Month: December 2020 (Page 1 of 3)

How the playoffs could help shape Seattle’s future with Wilson

Russell Wilson’s vision for the offense could be very different to Pete Carroll’s


If you are easily triggered by speculative articles relating to your favourite quarterback, you might want to sit this one out.

Right, if you’re still with me, here it goes…

What’s the lay of the land with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks?

Clearly at the moment all thoughts are focused on the post-season. The win against the Rams secured the NFC West for the first time since 2016.

I do wonder, though, whether the next few weeks could have an important impact on the long term relationship between team and quarterback.

Let me explain…

Following the week one victory in Atlanta, Mike Florio appeared on Sunday Night Football and revealed that Wilson had told the Seahawks ‘let me cook or we’re going to have a problem’.

He then followed that up on PFT the next day:

I wrote an article in September detailing why it’d be foolish to dismiss Florio’s reporting on anything to do with Wilson because he has a strong connection to Mark Rodgers (Wilson’s agent).

The report from Florio, which has never been denied or contradicted, followed a prolonged off-season monologue by Colin Cowherd who argued throughout the summer that Patrick Mahomes has an offense tailored to him and input in Kansas City’s draft picks.

He made an unflattering comparison to Wilson’s situation in Seattle:

Florio and Cowherd have something in common. A source.

For Florio, it’s Rodgers.

For Cowherd, it’s Wilson. They talk. Wilson has appeared on his FS1 show numerous times.

Whether you like him as a host or not — when he specifically talks about how Wilson feels about a particular situation, you have to acknowledge they are close.

After all, how realistic is it for Cowherd to say some of the things he has about Wilson’s future and his relationship with the Seahawks — only for Wilson to then appear on his show as often as he does? If Cowherd was talking nonsense and making stuff up, that likely wouldn’t happen.

It doesn’t take much dot-connecting to go from Cowherd’s take to Florio’s report. Wilson made the team very aware of his preferred method of offense, possibly in the form of an ultimatum, and it’s likely he craves the kind of status Mahomes has with the Chiefs.

Wilson wanted Seattle to add ‘superstars’. Wilson wanted to cook. The Seahawks let him cook. It worked for a few weeks, until it didn’t any more.

Whoever or whatever was to blame — Wilson, Brian Schottenheimer, Seattle’s opponents, injuries, an inability to adjust — the Seahawks had a prolific start to the season and then a crash.

Wilson turned the ball over more than he’s ever done before and Pete Carroll has clearly decided that, once again, he’s going to do things his way.

In recent games the passing offense has been much more conservative. It’s a far cry from the first few weeks of the season. The Seahawks are back to protecting the football and if anything — the passing game is now trying to complement the defense and the running game, rather than the other way around.

Wilson is back to being a point guard too. In his first nine games of the season, he averaged 310 passing yards a game and scored 28 touchdowns. Since that ninth game, against the Rams, he’s averaged 207 yards per game and thrown only 10 touchdowns — with four coming against the New York Jets.

Carroll is purring about the switch in his press conferences. Rightly so, in fairness. The Seahawks appear to be playing a sustainable brand of football for the first time this season — the type that typically succeeds in the playoffs. This is his brand of football. A complete circle. Everything connecting.

In his eyes, this is how you win. While the Seahawks will no doubt happily ask Wilson to try and rescue them through the air if they get into another playoff hole — it seems inevitable that they will go into the post-season with renewed clarity on what Carroll wants his team to be.

I think he’s had his fill of the ‘Let Russ Cook’ approach. That’s just my hunch. I think he has seen a much more connected team in recent weeks and whether it’s the right decision or not — I think we know by now this is what he wants.

I don’t know how Wilson will feel about that. Clearly if it delivers a Super Bowl in a few weeks time, it’ll be a moot point. If they lose in the Wild Card round playing the way they did against Dallas in 2018, it could be an issue.

For many this is a taboo subject. A lot of people want to imagine that Wilson merely sees it as a privilege to play for the Seahawks. That the consistent winning seasons are enough, that he has no further wants or desires.

I think the near-ultimatum reported by Florio and the purported envious glances towards Mahomes speak to it not being as simple as that.

Wilson only gets one crack at a NFL career. He will have his own ideas on how he wants it to be shaped.

Maybe you’ll disagree with this but Andy Reid’s vision is Mahomes’ vision. Matt LaFleur, as far as I know, isn’t running an offense that isn’t conducive with MVP numbers for Aaron Rodgers. The offense in Baltimore is tailored to Lamar Jackson. Deshaun Watson is about to pick his own coach.

Seattle is different. Wilson fits into Carroll’s vision. It isn’t the other way around.

I’m not trying to imply that the two parties don’t respect each other. I think Carroll loves Wilson and vice versa. I also believe that players and teams, in all kinds of sports, sometimes want a fresh start.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It happens though.

I don’t think it’s completely unlikely that there will come a time where Wilson decides he wants a change. I also think, when that time comes, the Seahawks will be pro-active.

Again, I will stress, that winning solves everything. Super Bowls keep everyone happy. Another playoff disappointment, however, playing a Carroll brand of offense, could create an interesting situation. Not necessarily for 2021 but perhaps beyond that (as I’ll explain later).

Wilson and the Seahawks have had a bit of a weird relationship for some time.

The two contract negotiations he’s had with the team were protracted and difficult.

There’s also been consistent chatter for going on three years that a trade could happen. You have to admit, this is unusual for a franchise quarterback during his peak years.

Prior to the 2019 draft, leading NFL insider Adam Schefter suggested that Wilson could be traded:

In the video above you’ll also notice Jack Del Rio mentioned he had also heard similar whispers doing the rounds. Schefter followed up those remarks on ESPN with this report — adding at the end that the Seahawks would listen to trade offers for Wilson.

This isn’t ‘clickbait’. This isn’t Florio or Cowherd either. It’s Adam Schefter — the definitive breaker of news in the NFL.

Another established journalist with proven connections to Seattle, Mike Garafolo, also reported that Seattle was willing to draft a quarterback early in 2019, ‘preparing for a potential life without Wilson‘.

A year earlier, it caused a bit of a stir when John Schneider was seen attending all of the pro-days of the leading quarterbacks available in the 2018 draft.

Chris Simms revealed on NBC earlier this year that he had heard from sources he trusted that Seattle talked to Cleveland about acquiring the 2018 first overall pick. Simms claims the Seahawks were willing to trade Wilson for the rights to the #1 selection (and presumably more).

Browns coach at the time, Hue Jackson, later said he hadn’t heard anything of that nature (although it’s worth remembering that he and GM John Dorsey had a frosty relationship).

Florio, who works with Simms at NBC, followed up the story:

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Browns contend that the idea was “floated” conceptually, but that the discussion did indeed happen. At the time, the Seahawks were staring at another extension for Wilson, one that would result a year later in a contract with a new-money value of $35 million per year. And the placement of a no-trade clause in the latest contract was indeed influenced by chatter regarding the potential trade to Cleveland, we’re told.

The point on the no-trade clause is important. Whenever anyone brings up the possibility of Wilson being dealt, fans quickly point to the clause as a reason why it can’t happen.

This is a misunderstanding of what a no-trade clause is.

It is not a handcuff for the player and team. It purely prevents the Seahawks from trading Wilson to an undesirable location. Per Florio’s report, the main motivation for including the cause was to avoid him being traded in the future, against his wishes, to a team like the Browns.

However, this clause can easily be waived. If Wilson wanted to be traded to a team or location, all he needs to do is waive the no-trade agreement. By insisting on the clause, he simply has control over his future.

Florio validates Simms’ suggestion that talks between the Seahawks and Browns took place. So while you might dismiss both individuals and their credentials when it comes to legitimate breaking news — it’s a bit of a stretch to think this idea was made up, backed up and never denied. Nobody else, aside from Hue Jackson, has contested these talks took place.

In 2019, Cowherd did a whole segment suggesting that Wilson ‘fancied a trade to the New York Giants’:

“So just remember this, a lot of things add up. Last year of Russell’s contract, his wife would prefer New York, Seattle is not an entertainment Mecca. New York needs, the Giants need, a star quarterback to replace Eli. Also Russell Wilson, good looking guy, classy guy, incredibly marketable and kind of buried in the Pacific North West. And the Giants also have an offensive head coach, not a 66-year-old defensive head coach.”

Wilson himself somewhat added fuel to the fire when, shortly after Cowherd’s take was aired, he appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s TV show. Not exactly a platform for a hotbed sporting discussion, Fallon asked Wilson about contract negotiations and a potential switch to the Giants. Helping out the guest, no doubt.

Personally I think in both instances — with Cowherd and Fallon — it was ‘negotiating through the media’. It happens all the time. The Seahawks dabbled in that tactic too. If anything, it was indicative of how fractious things became. Seeing both parties trying to gain leverage in the media was unpalatable — especially when other teams and other quarterbacks have since been able to get deals done with minimal drama.

I’m not convinced a trade to the Giants was ever realistic or likely. It does show, however, that the prospect of a trade was being used in negotiations.

Whether it was Wilson showing a bit of leg to the Giants or the Seahawks being willing to contemplate moving him to Cleveland the year before — both parties were prepared to use the threat of a trade to get what they wanted.

