer to keep a veteran presence at guard because this is a young, inexperienced group. Terry Poole is making a strong case but there’s a greater need for depth at guard with Sowell, Ifedi, Webb, Odhiambo and Gilliam all capable of playing tackle. Will George Fant make the practise squad? He’s played well enough to be considered for a red shirt spot.

Defensive line
27. Michael Bennett
28. Cliff Avril
29. Frank Clark
30. Cassius Marsh
31. Ahtyba Rubin
32. Tony McDaniel
33. Jarran Reed
34. Jordan Hill
35. Quinton Jefferson

Despite a lot of talk about Jordan Hill’s place on the roster, there’s very little reason to cut him and lose some valuable depth on the D-line. Hill underperformed last season but he had a 5.5 sack campaign in 2014. This looks like a really solid group but they’ll need Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh to produce when they’re on the field. They’re maybe one edge rusher short.

36. K.J. Wright
37. Bobby Wagner
38. Mike Morgan
39. Brock Coyle
40. Kevin Pierre-Louis

The Seahawks kept seven linebackers last season and six in 2014. I’ve listed only five here — but Cassius Marsh and/or Frank Clark are also expected to be used in several different positions. Eric Pinkins hasn’t really done enough to warrant a place and there isn’t a great deal of depth here. Steve Longa appears to be in with a shout.

Defensive backs
41. Richard Sherman
42. Earl Thomas
43. Kam Chancellor
44. DeShawn Shead
45. Jeremy Lane
46. Kelcie McCray
47. Tharold Simon
48. Marcus Burley
49. Steven Terrell
50. Tye Smith

The last three names are the ones to focus on. Burley is good at what he does and warrants keeping for some extra flexibility in the slot. He also had some nice special teams plays in pre-season. Tye Smith was stashed on the 2015 roster and they might want to keep him around again this year. Steven Terrell isn’t flashy but generally does what they want him to. He understands his role, the defense and the way they play on special teams. Tyvis Powell is probably a more popular pick but he hasn’t looked great when tried at corner and he hasn’t backed up a strong performance at Kansas City. They might stash him instead of Tye Smith, choose to flat out cut Terrell or carry one less receiver. Powell might be one of the difficult cuts they’re forced to make.

Brandon Browner hasn’t flashed at all in pre-season. Has the switch to safety underwhelmed or are the Seahawks keeping their powder dry? Many wanted to see the original LOB reunited and he’d be a popular keep — but this is an extremely competitive position group and Browner might be too much of a luxury.

Special teams
51. Steven Hauschka
52. Jon Ryan
53. Nolan Frese or Clint Gresham

I think a lot of people expected a change at long snapper after the Dallas game. We’ll see what happens.

The two things I’m least confident about:

a.) What they do at receiver (whether they keep five or six and who makes it)
b.) Which defensive backs they keep

Seahawks interior OL most explosive in the NFL?

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Mark Glowinski could be the most explosive starting guard in the league

The weighted TEF formula we studied during the 2016 draft paints a very positive picture for Seattle’s new interior O-line. It also partly explains why they’ve been so productive during pre-season.

Weighted TEF combines size and explosive physical qualities to determine an overall individual grade. For a more detailed explanation, click here.

From the 2016 draft class, WTEF ranked Germain Ifedi the third most explosive lineman available (behind Jason Spriggs and Connor McGovern). His score (96.1) was significantly higher than other notable prospects:

Ryan Kelly 87.0
Jack Conklin 85.0
Le’Raven Clark 84.1
Taylor Decker 77.3

Here’s how his score compared to several of the top D-line prospects:

Joey Bosa 88.6
Sheldon Rankins 103.3
Vernon Butler 101.1
Jonathan Bullard 89.0

And for arguments sake, Aaron Donald scored a 101.7 and J.J. Watt a 110.9 (!!!).

Ifedi’s combination of size, length and explosion is impressive — but it’s even more impressive when combined with the scores of the two guys next to him.

Mark Glowsinski was one of the most explosive players in the 2015 draft and WTEF graded him at 101.1. Justin Britt tested better than a lot of people realise before the 2014 draft and scored a 97.5.