The prospect of a Wilson trade re-emerged again in May this year, when Florio reported the following:

Some who are close enough to the situation to know what may happen believe that Wilson eventually will be traded. Intriguing potential destinations would include, in our view, the Cowboys, Raiders, and Saints. (Or, as Simms says, any team “that doesn’t try to establish the run for three quarters and then ask him to save them in the fourth.”)

Still only 31 and determined to play until he’s 45, Wilson may not have to wait until his fifth decade (like Tom Brady) to land in a new place. Some think it’s just a matter of time before he’s traded by a team that talked about trading him just two years ago.

It’s impossible to deny that for the last two or three years, there’s been a regular murmur about a possible trade in the media. Many fans will dismiss it because they don’t want to contemplate it. It is simply a fact that, unlike any of his true peers, Wilson has been talked about as a potential trade candidate for some time.

That’s uncomfortable to think about but it’s out there. No smoke without fire.

That’s why, occasionally, I want to write about it. You just don’t see this with other top-level quarterbacks. Not in their prime.

I think it’s intriguing. Even if a trade never materialises — I think we should discuss why this gets talked about as much as it does.

From Wilson’s perspective, he might like the idea of playing in a huge market. A prospective suitor could, potentially, offer him a bigger say in personnel and draft decisions.

Mahomes was consulted on Kansas City’s first round pick this year and he personally recommended Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Meanwhile in Tampa Bay, Tom Brady has basically dictated the signing of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown — despite neither position being a need for the Buccs. They were simply guys Brady wanted.

A new team would presumably build the roster how Wilson wants. They’d play his brand of football. He would be in control — with no Head Coach dictating the style or identity of the offense.

In return, that team would receive a huge commercial boost.

Can I imagine a scenario where Wilson moves to a new city in a big market, basically becomes king of the franchise and is able to dictate every facet of the way the offense functions? Yes.

Can I also imagine a scenario where the Seahawks decide they can draft a quarterback and make a huge cap saving, acquire a ton of picks to load up the roster and free up money to make some key free agent additions? All the while zoning in on Pete Carroll’s preferred identity for his franchise? Yes.

And I do believe how the rest of this season plays out could potentially steer both parties towards that.

If they win playing Pete-ball, none of this will be relevant. First and foremost Wilson wants to win and if he’s doing that, I doubt anything else will really matter.

If they go into the playoffs and suffer an all too familiar experience of trailing early playing a certain style and needing Wilson to try and save the day (and failing), then things could get interesting.

It’s also important to look at the reasons why this won’t happen any time soon.

The first is obvious — money. In 2021, the Seahawks would absorb a $39m cap charge by trading Wilson ($7m more than his $32m cap number). By 2022, the cap charge falls to $26m, $11m less than the cap charge if he’s still on the team.

So a trade is far more likely after the 2021 season than it is before and there are two seasons to conclude before then, so who knows what’s going to happen?

It would also be a huge gamble. Trading away the best quarterback the franchise has ever had? Trading away an icon?

It would be a stunning move.

If it didn’t work out you’d forever be known as the decision maker (Carroll) and GM (Schneider) who traded away Russell Wilson. You also look like geniuses if it does work. If anyone was going to do it, it’d probably be Carroll and Schneider. They’re bold enough to make a call like that. There’s a big difference, however, between talking about a trade of this magnitude and actually doing it.

You also run the risk of growing pains with a young replacement that could zap Carroll’s final years in Seattle.

When Chris Simms speculated on the Seahawks/Browns trade earlier this year, he added that they would’ve drafted Josh Allen first overall if the deal had materialised.

Personally, I can see that. Allen was basically the prototype for the position based on Schneider’s checklist of physical attributes.

While Allen has gone on to develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he also experienced two challenging seasons to begin his career. Are the Seahawks willing to endure a similar experience, reducing Carroll’s title timeline to maybe a couple of seasons at best?

It seems unlikely — especially given neither Zach Wilson or Justin Fields are particularly close to the Schneider physical prototype. And while Justin Herbert has looked terrific with the Chargers, he’s very much a unique case rather than the norm.

I also struggle to imagine them adding another veteran quarterback. It’d be a hard sell to the fanbase, trying to pitch a Carson Wentz reclamation project or a last dance for Matt Stafford to replace the best player on the team.

While Wilson might privately desire to play a different brand of football and while the Seahawks might be fully prepared to contemplate life without him (as they seemingly have in the past) — the two parties have also been really good for each other.

Prior to Wilson’s arrival, the Seahawks were 7-9 in both 2010 and 2011. Granted that was with a young, developing team. They’d also probably add a better replacement than Tarvaris Jackson (RIP) if they made a move.

However, there’s a lesson to be learnt there. Without Wilson this was a team left trading significant resources for Charlie Whitehurst, hoping Jackson could provide a solution and then signing Matt Flynn. Returning to those days would be a surefire way to slam shut Seattle’s Championship window.

The bravado of being prepared to trade a franchise quarterback in the midst of a contract negotiation could easily be replaced by panic if they did actually pull the trigger without having a ready made, quality replacement in the pipeline.

For Wilson it’d also be a big risk. He may well prefer to ‘cook’ than point guard his way through Carroll’s preferred vision. He might crave Mahomes’ power and control. Not to mention his contract.

Yet in Seattle he’s only known winning seasons and a top notch culture. You don’t get to take that somewhere else. However appealing the bright lights of a city like New York might be — you can still only play for the Giants or the Jets. They’ll still be the Giants or the Jets if you get to help pick the skill players in the draft or free agency, or throw the ball 50 times a game.

The Seahawks also tried a pass-heavy offense and while it worked for a few weeks, it never felt truly sustainable. Seattle has also recently improved the offensive line and delivered a receiver in D.K. Metcalf who any quarterback would want to play with.

So while I think it’s a thought worth delving into, I also think it’s highly unlikely that Wilson goes anywhere in the near future.

I do think one day though, there will likely be a time when Wilson is playing somewhere else. It happened to Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady and others.

Even the legends of the game rarely stay with one team forever. Especially when they play for a long time — as Wilson says he intends to.

A trade in 2021 is unlikely. Beyond that? We’ll see.

I think it’s a topic worth being open minded about. There’s simply been too much media chatter about a possible trade over the years to ignore. There’s nothing wrong with talking about it now, either. Discussing ideas, contemplating scenarios. Wondering what the full consequences of success and failure in the post-season are.

That’s what a place like this should be for.

If you got this far with the article, I suspect you appreciate that.

Happy new year to all.

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The 2021 defensive tackle draft class is very appealing

Jordan Davis has excelled for Georgia this year

I’m not convinced the Seahawks will look to draft a defensive tackle early in 2021.

After all, they didn’t add a defensive tackle to replace Al Woods until Snacks Harrison arrived mid-season.

Forward planning wouldn’t be the worst idea though. Jarran Reed is out of contract after the 2021 season. Poona Ford is a restricted free agent at the end of the current season. Bryan Mone is soon to be an exclusive rights free agent.

So beyond next year, there are question marks at the position.

It’s possible they simply retain all three and roll with what they’ve got.

Ford has been a revelation this season. One of the big unnoticed moments on Sunday was Ford racing downfield to tackle Josh Reynolds after a whiff in coverage then a missed tackle by Shaquill Griffin. Ford tackled Reynolds 26 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He’s PFF’s 13th highest graded defensive tackle and Seattle’s highest graded defender overall. Ford has developed into a crucial part of the Seahawks defense and should be rewarded with a long term contract.

Mone also warrants serious praise. The only players graded higher on Seattle’s defense are Ford, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and D.J. Reed.

Jarran Reed is another story. He is graded very poorly by PFF, ranking as the 96th best defensive tackle. With a $13.5m cap hit next season, there’s a question to be asked on whether they can justify his salary. However, there’s a reason why they made a big play to retain Reed in the off-season. They seriously value his leadership and he’s often the one in the middle of the pre-game scrum, rallying the troops. Reed also has 6.5 sacks this season. In his last two ‘full’ seasons, he has 17 sacks. It’s not easy to find defensive tackles who can produce those numbers — even if you wouldn’t necessarily classify Reed as a dynamic pass rusher.

The fact they weren’t even willing to retain Snacks Harrison by simply making him active against the Rams suggests they are comfortable with this trio. Any further depth could be acquired in the form of a cheap UDFA or veteran free agent.

You never know what the future holds though. Can you keep Reed beyond 2021? How easy will it be to retain Ford and Mone?

The early signs are the 2021 draft will be strong at the position. If nothing else, it looks like a class worth tapping into.

It’s not the only area of strength. The interior O-line group has some intriguing options assuming everyone declares. Notre Dame left guard Aaron Banks is terrific. Ohio State duo Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers could both go in the first round. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater is overrated as a tackle option but could be a decent second round guard. The injury to Alabama’s Landon Dickerson is a real shame, given his major potential at center.

There’s also depth and talent at receiver and tight end plus it’s a better looking EDGE rush group.

With the Seahawks not picking until the end of round two, we need to try and identify the deep positions in the class.

Here’s a look at the defensive tackles who could go in the first three rounds.

Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
His gap discipline at 6-3 and 305lbs is superb. He knows what his role is, he can control the LOS or split his blocks to force runs back inside. He can afford to be patient because he’s just so nimble and athletic for his size. His frame is big, strong and powerful but he flashes quickness and he’s opportunistic. He can bully opponents and shoot gaps equally well. He has every chance to be a very high pick.

Haskell Garrett (DT, Ohio State)
Incredible talent who combines fantastic quickness and athleticism with an aggressive, physical mentality. He ran a 4.41 short shuttle at SPARQ at 298lbs which is an outstanding time and he added a 5.13 forty. His hand use enables him to create openings and his agility and speed make him a threat as a pass rusher. He was recently shot in the face but remarkably returned very quickly, missing minimal time. Don’t be surprised if he’s a big riser as the draft process develops.

Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
He is a physical freak. At SPARQ he ran a 4.27 short shuttle — a time most defensive backs would be satisfied with — at over 270lbs. He’s since grown to 320lbs and yet he’s carrying minimal bad weight. He also ran a 4.94 forty and jumped a 34 inch vertical. Explosive, quick and agile — McNeil made headlines for a remarkable ‘big man’ pick-six earlier this season against Virginia. He can play the nose but has the agility and quickness to threaten as a pass rusher.

Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pittsburgh)
He’s listed at 6-2 and 290lbs so he’s a little undersized. He also doesn’t really have much scope to get above 300lbs. However, he had 10.5 sacks in 2019 and 12 TFL’s. There aren’t many defensive tackles putting up those numbers in college. The thing that really stands out is his ability to stay clean and work openings. Twyman has a really good swim move and executes the push/pull to a high standard too. He keeps his feet moving and doesn’t stop working to the quarterback.

Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
Big, hulking nose tackle listed at 6-6 and 330lbs. Georgia coach Kirby Smart once said if he had three Jordan Davis’, he’d be “a happy camper”. The expectation is he will have a surprisingly good combine and his draft grade will go through the roof. He’s not a sack specialist or a dynamic pass rusher but he’s the type of player you need to anchor your line and control the line of scrimmage. He’s arguably been Georgia’s best defender this year.

Jay Tufele (DT, USC)
He sat out the 2020 season and has arguably failed to really build draft momentum as a consequence. Tufele had 6.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks in 2019. There are real flashes on tape where he uses upper body power and heavy hands to bully interior blockers and work into the backfield. When he’s given 1v1 opportunities he can win with a mix of brute strength and quickness. He ran a 5.04 forty at SPARQ at 297lbs. A good combine could really boost his stock.

Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State)
An absolute freak show when it comes to physical talent. At SPARQ he ran a 5.17 at 332lbs. He also added a 4.56 short shuttle which is superb for his size (Malik McDowell ran a 4.53 at 295lbs). If you watch the Rivals recruiting tape, he jumps off the screen in the 1v1 reps against some of the best offensive line talent in college football. Despite missing the final month of the 2019 season he still managed 8.5 TFL’s and five sacks at defensive tackle. His pass rush win percentage was 16.8%. However, there are also concerns regarding conditioning and there are plays on tape where ‘slouching’ would be a flattering review of his effort. He’s a five-star physical talent but needs to be in pro-shape.

Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
Highly impressive team mate of Haskell Garrett. He’s also a former four-star recruit but unlike Garrett we don’t have any SPARQ testing numbers to gauge his athletic potential. On tape he plays with the same effort and intensity. He’s tremendously powerful and can split double teams to barge his way into the backfield. He recorded three sacks and 3.5 TFL’s in six games for the Buckeye’s. Length and testing will be key — he’s listed at 6-2 and 300lbs.

Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
Tipped by many ‘draft media’ types to go early in round one, this was always more hype than reality. Barmore started the season slowly as Alabama’s defense struggled. However as things settled down, he started to excel — recording four sacks in three games towards the end of the season. At 6-5 and 310lbs the hope was that he would develop into another Quinnen Williams but so far that hasn’t happened. He has a somewhat limited repertoire and has been forced to play more of a rotational role for ‘Bama — yet he shows off brute strength and he does a good job keeping his frame clean. The talent and upside is there. It’s unclear whether he will declare — Nick Saban does a good job recruiting his players to return.

Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
Another player who arguably has lost momentum after opting out of the 2020 season (not that the Huskies played a long schedule anyway). There are flashes on tape that are intriguing. He’ll straight arm blockers to push the pocket and there are some moments where he really controls the running game from the inside. He had seven career sacks for Washington and had 6.5 TFL’s in 2019. He’s listed at 6-3 and 293lbs so size and scheme fit need to be considered. Does he standout physically? That’s a question to be answered. Testing will be important.

Tyler Shelvin (DT, LSU)
Shelvin also opted out of the 2020 season. He’s all about massive size and controlling the interior. He’s listed at 6-3 and anywhere between 345-365lbs. He can anchor against double teams and he can punish blockers 1v1. If you want someone who can play early downs to take up space inside and work mostly against the run, Shelvin can do that. He’s a mountain of a man. He isn’t a pass rusher though and that will mean he has a limited ceiling in the draft.

I’m also a huge fan of Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo and have been projecting him as a top-20 pick throughout the college football season. He has the size to play inside/out and be a true game wrecker. If he doesn’t go as early as I think, he should be a name to monitor throughout the process.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Rams, win NFC West (at last)

This wasn’t a game where you necessarily appreciated the aesthetic performance during the game.

After all, there were some maddening moments in-play.

Yet afterwards, on reflection, this was exactly the type of game we all needed to see.

Seattle’s defense did something it simply hasn’t been able to do since the first meeting with Sean McVay in 2017. They stymied his offense. They limited and restricted them.

They didn’t do it with zany blitzing or anything too creative. They just played their game. That’s the most important thing.

For sure they were helped by further patchy play by Jared Goff and LA’s diminishing list of running backs. Josh Reynolds placing the ball down on the field for a turnover (only to be bailed out by the refs) was a thing to behold.

Yet this is still an offense and a quarterback that has had plenty of success against the Seahawks. Today, they got nowt (as we say in Yorkshire).

The Seahawks couldn’t drop to 1-6 in the last seven against the Rams. They couldn’t go another year without winning the NFC West. Not against a Rams team that might even miss the playoffs and is a loss away from 9-7.

They had to get this one and they did. The defense — the butt of many jokes earlier in the season — is now clearly outperforming the offense.

A few weeks ago they couldn’t even function. Now they can — in a style that suits the defense. That is a big plus.

They also left a mark on the Rams. Goff’s thumb, Rob Havenstein and Darrell Henderson left the game with injuries.

If the Seahawks go to Arizona to play the Niners next week and win — I will happily admit I was wrong with my pre-season regular season prediction. I thought they would finish second in the division behind the 49ers, which is already confirmed as wrong (although the Niners have had quite an experience with injuries this year).

In order to be truly successful in the playoffs though — they will still need the offense to up the ante. They struggled again on third down. This impacted the run/pass balance as I suspect the plan going in wasn’t 32 passes and 20 running back runs. Russell Wilson still doesn’t seem close to his best.

Next week is an important game. It shouldn’t be treated lightly with the NFC West in the bag. Finishing the year properly and establishing some rhythm and explosion on offense would be a huge boost going into the playoffs.

And who knows — the #1 seed could still emerge as a possibility. The Bears will give the Packers a game based on their current form.

They don’t need the week 1-5 offense per se. An improvement feels necessary however. They will likely need to put points on the board against the Packers, for example, if they meet in the post-season.

Even so — this is the formula to succeed now. It’s taken a while but they are slowly but surely finding themselves even if there’s a bit of room for more.

For that, the Seahawks deserve credit.

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The Christmas Eve mock draft

Merry Christmas to all. Here is my traditional Christmas Eve mock draft for 2020.

Inspired by Robbie on the podcast yesterday, I have the Jets trading out of the #2 pick after somehow managing to find a way to remove Trevor Lawrence from their future.

I’ll explain the Seahawks pick in greater detail below. I’m sure it’ll create an interesting discussion…

First round

#1 Jacksonville — Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
#2 Denver (v/NYJ) — Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
#3 Cincinnati — Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)
#4 Carolina — Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
#5 Atlanta — Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
#6 Miami (v/HOU) — Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
#7 Philadelphia — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
#8 Dallas — Dayo Odeyingbo (DE, Vanderbilt)
#9 LA Chargers — Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
#10 New York Giants — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
#11 Detroit — Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
#12 San Francisco — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
#13 New York Jets (v/DEN) — Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
#14 Minnesota — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
#15 New England — Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
#16 Chicago — Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
#17 Las Vegas — Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)
#18 Baltimore — Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)
#19 Washington — Rasheed Walker (T, Penn State)
#20 Arizona — Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
#21 Miami — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
#22 Tampa Bay — Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
#23 Cleveland — Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)
#24 Indianapolis — Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
#25 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
#26 New York Jets (v/SEA) — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
#27 Tennessee — Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
#28 Pittsburgh — Davis Mills (QB, Stanford)
#29 Buffalo — Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
#30 New Orleans — Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
#31 Green Bay — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
#32 Kansas City — Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)

Second round

#33 New York Jets — Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
#34 Jacksonville — Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)
#35 Cincinnati — Rashawn Slater (G, Northwestern)
#36 Atlanta — Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
#37 Miami (v/HOU) — Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
#38 Carolina — Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
#39 Philadelphia — Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
#40 LA Chargers — Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
#41 New York Giants — Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)
#42 Detroit — Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, USC)
#43 San Francisco — Haskell Garrett (DT, Ohio State)
#44 New York Jets (v/DEN) — Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
#45 Dallas — Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
#46 New England — Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
#47 Jacksonville (v/MIN) — Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
#48 Las Vegas — Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pittsburgh)
#49 Chicago — Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)
#50 Baltimore — Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)
#51 Washington — Paris Ford (S, Pittsburgh)
#52 Arizona — Jaelen Phillips (DE, Miami)
#53 Tampa Bay — Jay Tufele (DT, USC)
#54 Miami — Obinna Eze (T, Memphis)
#55 Indianapolis — Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
#56 Cleveland — Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
#57 LA Rams — Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
#58 Tennessee — Chris Olave (WR, Ohio State)
#59 Seattle — Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
#60 Pittsburgh — Jake Ferguson (TE, Wisconsin)
#61 Buffalo — Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
#62 New Orleans — Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)
#63 Green Bay — Terrace Marshall Jr (WR, LSU)
#64 Kansas City — Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)

Thoughts on the Seahawks pick

In all of my 2021 mock drafts so far, I’ve tried to look at the scenarios where the Seahawks can be opportunistic in the late second round.