I haven’t tallied the scores for all starting NFL interior linemen — but this trio could, possibly, be the most explosive guard/center combo in the league. It’ll take something special to beat it.

Thoughts on the 27-17 win vs Dallas

Friday, August 26th, 2016

— I think Tanner McEvoy will make the final roster if his groin injury isn’t too bad. He’s a bigger receiver and offers a different skill set to the others. He’s made some big plays in pre-season and they need to fill the Ricardo Lockette role. He’s not polished but he’s learning a new position. What he’s shown so far is impressive given the limited time he’s spent at WR. If McEvoy makes it, it’ll leave one more space for a wide out next to Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett and Richardson. It’s a tough call.

— The pass rush in the first half was a bit hit and miss again. Michael Bennett had a few pressures and Frank Clark had a really good inside move. Cliff Avril had the hit that ended Tony Romo’s night. Dak Prescott was pretty comfortable. It’s perhaps not surprising given Dallas’ quality O-line. Also impacting the pass rush was the productive running of Ezekiel Elliott keeping the defense honest. Elliott looks special — especially behind that line.

— Re-signing Tony McDaniel was a fantastic move. Quinton Jefferson is also flashing when he gets the opportunity. The depth on the D-line might not quite have the rush impact of 2013 — but at least they can use a decent rotation this year.

— The first team O-line had a good outing again. On first viewing there weren’t any noticeable mistakes. Dallas don’t have a top pass rusher on their roster so we have to take that into account. Yet as the game developed the running game opened up and Wilson was mostly well protected. When he was pressured he was typically able to extend the play (especially on the tremendous second TD).

— It’ll be interesting to watch the game again and focus on Sowell vs Webb at left tackle. I didn’t notice any whiffs. The interior O-line continues to look like a major strength on the offense, which has to be a relief after the way they started last year.

— Yes he’s playing behind a great O-line but the poise from Dak Prescott is admirable for a rookie. He just looks like he belongs in the league and Dallas, finally, can feel very good about the future after Romo. Prescott had a very accomplished college career and it’s a real challenge to work out why he’s a fourth rounder (with his physical skill set and upside) and why Jared Goff and Carson Wentz warranted multiple high picks. The Cowboys in fairness have drafted very well over the last few years with a couple of exceptions. In Elliott and Prescott — they could end up with the future of their franchise from one draft class. Having said that, how did K.J. Wright not at least break-up that initial touchdown?

— Troymaine Pope has played well and hopefully sticks around on the practise squad. I think Rawls, Michael, Prosise and Collins have the four spots taken. Collins showed enough burst in this game and some of that Arkansas power to warrant sticking as the #4. Has he been hurt the last two weeks? Has that slowed him? Maybe. It’s too soon to give up on him, even if Pope flashed in weeks one and two. The final game against the Raiders could be key here especially if Collins, Pope and Zac Brooks get the bulk of the carries.

Quick thoughts on the loss to Minnesota

Friday, August 19th, 2016

This was a sloppy performance with a few positives. The first half was particularly disappointing. The passing game had no rhythm and the defense failed to generate much of a pass rush.

There’s no reason to overreact. The Seahawks have occasionally floundered in the first half at home only to smother an opponent in the second half (see: San Francisco 2014). We’ll never know what the starting offense could’ve done after some needed half-time adjustments.

Even so it was hard to watch the sacks. On one, there was a clear overload blitz on one side with linebacker Anthony Barr. Garry Gilliam was left covering two rushers and it was an easy sack. Russell Wilson is at the stage of his career where, even in pre-season, he needs to notice that and shift protection or make a quick throw.

As Pete Carroll testified after the game, a lot of the issues were down to the quarterback and not the O-line. It’s not like pass-rushers were abusing linemen like we saw against Denver in pre-season last year. This was a well coached and talented front seven out-scheming the quarterback and offense. In fairness to the O-line, they did an excellent job in run blocking.

Seattle’s defense rested several key players but it’s pretty clear the they rely on Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to create pressure. That’s not such a bad thing — not many teams have a starting duo as good as this. But while comparisons have been made to the 2013 roster this off-season — one of the big differences is the quality depth on the D-line. Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh still flashed a little — as they did last week.