I think that’s a possible approach this year. They have hit the jackpot with players who dropped into this range in the past (D.K. Metcalf, Frank Clark). It’s possible they will seek a similar opportunity, considering they don’t have a first round pick.

Therefore, I’ve tried to find talented and/or highly athletic players who might drop a bit. That has included, so far…

— Haskell Garrett (shot in the face earlier this year yet has made a full recovery)

— Marvin Wilson (inconsistent play but a physical phenom)

— Jaelen Phillips (former five-star recruit but suffered concussions at UCLA)

In this projection I’ve gone for an even more extreme projection.

Landon Dickerson is a terrific offensive lineman. I hadn’t fully focused on him until last week. His toughness leaps off the screen. For the 2020 season he was credited with zero sacks and only one quarterback pressure. According to PFF, he was the most valuable O-liner in college football per ‘wins above average’.

I was preparing to pair him with the Seahawks in my next mock. His personality and competitive attitude, plus his size, seemed like a good fit. Ethan Pocic is a free agent in the off-season and while he could easily be re-signed — the Seahawks don’t have limitless resources this off-season. Some players are going to need to be replaced on the cheap. If they can keep him for a modest sum, that’s great. I’m not sure what his market will be though. He could actually receive a lot of interest given he’s only 25 and now has a strong season as a starter on his résumé.

So Dickerson was going to be the guy for Seattle here. Then I watched the SEC Championship game and he suffered a serious knee injury.

I considered changing the pick because the Seahawks have had a bad enough experience with an injured second rounder this year. However, I decided to stick with it. After all, I’m trying to identify players who could fall into range and can play beyond their draft position. Dickerson has the talent to achieve that if he can stay healthy.

Unfortunately staying healthy is the big problem.

In 2016 he tore his ACL. In 2017 he had surgery on his right ankle. In 2018 he missed the whole season due to complications over a high ankle sprain. He then transferred from Florida State to Alabama and suffered this knee injury at the end of the year.

You could say he’s injury prone. You could also argue he’s unlucky. There’s nothing unique about his frame that suggests he’s liable to get injured. It’s also worth noting the injuries are different.

Even so, he has had some problems staying on the field. After the Darrell Taylor experience, the Seahawks quite likely wouldn’t make this pick in round two. He might even last longer than he otherwise would and could be available later.

Nevertheless, he’s a bad ass center who is beloved in Alabama:

Here was quarterback Mac Jones’ reaction to the injury:

“Landon is one of my best friends, and if Landon is going to stay on the ground then you know something’s wrong. He tried to get up, but I think our trainers were like ‘Stay down, stay down.’

“It just goes to show, that guy will put his whole life on the line for Alabama football and if he could he’d play as soon as he can for us because he just wants to be back, but obviously the injuries are the injuries.”

I just want more guys who play like Dickerson on this team. He straddles the fine line between what’s acceptable and not. He’s what an offensive lineman should be — a bit quirky, a bit crazy and tough as old leather.

Provided you do all the requisite medical checks and don’t find anything that points to all these injuries, he might be worth taking a chance on. Obviously you’d have to see signs of a positive recovery from his latest setback too.

I don’t think it’s particularly likely he’s taken by Seattle here because they only have one pick in the first three rounds. They also have a lot of potential needs, with several players out of contract in the off-season. Drafting a player who is recovering from injury with the only high pick you own could just be too risky.

That said, to me he plays on tape like a future multi-year starter in the NFL.

He’s also athletic — scoring 100.05 in SPARQ which is a great mark for an interior offensive lineman. He was the #64 overall High School recruit per ESPN in 2016.

I’ll clarify one more time that I’m doing these projections for a team picking in the late second round, in a college football season hammered by a global pandemic. It’s not easy to come up with new names but that’s what I want to try and do. I want to present different options.

I also have no issue with the Seahawks trying to hit a home run with their pick in round two — provided that next year, they’re able to do all the full medical checks. That was my issue with the Taylor pick. If ever there was a time to be cautious it was the 2020 draft. Teams simply didn’t have anywhere close to the necessary information to make big calls on injuries. Seattle not only took a gamble — they gave up two high picks to do so.

If Dickerson or anyone else can be tested thoroughly — and who knows whether that’ll be possible in 2021 — then the risk is at least somewhat managed.

Health permitting, he has the talent, potential and attitude to set the tone for your O-line for a decade.

Other quick draft notes

— It’s still early but this is looking like a strong draft for interior linemen on both sides of the ball. There are a number of talented defensive tackles available and there appears to be some strong options at center and guard too.

— The SEC game against Florida sold me on Najee Harris. He is just so classy combining elegance, power and size with an ability to do everything — run inside or out, run good routes and provide a dynamic weapon that can help lead an offense.

— Sadly for the Seahawks, without a late first round pick in 2021, there are a lot of appealing options available in that range. This looks like another draft that will be significantly elevated by underclassmen and there should be some fantastic prospects available in the top-50.

If you missed our Rams preview podcast yesterday, check it out here…

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A new podcast & a new guest post from Curtis Allen

Here is our preview podcast for the Rams game. Please check it out and if possible, like the video on YouTube to help spread the word…

Meanwhile Curtis Allen has very kindly put together this extensive watch-notes piece ahead of the game in a new guest post…

This is the Game of the Year for the Seahawks

There is so much riding on this game:

– A chance to win the division for the first time since 2016.

– A chance to host a playoff game, rather than going on the road as a wild card. This could vault them out of the ‘one win and done’ cycle they’ve found themselves stuck in.

However, there is also much more to this game than just practical concerns. There are emotional and philosophical victories to be had:

– A real win over Sean McVay at a crucial time would be a huge confidence booster. Particularly since it is possible they will face the Rams again in the playoffs, and they’re not going anywhere in 2021.

– A division title signals progress. After an extremely confusing offseason and a turbulent regular season with some serious in-season adjustments to their roster and game strategy, a win, a division title and a deeper playoff run would be extremely validating. It’s possible that major personnel and coaching changes will be made this offseason. A win or loss in this game could set in motion all kinds of decisions.

So the stakes are high.

But the opponent is tough. Make no mistake; this win will have to be earned and the Seahawks have not had success against this team. It’s worth briefly running through what makes the Rams such a tough out for the Seahawks.

The Rams’ core strategy is molded by Sean McVay in a way that maximizes their output and allows them to play a very high quality of complementary football. They’re built to quickly get a lead offensively and then sustain that lead with a fantastic defensive line. And it’s been a smashing success when they are able to play to plan: The Rams are undefeated under McVay when they have the lead at halftime.

– The offense mixes the run, pass and keeping the QB clean as well as anyone in the NFL. Their strategic concepts on offense allow them to accumulate points early in the game before defenses can adjust.

– Getting a lead early allows the defense to be aggressive.

They play like Tarzan with a lead (73 QB rating allowed, 34 sacks, 10 interceptions). Comparatively, they are like Jane when they’re behind (96 QB rating allowed, 6 sacks, 1 interception).

– With a lead, both sides are allowed to dictate the game tempo. The offense only plays 30% of their snaps while trailing. The defense? Only 21% of their total snaps are played while trailing. So teams are forced to chase them and alter their game plan accordingly.

It’s not hard to see why the Seahawks have struggled so much with the Rams. They’ve never been the fastest starters and that plays right into the Rams’ strategy. They’ve been able to keep the Seahawks off-balance, always trying to adjust and figure out something that works, not being sure of when to take a risk and when to play conservatively and calling increasingly desperate plays that allow the defense to pin their ears back and get aggressive.

I put it this way in my Week 10 Watch Points about playing the Rams:

This game is like a horse race. If you don’t get out of the gate quickly, get out of the jostling herd and build up a head of steam, you’re going to get stuck in the crowd. Breaking free late to win is doable but it is going to be far more difficult because the Rams don’t easily relinquish a lead.

Do the Seahawks have the vision and wisdom to game plan to get the lead early and flip the script? Can they make the Rams chase them for a change?

It’s really a choice – do you want to try and beat them at their game? Or take control and make them play a game they’re far less effective at? The latter has a far greater chance of success. It won’t be easy but appears to be the most direct path to a win.

Thankfully, reinforcements are coming. The players that likely will be available for this game that weren’t in Week 10 are many and should impact the Seahawks’ performance:

– RBs Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Rashaad Penny

– C Ethan Pocic

– CB Shaquille Griffin

– DE Benson Mayowa

As you’ll see, all of those positions will play critical roles in this game and getting all that talent back for the rematch could tip the scales in the Seahawks’ favor.

Let’s dig into the Watch Points for this crucial game:

Win the turnover battle

The Seahawks lost the battle 3-1 in the Week 10 loss and 2-1 in the Week 14 loss last year. It is extremely difficult to succeed against a team playing complementary football if you cost yourself offensive momentum and give their offense extra chances. They’ll have to play disciplined, controlled football to win.

Russell Wilson has to get into a better headspace for this one. He clearly has not been himself the last few weeks and the offensive game plan hasn’t been giving him much of a chance to right himself.

Giving him a selection of plays that makes the game come to him will be very helpful to his success. Which is why the Hawks need to…

Gear down on offense early in the game and control the tempo and the clock

The deep pass has been a source of pride and a real strength for the Seahawks this year. But not against the Rams.

Deep passing against this Rams defense has been a disaster for the Seahawks the last two games:

– The Seahawks were 4 for 20 on deep passes

– Two of those deep passes were intercepted

– Russell Wilson was sacked 11 times

Those are incredibly bad numbers and a big contributor to their lack of success.

We’re not saying they need to abandon the deep ball (remember rookie DK splashing onto the scene against these very Rams, getting a high five from Sidney Rice after catching a 40 yard bomb?) but they definitely need to pick their spots better.

Can they learn anything from teams that have had success against the Rams? How about San Francisco, for instance? How do the 49ers seem to match up so well with the Rams? How on earth did they manage to sweep the Rams this year, when the Seahawks struggle against them so much?

Part of the puzzle is the 49ers’ offensive construct.

How many deep passes did they throw in their games against LA? Six. Three of them were caught. San Fran rarely throws past the sticks, that’s just their personnel makeup and they play to it. So they match up very well with the Ram defense because they get the ball out quickly and don’t let their monster defensive line get any time to chase the quarterback down.

That strategy – combined with a solid ground game – greatly helped the Niners handily win the time of possession battle in both games. The first game they won by
nine minutes. The second game by a whopping 15 minutes – they possessed the ball a whole quarter longer than the Rams did. They kept the ball out of the Ram offense’s hands and controlled the clock and flow of the game. They successfully kept the Rams from fully utilizing their coaching and player talent.

The Seahawks have done the polar opposite of the Niners. They threw 20 deep passes to the Niners’ six and it tellingly had the opposite effect:

– 16 of the Seahawks’ 20 deep passes ended with a negative result: Two interceptions and 14 unsuccessful throws that stopped the clock. Further attempts at deep passes were met with 11 sacks.

Those are drive-killing numbers and they furthered the Rams’ game script at the expense of the Seahawks’. Obviously, some adjusting is in order.

The Seahawks must play with controlled aggression. Come out of the gate with a quick passing, run-establishing offense to eat the clock and score some points. There’ll be time for some deep passing when you’ve gotten some momentum built up and the game is better in hand. An insistence on long-developing plays early on will likely allow the pass rush time to get into Russell Wilson’s head. In Week 10 he was ducking blue jerseys that weren’t there and couldn’t find open receivers when under pressure. Fewer deep passes early gives everyone a greater chance at success.

Russell Wilson, you must get back on track.

Think quickly. Find your tight ends. Get your wide receivers the ball on short passes and let them get yards after the catch. Find your running backs in the flat. Take the scramble yards the Rams offer you. Don’t worry about gaudy stats and offseason awards. Manage the game and play with the confidence you’ve recently lacked against this team. Even if you don’t have it. Fake it till you make it, Russell. If you provide the level of play you’re capable of, you can take this team to the Super Bowl. It starts this week.

Defense — play creative, assignment-correct football and impact this offense

In Week 10 the defense sacked Jared Goff three times. All three sacks killed a Rams drive. One of them was a strip sack by Jamal Adams that the Seahawks recovered.

That’s the good news.

The bad news? They blitzed 21 times to get those three sacks. They only recorded eight pressures and forced only four bad throws by Goff. He recovered from the sacks nicely and had a pretty effective game otherwise.

It didn’t help that the Seahawks’ backfield wasn’t supporting the pass rush very well. They had several problems in coverage that left the defense vulnerable and kept the stress off of Jared Goff to play perfect football.

They must unify the defensive line, linebackers and coverage guys by being assignment correct and experience a higher success rate on their blitzes and must get more pressure with their front four in non-blitzing situations.

Going into Week 10 the Rams had been 0-5 when Goff was pressured 10 or more times the last two seasons. The average number of times Goff was blitzed by the defense in a Rams loss was double the times he’d been blitzed in a Rams win.

Defenses lately have been picking up on this – Goff is regularly getting blitzed by smart teams now. He and McVay are adjusting. His YTD passer rating when blitzed is nearly the same as it is in normal rush situations now. So just flooding the pocket with bodies and hoping the chaos will produce good results will not work as effectively as it has in the past. The Seahawks must get more creative and pick their spots better.

Snacks Harrison and Poona Ford will have chances to impact this game. Harrison’s first game in 2020 was against the Rams. It’s likely he has a better footing and sense of what the Seahawks want from him. If they can clog and disrupt the middle and keep their running backs from giving the offense that ‘just enough breathing room’ margin for them to operate, they’ll be able to put Goff in tougher situations and give the defense some chances to force some bad play from him.

Special Teams — continue to be a championship unit

Week 10 against the Rams, this unit was fantastic:

– Michael Dickson averaged 49 yards per punt and had a 57-yard blast

– Jason Myers was 3/3 on field goals including a 61-yard bomb as time expired in the first half

– DJ Reed had a 49-yard kick return to inject some juice into the offense

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A message to the blog community

Unless anything significant happens I’m not planning on writing any long form articles over Christmas. I’ll have the Rams preview podcast online later this week and the traditional Christmas mock draft.

This has been a long year — one in which I didn’t have my usual break from writing over the summer. So I intend to try and enjoy Christmas with my family.

However, I wanted to say something today.

As I noted in yesterday’s podcast (see below), if you are simply happy to enjoy the wins (in any form) — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This has been a horrible year for so many people. If you take joy from the Seahawks winning, you should cherish that. Nobody has the right to tell you to be a ‘fan’ in a different way.

But that same courtesy should be offered to the people who are viewing this team with a more critical eye.

If someone wishes to raise a concern, or multiple concerns, that’s fine. Nobody has the right to tell anyone else how they ‘should’ react to a game. Or accuse them of being spoiled because, many years ago, this franchise wasn’t very good.

Even if you don’t agree or have a different perspective, a lot of the concerns raised have been valid. Whether that was the way they used their resources in the off-season, their recent use of high draft picks, the way they handled the pass rush, the current performance of Russell Wilson, the performance of the coaching staff or other issues.

Again — you may have a different take. But it doesn’t mean other people are not raising valid concerns, or that a conversation isn’t necessary.

There seems to be an increasing intolerance on here about what should or shouldn’t be discussed — or how often something is discussed.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal blog written by one individual.

I do think this is a unique website these days. Blogging isn’t as popular as it was a decade ago. Social media, particularly Twitter and YouTube, has seen many writers turn to ‘tweeters and talkers’.

It’s not a surprise really. I have a full time job and when I get home, I spend several hours of my free time crafting an article. I have to treat this place almost like a second full-time job. Firstly, as a way to indulge my passion for the Seahawks and talking about the Seahawks. Secondly, as a hobby. I enjoy writing. I started this thing in 2008 as a means of practise in case my journalism career took me in that direction. It never did and I went into broadcasting but this short-term project has developed into a 12-year labour of love.

I don’t require any financial compensation, although I am grateful to those of you who use Patreon.

The only requirement I ask of the community is to appreciate that in exchange for the time I put into this, you’re going to get my views. I’m going to write about what I want to write about. For most of the last decade that has been very positive. This year, however, I’ve personally found a lot of things that I want to challenge.

I’m not going to avoid topics simply to dodge criticism. Thus, there could be stretches where I write articles you are not interested in. Or don’t like.

I’m afraid that’s just something you’re going to have to come to terms with. I’m not going to write articles to satisfy the needs of certain individual readers. You’re going to get my views — like them or loathe them.

I felt obliged to write this in order to try and progress forward during the decisive part of the season. I fear that whatever happens over the next few weeks — positive or negative — a storm is brewing and it could get ugly.

Let’s try to avoid that.

I do enjoy watching the Seahawks, contrary to what some people seem to think suddenly. It’s my favourite thing to do, along with talking about the Seahawks.

Sometimes though I will have a different opinion to you. It might not be the most flattering take on the team. And that’s OK.

Merry Christmas to all.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks avoid disaster

I just can’t get excited about this win or, to be honest, this team.

They held a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter, going up against a quarterback who Washington had consigned to the dustbin a few weeks ago.

Dwayne Haskins struggled, badly, for three quarters. He threw two terrible interceptions. He looked disjointed and frankly quite hopeless.

Yet with the game virtually in the bag, somehow the Seahawks allowed him to lead two easy touchdown drives and he was on the brink of a third until L.J. Collier and Carlos Dunlap saved the day with a pair of sacks.

Had Seattle lost this game, it would’ve been even worse than the Giants debacle.

Until the late sacks, the pass rush offered nothing. It was all so easy for Washington’s rag-tag cast of characters, against another backup QB and missing their top running back.

When an opponent gets on a roll, the defense too often looks like this.

Passive, soft and vanilla.

It’s not good enough and you can start counting down the days towards major staffing changes in the off-season.