Here are some other quick thoughts:

— Christine Michael’s cut-back running was again superb. He again showed great explosion and looked a threat every time he touched the ball. He also made a difficult grab in the passing game. This could be his time.

— Troymaine Pope was superb, albeit against second stringers. He showed the kind of burst we saw with Thomas Rawls a year ago. He fits this offense. Alex Collins, for all of his qualities, just doesn’t have that same burst. Is Pope pushing to snatch a roster spot away from Collins (or Zach Brooks) over the next couple of weeks?

— Kenny Lawler had a really nice game, getting open and converting some first downs. He appears to be winning a roster spot especially with Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith sidelined.

— Special teams coverage was interesting to watch. Marcus Burley had a couple of nice plays including a punch-out fumble that was overturned on review. Special teams value could win a guy like Burley a spot on the roster.

Some thoughts on Seattle’s offensive tackle situation

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Bradley Sowell could be Seattle’s starting left tackle in 2016

Bradley who?

It’s a fair question. A franchise that enjoyed twelve years of Walter Jones and replaced him with a #6 pick in Russell Okung could be starting an undrafted 27-year-old with 12 career starts in four years. All of his starts came in 2013 for the Cardinals, where he gained the following review:

“Levi Brown and Bradley Sowell combined to hold down left tackle for the Cardinals in 2013, but they acted as more of a turnstile than anything else.”

The alternative is Garry Gilliam manning the blindside (he received mixed reviews during training camp) and J’Marcus Webb starting at right tackle.

It’s hardly a glamorous proposition either.

That said, the Seahawks aren’t alone here. The entire NFL has an offensive tackle problem.

In the NFL Network’s top-100 players for 2016, only four tackles were listed:

#23 Joe Thomas (Cleveland)
#42 Tyron Smith (Dallas)
#45 Trent Williams (Washington)
#67 Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)

15 edge rushers were listed in comparison. This truly is the age of elite, athletic pass rushers vs overmatched offensive linemen.

Eric Fisher was drafted first overall in 2013 because of his fantastic athletic profile. Despite a bang average career to date, Kansas City recently gave him a four-year contract extension with $40m in guarantees.


Because guys like Fisher are like gold dust and worth persevering with.

Brock Huard recently offered some thoughts on ESPN 710 detailing Seattle’s desire to just get big bodies at tackle. If they can’t line up with a Tyron Smith style athlete, at least obstruct the path to the QB. Russell Wilson did a much improved job getting the ball out in the second half of the 2015 season so this is a combination that could work at least for one year.

Damage limitation. Most of the league is taking this approach. You have to work around the problem. Edge rushers in this era are much quicker, faster and more athletic than the edge blockers. The best athletes in High School are choosing to play defense and colleges are accommodating their wishes to land the top recruits.

Who can blame these young kids when they see how much Olivier Vernon is getting on the open market?

It’s still a manageable situation.

According to Football Outsiders, these were the top ten teams for pass protection in 2015:

1 St Louis/Los Angeles
2 Baltimore
3 New York Jets
4 Oakland
5 Arizona
6 New York Giants
7 New Orleans
8 Pittsburgh
9 Atlanta
10 Washington

Of that group, one team benched their left tackle during the season (Baltimore), the Giants started a rookie, Pittsburgh started Alejandro Villanueva and the Jets had a player (D’Brickashaw Ferguson) who was touted as a cap casualty before he retired.

Only Washington fielded an elite tackle in Trent Williams.

The four offensive tackles starting in Super Bowl 50 were Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield.

They’re all kind of like Bradley Sowell.

Indeed the Panthers had a mean, productive, nasty O-line last year built through the interior. While there are question marks about Seattle’s tackle situation — the trio of Glowinski, Britt and Ifedi are drawing rave reviews at guard and center.

This is crucial for Seattle’s run-game (the heart and soul) but also vital for Russell Wilson. Teams want to contain Russell Wilson by having their edge rushers sit. If the pocket collapses, Wilson will try to scramble and it’s an easy sack for the DE just anticipating the move. If they can protect inside to force teams to attack the edge — it not only keeps the pocket clean but it gives Wilson a better chance to improvise because the edge rushers are committed.