Yet the bigger concern is on offense.

Russell Wilson just isn’t right. And look — I appreciate the game plan today called for a heavy dose of running. The Seahawks had great success running, managing 181 yards on 26 rushes.

But nobody can look at how Wilson is playing currently and feel confident about his ability to turn it on in the most important game of the regular season next week.

The offense just went into a box in the fourth quarter, when they simply needed one drive to finish things.

The only real positive I even feel like mentioning is D.J. Reed. He had a terrific game. Kudos to him.

Yes the Seahawks won and yes they’re in the playoffs. Let’s be real, a post-season berth was the absolute minimum expectation this year.

The key thing is what you do in the playoffs. Nothing about how Seattle has played this season suggests they’re set to go on a tear when it matters.

Maybe next week can spark things? They have to be a lot better than this.

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Sunday college football notes: 20th December

Najee Harris is a star

Sometimes you just watch a player and he has ‘it’. Harris has ‘it’.

Simply from watching his Rivals pre-college footage you could see he stood out as a special athlete. Everything comes so naturally and dare I say — easily — to him.

There are few players who can run with his elegance at 6-2 and 230lbs. He glides, slips through tackles and can slalom his way through traffic. At SPARQ he ran a 4.16 short shuttle which is remarkable for his size. That’s the kind of time you’d expect for a 195lbs cornerback.

Yet because he carries the weight on a perfectly balanced frame, he’s tough to bring down and tackle.

Against Florida he was sensational — leading the way with 178 rushing yards on 31 carries and adding 67 receiving yards. He scored five total touchdowns.

The perfect illustration of what he can do came on a smart stop-and-slant route. He lined up outside and feigned a checkdown option, then exploded into a slant for a first down. It was great play design but it also required Harris to sell it and execute — which he did perfectly. His route running and catching skills are excellent.

His calling card is a fantastic hurdle which he’s been doing throughout his career. It’s a bit of a weird thing to say — but nobody has mastered the ‘hurdle to avoid contact and extend the play’ quite like Harris.

He’s not a punishing runner for his size but it doesn’t really matter. He’s just so elegant. He lacks Derrick Henry’s insane breakaway speed too and he’s far from a burner — only running a 4.66 at SPARQ.

Harris is a player you can construct a serious chunk of your offense around, however. He looks like a first round pick and if he lands on a contending team in the 20’s or 30’s — he could turn into an immediate star player at the next level.

Many would’ve pissed and moaned if the Seahawks drafted him early — which they won’t be able to given their lack of picks. However, he’s the kind of player who lasts into a certain range due to positional value and ends up being a huge steal. It would’ve been fun to see him paired with D.K. Metcalf as Russell Wilson’s two key weapons for the remainder of his peak.

Whoever does get Harris for a modest rookie contract for the next four or five years will be laughing about it.

DeVonta Smith should be in the Heisman discussion

For too long the Heisman has become a quarterback or running back award. Few players have dominated like Smith in 2020.

Early during the 2019 college football season we were talking about Smith — discussing how he looked like the best receiver on Alabama’s roster (ahead of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle). He’s proven that to be the case this year.

Smith is practically unstoppable on slants and he has some Doug Baldwin to his game in the way he shakes defenders to get open. He has the speed to get downfield, he’s mastered his craft in terms of catching and despite his lack of size he’s a very willing blocker.

Against Florida he had another huge day with 184 yards on 15 catches and two touchdowns.

For me the Heisman should be between Smith, Harris or Trevor Lawrence.

Some thoughts on Florida’s pair of targets

Kadarius Toney had eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. He looked really sharp and played a big role in Florida making a game of it in the second half.

The thing about Toney, who hopefully will attend the Senior Bowl, is he needs to test well. He’s not the biggest and while he appears quick on tape — he only ran a 4.69 at SPARQ. To max out his potential, he’s going to need to run in the 4.4’s at the combine.

There are no such concerns for Kyle Pitts though who had seven catches for 129 yards and a superb touchdown. He will be a top-20 pick. The Chargers should seriously consider drafting him to give Justin Herbert a new weapon to grow with.

Haskell Garrett does it again

There are some really appealing defensive tackle options in this draft and several could come off the board by the end of round two. Nobody has been more impressive than Ohio State’s Garrett.

He is flying under the radar but he shouldn’t be. He’s a tremendous athlete who plays with fire and aggression.

He was chopped down by the right tackle on Northwestern’s touchdown play in the Big-10 Championship game. The block essentially creates the lane for the score. Yet Haskell got back to his feet immediately. In almost one complete move he was on the turf and then up again. It was such an athletic move and he almost plugged the lane.

He had a sack later on as he mopped up an outside rush but he flashes such tremendous quickness to complement his all-action style. He ran a 4.41 short shuttle at 300lbs at SPARQ. Don’t be surprised if he ends up becoming a top-40 lock but if he lasts into round two — he could be a serious option for Seattle.

Go and study Daviyon Nixon

People tend to view Mel Kiper as a bit of a comedy character. The hair, the ‘Todd, Todd, Todd’, the Frank Caliendo impression. Yet every year he often delivers a name to the masses, rated highly by scouts and not on the media radar.

Iowa’s Nixon is that guy for 2021. Kiper brought him up this week so I went to take a look and he’s a ‘wow’ player who could easily be a top-20 pick.

His gap discipline at 6-3 and 305lbs is superb. He knows what his role is, he can control the LOS or split his blocks to force runs back inside. He can afford to be patient because he’s just so nimble and athletic for his size. His frame is big, strong and powerful but he flashes quickness and he’s opportunistic. He can bully opponents and shoot gaps equally well.

He even managed a remarkable 70-yard pick-six against Penn State. Nixon is going to go very early in this draft.

Trey Sermon impresses

Ohio State leaned on their RB2 to the tune of 331 yards on 29 carries (including two touchdowns). There are major question marks about what the Seahawks do at the position with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde both free agents and Rashaad Penny hasn’t exactly convinced anyone he deserves to lead the rushing attack next year.

Sermon isn’t exactly what the Seahawks go for at the position. He’s 6-1 and about 215lbs which doesn’t typically fit their profile. He’s a bit upright as a runner too and that could cause some issues.

However, he ran a 4.27 short shuttle and jumped a 35 inch vertical at SPARQ and you do see that compliment of explosive traits and agility on display as he weaves through tackles.

I suspect the Seahawks will retain Carson, even if it’s only on a short-term extension. However, they need a stable of backs. They also need better players than Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer making up the numbers. It’s fine having someone like Homer who pass protects well or Dallas who plays special teams. With Carson so plagued by injury though — they can’t afford to bring people off the street (Bo Scarborough, Alex Collins, Marshawn Lynch) to run the ball because they’re not confident either can handle the load. Your running backs need to actually, you know, run.

Sermon will likely be available later on and might be worth monitoring throughout the process. It’s not a particularly deep running back class overall.

Who should be in the playoffs?

Alabama and Clemson are locked in. I have sympathy with the argument that Ohio State shouldn’t be eligible after playing only six games. They will be much fresher than any of the other contenders. However, they are legitimately one of the top four teams and any playoff scenario without them would simply be worse for us the fans.

I don’t want to see Notre Dame qualify. We see it every few years. They get on a roll and run the table, only to be embarrassed by a proper team in the playoffs or National Championship.

They deserve credit for the way they handled the ACC and the win against Clemson was exciting. Yet look at the difference when Clemson had their starting quarterback. They destroyed Notre Dame — and we don’t need to watch Alabama do the same in the playoffs.

The fourth best team might be Florida. A rematch with Alabama would be a game worth watching. However, with three losses on their slate you can’t include them unless you’re prepared to take some serious flack.

I think Texas A&M should get the final spot. They beat Florida and demolished many of their SEC opponents. They are more likely to give Alabama a game than Notre Dame.

The Covid-impacted season hasn’t really left the committee with a great array of options. I think they have a duty to give us a semi-final that can be somewhat competitive though. I don’t think Alabama vs Notre Dame will be competitive. Maybe Alabama vs Texas A&M wouldn’t be either? When they played earlier this year, it was 14-14 until a late second quarter collapse carried Alabama to a 52-24 win. The Aggies have improved since then.

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The three big draft mistakes that impacted Seattle’s reset

The Seahawks are three years into their reset and arguably have not taken many steps forward since 2018.

The massive use of resources this year was an attempt to accelerate improvement but, with three regular season games to go, the jury’s out on whether they succeeded.

A challenging off-season in 2020 isn’t solely responsible for the reset stalling. Their use of high picks between 2018-2020 also warrants a discussion.

2018 — the decision to draft Rashaad Penny

It was the perfect storm.

The Seahawks’ running game had collapsed in 2017. Russell Wilson led the team in rushing. Eddie Lacy had been a gigantic flop. Promising rookie Chris Carson was injured early in the season.

Seattle had lost their identity and a lot of that was tied to their inability to run the ball.

The running back class in 2018 was the strength of the draft. Multiple players were expected to be taken early, starting with Saquon Barkley in the top five.

There was an opportunity to kick start the running game with a high pick at the position. After all, Carson had only played in four career games by that point and had experienced injury issues in college. Adding a player made sense — in terms of philosophy and what was available in the draft.

Everything was set up for Seattle. They only had four picks going into the 2018 draft (and wouldn’t pick again until round four following their initial selection). Trading down from #18 was inevitable. They dropped to #27, acquiring an extra third rounder from Green Bay, and found themselves in the perfect position.