If they can stop the pocket collapsing inside and give Russell Wilson enough time to make a good, quick decision — this line can succeed in pass protection. Even without elite tackles.

Instant reaction: Late drama helps Seahawks beat Chiefs

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

This was most Seahawky pre-season game you’re ever going to see.

A slow start, falling behind, dead and buried. Then winners, 17-16.

Trevone Boykin’s Hail Mary connection to Tanner McEvoy provided an unlikely victory. The celebrations told you everything you need to know about this team.

Earl Thomas lived every tackle during the fourth quarter of what looked to be a 16-6 pre-season game. Pete Carroll celebrated a late third down stop by Steve Longa like this was the 2014 NFC Championship game all over again.

When Troymaine Pope converted the two-point conversion after McEvoy’s dramatic TD, the entire roster rushed the field.

It’d be foolish to say none of this actually matters. It does. It reinforces one of Carroll’s more famous mantra’s.

‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’

The Seahawks were able to turn a tepid, lifeless pre-season game into an exciting thriller. And while this victory won’t count directly towards any possible Super Bowl run — Carroll will use this to further emphasise his memorable saying.

This is who they are. This is their identity. They finish.

And after all the drama of last summer with holdouts, finger pointing and Super Bowl hangovers — this group were a picture of togetherness when they collectively stormed the field to celebrate this win.

So who impressed?

Arguably the star turn came from Cassius Marsh. He shone playing as an edge rusher on a day when Seattle’s pressure was middling overall. He had a nice rush in the second quarter to impact the quarterback for a splash play. In the second half he showed well on a RB pursuit from the backside.

Marsh smashed Kevin Hogan after disengaging from a blocking TE with 10:03 left in the game. On the very next play, Hogan forced a pass that was picked off. Even on that play Marsh was in the QB’s line of vision rushing the interior.

Late in the third quarter he worked a nice move across from Frank Clark (both pressured the QB). Marsh is quietly a brilliant, twitchy athlete. His short shuttle (4.25) and three cone (7.08) were superb for his size at the 2014 combine and he ran a nice split. He’s always had the athletic quality to be an impact player in the NFL.

Tyvis Powell will get a lot of attention after a solid special teams display and the pick in the second half. It was a major shock that he went undrafted. His ability to contribute on special teams is the key but he was used all over the field too — lining up at corner at one point. He has a good chance to make the final roster.

Another rookie DB — DeAndre Elliott — had a sound tackling performance and is worth persevering with (probably on the practise squad this year).

Boykin looked really sharp playing with a quicker tempo at the end of each half. That’s what he’s used to at TCU. That said, he looks like a natural thrower and made some nice catchable passes downfield. He needs to avoid throwing off the back foot when pressed. As a developmental backup QB — Boykin has a lot of potential.

McEvoy might struggle to make the final roster — but the two big catches he made on the key final drive were impressive. Especially considering he’s learning yet another new role.

The starting offensive line was impressive — and the second group faired pretty well too. Justin Britt looks really comfortable at center which is great news. On one standout play he pulled from center and levelled a rusher from the left side. Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam played well at tackle against a good group of DE’s/OLB’s. This was refreshing to see and that line-up arguably warrants another viewing next week whether J’Marcus Webb is healthy or not.

Christine Michael has played well in pre-season before and not taken steps forward when it matters — but he looked superb here. He’s such a sudden, explosive running back. His vision will probably never get to a level where he can deliver on his massive potential — but on this evidence he needs to be getting some touches as the #2.

On the negative side — the starting defense struggled to make an impact in two series. That’s not a major concern in week one of the pre-season against an opponent that has troubled Seattle in the past.

Eric Pinkins had a big opportunity to impress at linebacker but sadly looked like a DB playing out of position — and not in a Deone Bucannon kind of way. On one good example he was a bit aggressive setting the edge and lost contain, meaning the gap discipline on the right side was totally out of whack and led to a big run. With Marsh playing predominantly the edge, this looks like Mike Morgan’s job to lose.

Jahri Evans will need time to get into shape but he didn’t look anywhere near his best today. With Mark Glowinski and Germain Ifedi looking so comfortable — he’s basically competing to be a competent backup.