Barkely had been taken #2 overall by the Giants. Every other running back was still on the board. Between picks #27 and #43, five running backs would be drafted.

Seattle had their pick of the bunch.

In terms of executing a draft plan, it couldn’t have worked any better. They filled the gap between rounds one and four by trading down and could now select the player they truly wanted.

As we’ve discussed over the years, the Seahawks have a very particular ‘type’ of running back. All of the players they’ve drafted match a certain size and testing benchmark. For more information, read my big combine preview from February.

We’ve been able to reduce the number of potential targets every year and we’ve been able to hit on a number of drafted players as a consequence.

For example, in 2016 only two players fit Seattle’s criteria:

C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-1 broad
Kenneth Dixon — 5-10, 215lbs, 37.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad

We were able to reduce the entire class down to two players — and identify who they would go on to select.

In 2017, only four players fit their criteria:

Christopher Carson — 6-0, 218lbs, 37 inch vert, 10-10 broad
Brian Hill — 6-0, 219lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Alvin Kamara — 5-10, 214lbs, 39.5 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Joe Williams — 5-11, 210lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-5 broad

Once again, we reduced the group down and found the player they wanted.

In 2018, there was a much bigger list. This was a superior running back class, with several players who fit what the Seahawks look for:

Saquon Barkley — 6-0, 233lbs, 41 inch vert DNP broad
Kerryon Johnson — 5-11, 213lbs 40 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Bo Scarborough — 6-0, 228lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-9 broad
Nick Chubb — 5-11, 227lbs, 38.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad
John Kelly — 5-10, 216lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Lavon Coleman — 5-10, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Rashaad Penny — 5-11, 220lbs, 32.5 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Royce Freeman — 5-11, 229lbs, 34 inch vert, 9-10 broad

Once again we identified the group they would likely pick from and they selected Rashaad Penny.

Ultimately though, this was the first mistake of the reset.

One of Pete Carroll or John Schneider (I can’t remember which) referenced that Penny received their highest ‘health’ grade going into the 2018 draft. I suspect this is what separated him from the pack. Carson, Prosise, Lacy and Thomas Rawls had all been banged up. They needed a durable runner who they could depend on — just as they’d been able to depend on Marshawn Lynch.

The problem is, Penny wasn’t tested in college. He was the starter at San Diego State for only one season.

Prior to the 2017 season, he backed up Donnel Pumphrey. You might recall that Pumphrey was a 5-8, 176lbs running back. It’s not often that a running back with that stature succeeds, however Pumphrey passed Ron Dayne for the all-time NCAA Division I FBS lead in career rushing yards in his final season.

So basically Penny started for only one season in a conference where a 5-8, 176lbs running back was able to set college records for rushing. This was never enough of a challenge to properly judge his durability, yet it appears to have been one of the determining factors.

We’ll never know for sure but I suspect Seattle would’ve taken Nick Chubb had Penny been unavailable.

Chubb had everything they looked for in a running back. He had the ideal ‘Seahawks size’ at 5-11 and 227lbs. He was highly explosive — jumping a 38.5 inch vertical and a 10-8 broad jump. He was no slouch either — running a 4.52 forty and adding a 4.25 short shuttle.

His combine performance was an absolute masterclass. A dream performance you’d think from a Seahawks perspective.

On the field he was incredibly physical and tough. His running style was a perfect fit for Seattle’s offense. He dominated for multiple years in the SEC — helping lead Georgia to the National Championship game in his final season.

He’d also overcome great adversity. Chubb suffered a horrifying knee injury in 2015 but returned to play two more seasons in college. He was rusty in 2016 but the following year, he was back to his old self — as shown by a sensational performance against Oklahoma in the playoffs.

The knee injury — and the possible feedback and medical checks they’d done on it — might’ve been the difference maker. After all, Penny hadn’t experienced any setbacks like this (but he also didn’t play much until 2017).

The thing is, Chubb had already come back and played two more years. He didn’t miss any time after returning and was a picture of durability aside from that one freakish moment.

If anything you’d think the adversity he showed to fight back from that injury would give him a fantastic off-setting grade in the ‘grit’ category.

The Seahawks took Penny and Chubb was selected by the Browns eight picks later.

Chubb has missed four games in his NFL career in three years. He played a full 16 games in 2018 and 2019. He missed some time with an ankle injury this season but has since returned faster and stronger than ever.

Here’s his statline (yards/touchdowns) since returning from injury:


He has 3371 rushing yards in two and a bit seasons, 27 total touchdowns and is clearly one of the best runners in the NFL.

Cleveland’s entire offensive identity revolves around Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Rashaad Penny meanwhile has missed 21 games in his NFL career. He has just 789 rushing yards and six total touchdowns. There’s very little confidence in him to emerge as RB1 next year, with Chris Carson set to reach free agency.

This was a very avoidable error. Chubb is basically the poster child for what a Seahawks runner should be. It’s not a mere convenience to point to a great player they passed on and say they should’ve drafted him. Chubb is everything they look for.

Had they taken him instead, the Seahawks could have the running game the Browns currently possess. They’d also have the security to not pay Carson next year because Chubb would still be under contract for two more years.

Perhaps they saw a poor mans Todd Gurley in Penny? After all — he showed real ability as a receiver and a returner at San Diego State (things we haven’t seen in Seattle). Gurley at the time was setting the NFL alight.

Yet ultimately this feels like an overthink on Seattle’s behalf. Chubb should’ve been their man and with him, they likely would’ve returned their running game to the Marshawn Lynch days — when it was the most fearsome ground attack in the NFL.

2019 — the wrong plan, badly executed

The Seahawks wanted a pass rusher and a safety.

We can say that with a great deal of confidence. For staters, those are the two positions they selected with their top two picks. Secondly, they had a gaping hole at defensive end following the Frank Clark trade and they’ve since added three safeties at great expense.

Yet the way they handled the week of the 2019 draft has arguably done more harm than anything to Seattle’s reset.

The Seahawks traded Clark to the Chiefs in the days leading up to the draft. The thought process was perfectly logical. They avoided paying Clark $20m a year and the upcoming draft class was well know for its depth of talent on the defensive line.

Theoretically the trade allowed them to add to their paltry number of picks (they didn’t have a second rounder due to the Duane Brown trade) and find a cheap replacement for Clark.

So they entered the draft with picks #21 and #29 and seemingly felt confident (based on their later comments that the board worked against them) that they were going to land a top defensive lineman from a great positional class. There’s been a few rumours that their main targets were Rashan Gary and Brian Burns.

Gary was very similar to Clark. He was highly explosive, well sized and surprisingly agile. His combine testing was superb and he would’ve been an ideal replacement based on profile.

There were significant rumours that a shoulder injury had moved Gary down many boards. Some prominent mock drafts were starting to project him in the early 20’s and he was often paired with Seattle.

Burns, meanwhile, had the classic frame for a Seahawks LEO. He was long, lean, explosive and quick. He was adept at winning 1v1 off the edge. He too would’ve been a tremendous addition.

Perhaps they received bad intel? Or maybe they just whiffed on their own internal projections? Gary was gone by pick #12 and Burns was off the board by #16. Neither got close to pick #21.

With both players gone, the Seahawks traded down to #30.

A lot of people have speculated that by moving down they missed out on Montez Sweat and Jerry Tillery. I don’t buy that, personally.

Sweat’s heart condition was a serious concern and I wouldn’t blame any team for taking him off their board. He was being projected as a top-10 pick prior to the discovery of the defect, so if the Seahawks were prepared to select him they probably would’ve taken Sweat at #21 (especially given their huge need for a pass rusher).

Tillery never struck me as a Seahawks type of player. He had an odd character and flattered to deceive on the field. He had the physical skills but I’m not convinced Seattle were ever seriously interested in him.

I’m speculating a lot here — but I think Gary and Burns coming off the board early was a crushing blow. There were other D-liners available at #21 and they were desperate to add one. It made no sense to trade down if they really wanted Sweat or Tillery. I am convinced that they pinned their hopes on Gary or Burns being available and all the talk of the draft not going there way was directly linked to the pair.

Perhaps if Gary makes it to #16, Burns is available at #21? Maybe he would’ve just lasted all the way to #21 himself? We’ll never know.

Moving down to #30 feels like resignation, in hindsight. They’d missed out, so they were going to trade down and see the lay of the land at the end of round one.

I think, once the two pass rushers had gone off the board, they had their eye on Johnathan Abram. Clearly they wanted a safety. Abram tested superbly at the combine. He was a tone-setter at Mississippi State and he played with the style they like at the position.

An ideal first round could’ve been getting one of Burns or Gary and then Abram. That might’ve been their ‘plan A’.

When the Raiders took Abram with the 27th pick, all three were gone.

That is my best guess as to why they looked so gloomy in their press conference after the first round. They’d come out empty handed, missing on their targets — days after trading away the one good pass rusher on the roster.

This is the first mistake from the 2019 draft. They misjudged the situation and projected poorly. With picks #21 and #29 they should’ve made sure they landed at least one of their targets — even if it meant moving up a few spots or simply taking someone they really wanted at #21. There was a reason why they looked so miserable in the press conference after. I can’t believe there wasn’t anyone available at #21, or a viable trade-up option, to avoid this scenario.