Training camp thoughts: Ifedi, Browner, offense

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Germain Ifedi (#76) is set to begin his pro-career at right guard

Ifedi’s fast start no shock

One of the highlights of camp so far was a reported battle between Germain Ifedi and Michael Bennett on Monday.

According to Sheil Kapadia:

During one-on-one pass-blocking drills, rookie guard Germain Ifedi and defensive end Michael Bennett — both Texas A&M alums — got into what defensive end Cliff Avril deemed a “little scuffle” after Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick, stood up the 2016 Pro Bowler and both players declined to disengage on the whistle. Ifedi eventually steered Bennett into a group of offensive linemen watching the drill, which prompted Bennett’s defensive line teammates to come to his defense.

After things calmed down, the pair matched up again, which led to more jawing, primarily from Bennett.

It’s encouraging to hear the rookie performing well against Seattle’s best defensive lineman — but not altogether surprising.

There aren’t many human beings like Ifedi on the planet. As we discussed during the draft season — he has a unique blend of incredible athleticism, mountainous size and supreme length.

He was the third most explosive lineman available in the draft according to our TEF formula but was unmatched in terms of explosion + size + length.

Players like this are rare.

He also played consistently with an edge. Check out the last play in this video vs Alabama and look how he finishes:

The technical issues Ifedi’s critics loved to highlight were focused around playing tackle in space. He’s since moved inside to right guard where some of those weaknesses are diluted. The Seahawks now have a massive, hulking interior lineman with an ideal physical profile to handle top interior rushers.

Kelechi Osemele excelled at guard for Baltimore and Ifedi compares favourably to the nouveau riche Oakland Raider. That’s not to say Ifedi is positively destined for the same level of success — but if you run through every guard in the NFL you’ll struggle to find many that look like Ifedi and Osemele.

Brandon Browner’s job to lose

He might be 32 years old and coming off a difficult season in New Orleans — but Brandon Browner might not be facing the tricky camp battle many seem to believe.

Too often in 2015 the Seahawks struggled against tight ends. Browner’s switch to safety might be an attempt to combat that. He has the athleticism to play outside in his career and the size to match-up against bigger receivers. Could he be used as an extra DB? Almost like a deathbacker? Possibly. It could be an important role against an opponent featuring a dynamic TE.

Browner also has special teams value:

He adds to the physicality this team craves — especially in the post-Marshawn Lynch era. The Seahawks had a fearsome defense in 2012 and 2013. Browner helps them get back to that after a bit of a lull in 2015.

He can play corner if needed, he understands the technique Seattle uses and he knows the defense.

It’s possible he won’t take to a new role as a hybrid DB or won’t be effective aged 32. Yet I suspect he has a job to lose rather than needing to win it from somebody else.

The defense might need to help the offense early in the season

Seattle’s toughest challenge might be to find an offensive rhythm early in the year. That’s kind of been the case in each of Russell Wilson’s pro-seasons so far.

Last year it was a real issue with the offensive line struggling. It took half the season to find a level of consistency up front. When that was achieved, Wilson put up career high numbers and set records.

With even more changes to the O-line and the likelihood of at least a couple of first time starters (Ifedi, Mark Glowinski) there could be further growing pains. With the number of TE’s in camp and a lack of full backs, they also might be moving to a slightly modified blocking scheme.

The running game is also a bit of an unknown. Lynch has retired and Thomas Rawls is still recovering from a serious ankle injury. The Seahawks will field an effective running game — but will it take a few weeks to hit top form?

The good news is the consistency at receiver and the deep talent pool at TE. There’s a lot of chemistry between Wilson and his targets and the return of Jimmy Graham will be a benefit despite his somewhat hit-and-miss first season in Seattle.

If the offense needs time to reach its potential it’ll be key for the defense to play at a high level immediately. In 2013 (Super Bowl season) Seattle gave up just seven points at Carolina in week one. San Francisco (during the peak Harbaugh years) scored just three points against the Seahawks in week two.

Considering they get to face Ryan Tannehill and a brand new offensive scheme at home in week one and rookie Jared Goff in week two — there’s every chance the defense can start on the front foot, possibly relieving some of the pressure on an offense that needs some time.