The second mistake was not being prepared to pivot away from their targeted positional needs. Once the draft had started to work against them, the reaction needed to be to take a breath and look at who the best players available were.

There was still a lot of talent available — particularly at receiver. As much as the D-line class received rave reviews in 2019, wide out was also considered a strength.

Quality offensive linemen were also available.

I think the Seahawks were so focused on addressing their defensive end and safety needs that they simply selected the next players on their board instead of drafting for value. Thus, you end up with L.J. Collier and Marquise Blair.

For what it’s worth, I liked both Collier and Blair going into that draft. Collier had a sensational Senior Bowl and his tape was good. Blair was a head hunter at safety who packed a punch and he had plus athletic skills.

I’m not sure either warranted being the foundation for your entire draft, however — and they might’ve been available much later on.

Rather than take the next best player at those two specific positions to fill needs, Seattle should’ve looked at other areas. For example — Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown left the board in the range Seattle was picking in. Terry McLaurin went later — but we spent a ton of time before the draft discussing his suitability as a late first round target.

All three fit Seattle’s preferred physical traits at receiver. As did D.K. Metcalf, who they thankfully took later on to salvage the draft class.

Had the Seahawks accepted their fate, they could’ve easily had Samuel, Brown or McLaurin (who, as it happens, received a rave review from Pete Carroll during yesterday’s press conference).

Again, this isn’t just me handpicking good players and saying they should’ve been drafted. Every year we discuss what Seattle looks for at receiver. They have to run in the 4.4’s or faster. Samuel, Brown and McLaurin did that, unlike N’Keal Harry who was taken just before all three. We talked a lot about Samuel in particular due to his amazing performance in Mobile. He and McLaurin were arguably the two standout players at the Senior Bowl that year.

Imagine a situation where the Seahawks had taken one of Samuel, Brown or McLaurin, then taken an interior offensive lineman such as Elgton Jenkins or Erik McCoy, before trading up for Metcalf? The receiver position would now be set up for years to come. Russell Wilson would be pinching himself. They’d have a long term solution at center or left guard too.

Sure, they wouldn’t have been able to add a defensive end or safety. So what? They started the season with Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald anyway — so there was no need to force the Blair pick. They could’ve pushed that need into 2020, especially given they then traded for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams.

On the defensive line, they immediately signed Ziggy Ansah after the draft because they knew Collier wasn’t an immediate impact player. I suspect they would’ve traded for Jadeveon Clowney anyway, even if Collier didn’t get hurt in training camp.

There really wasn’t any reason to stick so strictly to the two positions once the board went against Seattle in 2019. The end result is thus — Collier looks like a thoroughly average, rotational player who is seeing his snaps decrease:

Jets — 18 (34%)
Giants — 24 (43%)
Eagles — 29 (41%)
Cardinals — 24 (36%)

For all the promise Blair has shown in flashes, the Seahawks were clearly unconvinced by his starting potential (thus the Diggs & Adams trades) and he was moved to nickel before his injury.

The double act of trading Clark and then spending two high picks in the way they did is one of the biggest reasons why the reset has not guided Seattle back to the top.

It’s not unrealistic at all to imagine a scenario where the Seahawks drafted Nick Chubb, kept Clark and then drafted Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown or Terry McLaurin to go with D.K. Metcalf. Wishful thinking? Sure. Unrealistic? Not at all.

These are the kind of moves that the 2010-12 Seahawks would’ve nailed. Get those two drafts right and this team could’ve been truly special.

2020 — desperation and the Darrell Taylor pick

Both Schneider and Carroll spelled it out numerous times. They needed to fix the pass rush. That was the priority.

Seattle’s 2019 pass rush was as bad as their 2017 running game. They were a one-man band, relying totally on Jadeveon Clowney for any kind of pressure. Ziggy Ansah was a huge bust. Quinton Jefferson offered a bit here and there. The rest? Ineffective.

They said retaining Clowney was a priority. I believe them. I think they truly intended to re-sign him and the rest of the off-season would follow from there.

I think they calculated, correctly, that his market wouldn’t be what he expected. The Seahawks are very good at working the room at the combine, finding out information. I suspect nobody out-works John Schneider in Indianapolis.

Their plan made sense. Offer Clowney a deal that could be the best on the table but ultimately won’t be what he expects. Then lean on the strong relationship they established to ‘recruit’ him back to Seattle.

Nobody could’ve predicted what happened next. Clowney’s unwillingness to sign any contract below what he felt he was worth was an unprecedented move. I don’t blame the Seahawks for not anticipating it and I don’t blame Clowney for sticking to his guns. It was simply an unfortunate situation.

Sadly, it seemed to negatively impact both parties.

Clowney’s stance didn’t help his bargaining position. He simply cost himself money and I suspect the truncated nature of the whole saga had a negative impact on his play in the end.

For Seattle, they were stuck. They couldn’t splash out on other players because they wanted Clowney and knew the minute they spent big money on others, retaining him was impossible. They kept money available pretty much throughout the off-season on the off-chance he would sign. It never happened.

It meant that they missed out on a host of other pass rushers, ended up frittering money away on cheap deals in order to try and save something for Clowney — only to end up using a lot of their remaining money on other bargain bin signings.

Anyone who was prepared to be honest about the situation knew Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin were not adequate additions to fix a pass rush. The Seahawks needed more but following the first flush of free agency it wasn’t obvious how they were going to get it. Either they’d have to find a resolution with Clowney, or they’d have to try and sign someone like Everson Griffen. Or they could look to the draft.

It wasn’t a good draft class for pass rushers. The options weren’t great, even with the Seahawks owning three picks in the first two rounds.

Yet there was one player who clearly appealed.

Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor looked like a Seahawks pass rusher. His chiselled frame, his unnatural ability to bend the arc and straighten to the quarterback. This was exactly what the Seahawks were looking for. He was nearly 6-4 and 267lbs with 33 inch arms. He was long, lean, athletic and powerful.

The only problem is he’d suffered a serious leg injury that required a titanium rod to be inserted into his leg.

He wasn’t able to perform at the Senior Bowl or combine as a consequence. Making matters worse was the emergence of a global pandemic. Teams would test and probe an injury like this for weeks before the draft. Now, information was severely limited.

Draft insiders speculated whether Taylor would go undrafted as a consequence. There was so little known about the injury, it was unclear whether he’d even pass a medical. While there was no doubting his talent and potential — if he couldn’t even get on the field to practise, nothing else mattered.

I remember doing several podcasts during draft season where I was asked about Taylor and the reaction was usually one of shock when I mentioned he could go undrafted. This was a unique year for the NFL, with teams having far less information than they’d ever had before.

I assumed a lot of teams wouldn’t have Taylor on their draft boards. I thought for weeks he’d be a day three pick at best. It was only in the build up to the draft, when Pete Schrager mocked him to Seattle in round one, that the conversation flipped.

Incidentally, who is telling Pete Schrager who the Seahawks are going to draft? And why? If he knows, presumably other teams will know? Likewise, why did Chris Mortensen know enough to tell Russell Wilson he was going to be drafted by Seattle in 2012? I digress, but still.

I think the Seahawks felt a lot of pressure to get a pass rusher during the 2020 draft. Clowney was still available and there was enough cap space to bring him back. Carroll spoke after the draft and went to great lengths to say the door was still open for a return. Adding a cheap rookie pass rusher was cost-effective insurance. It did make sense, in fairness, if they wanted to leave the door open for Clowney.

Yet the decision to target Taylor specifically — so much so that they traded up for him — was clearly a misjudgement.

He’s been on the NFI list all year. Carroll recently revealed his leg is structurally healed — yet he’s still not practising because he doesn’t feel right.

This isn’t a typical return like you’d see with a player coming back from an ACL or a high ankle sprain. Taylor has a titanium rod in his leg. I can only imagine how mentally challenging it must be to feel confident enough to play such an aggressive sport at a pro level in this situation.

His rookie season is a write-off. The hope has to be that in a years time he’ll not only be mentally ready to return but that he’ll physically be ready too. He won’t have played football for two years and the leg will always be a potential issue.

Spending two high picks on Taylor was reckless and far too risky this year. Had the Seahawks been able to do all of the usual medical checks in a non-Covid year, I’d have more sympathy with them. This feels like a desperate pick in hindsight. Desperate because of the situation with the pass rush post-free agency, desperate because of what happened with Clowney and desperate because they zoned in on a player with major red flags and traded up for him anyway.

If he never plays — and let’s be honest, we have to at least consider that a possibility — or if he struggles to regain his best form after this long layoff, the Seahawks will have wasted two high picks in the year where they needed a strong off-season to push them back into contention.

It would also mean that four first and second round picks were spent on Collier, Blair and Taylor in two drafts. That’s not a good return so far, with little cause for optimism in the future. It’s especially disappointing when you see who else was available.

The Seahawks seem to get themselves into trouble when they go into a draft with a massive glaring need. Their best picks in recent years — D.K. Metcalf and Damien Lewis — have been opportunistic moves. Really talented players lasting longer than they should’ve done and you capitalise.

You could even make that case for Jordyn Brooks. He has shown some flashes of talent. Seattle didn’t desperately need a linebacker this year but felt that was a strong position at the end of round one.

Their inability to solve problems in free agency to allow the draft to come to them has been a sticking point in 2019 and 2020 and is one of the main reasons why the reset has failed to deliver a much improved team.

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