Month: October 2022 (Page 1 of 4)

Scouting notes from week nine of college football

Before getting into the notes for this week, a few general Seahawks/draft thoughts…

The Denver Broncos look like a bad team. I don’t, however, think they’re going to be bad enough to deliver a top-five pick to the Seahawks.

Winning in London where they rode their luck a bit then did just enough at the end was big for Denver. That’s the kind of game a really bad team finds a way to lose.

They do have a tricky schedule to come (including two games against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs) but I suspect they’ll be in the 6-8 win range rather than the 3-5 win range you need to get into the top-five. This year, for example, the New York Giants had the #5 overall pick and only had four wins in 2021.

Increasingly it looks like Seattle will end up with the picks we kind of expected, only in reverse — with Denver providing a pick in the #8-12 range and Seattle picking later in round one.

I’m fascinated to see how this draft class shapes up given the lack of emerging players who we can seriously consider top-10 picks. This is a uniquely light draft — where prospective high picks have been injured or under-performed and very few players have promoted their stock into the top range.

Seattle currently owns the #10 and #22 pick as things stand — it might be that both players they claim with those picks (if they keep them) carry fringe first or second round grades. Or they might be forced to go for talent, just at positions we don’t consider ‘key needs’.

For example, the meltdown that will occur if they take Texas running back Bijan Robinson with a top-10 pick will probably crash the internet. Yet it’s not beyond the realms of possibility he would be light years ahead of any other player available if Seattle picks in the top-10 and the quarterbacks and defensive linemen worthy of early consideration are all gone.

They could trade up — but it’d be expensive and risky.

There are good receivers in this class they might consider. There’s a little bit of a risk factor with Quentin Johnson but I can imagine the Seahawks loving his upside. I’m a big admirer of Jalin Hyatt and Jonathan Mingo (who would be a good second round option). Jaxon Smith-Njigba has missed most of this season but he was incredibly impressive in 2021 (long speed could be an issue, though). I’m really interested to see how the under rated Bryce Ford-Wheaton tests if he turns pro.

There’s one brilliant tight end in Michael Mayer. Would they want to go down that road? Almost certainly not for a tight end but again — how much are you willing to compromise on talent to address positions of greater priority when you’re still only going into the second off-season of a build (even if that build is producing results faster than expected)?

Or it’s possible one or more of the top defensive tackles last. I think Mazi Smith will go a lot earlier than people think and Jalen Carter/Bryan Bresee a bit later. Especially Bresee who, while having an outstanding physical profile, hasn’t played at the level he’s capable of and has a fairly significant injury history.

Will a quarterback be available to them? It’s still possible — and should still be considered if it’s one of what I’d call ‘the big four’. I think we’re seeing the benefit of time with Geno Smith and the folly of being thrown in at the deep end (see: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson). It might be wise to have ‘one in the chamber’ behind Smith, unless they genuinely believe Drew Lock can essentially do what Geno’s doing now down the line.

It’d be nice to have deeper, more reassuring options (for example a stacked top-20 loaded with talent at various positions but mainly D-line) but at least there are some options — plus some intrigue.

I hope, ultimately, they build on the success of this year by focusing on the premium positions while being ready to capitalise on a great opportunity, as they did with Ken Walker. Needs kindly seemed to match available talent in the 2022 draft. They might not be as fortunate in 2023 but I hope the focus remains on talent acquisition, not position-addressing. The last time they had two first round picks they ended up with L.J. Collier and trading down for Marquise Blair when the likes of Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf were available. I’d rather just get as much talent as possible in the next draft than tick off a wish-list of positions.

Finally, before getting into the scouting notes, I’m glad the Seahawks (so far) haven’t pulled any moves like the Roquan Smith trade to Baltimore.

The Seahawks don’t need to dabble in rental trades for players who are due massive contract extensions in the off-season. Fresh off such an emphatically successful 2022 draft — retaining their picks should be key.

Furthermore — as we’ve discussed a lot already — they don’t have that much cap space in 2023. Adding a player you need to give a big fat contract to in 2023 simply decreases your chances of keeping Geno Smith beyond this season.

Florida vs Georgia

Highly rated Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter returned from his knee injury in this game and had an impact, while also highlighting some of the pros and cons of his game.

He showed flashes of real quality, swimming through the gap to penetrate and collapse the interior. One move in particular created a key pressure on a big fourth down play. He is the closest thing in this draft class to a Jeffrey Simmons type. He has an athletic looking frame (listed at 6-3 and 300lbs) and his quickness and agility — combined with his power — are key reasons why he will be a first round pick.

I also think this game showed again that he needs to become more consistent. You could pull a highlights package of 4-5 plays and use it for the basis of saying Carter’s a sure-fire top-five pick. Yet there were also a lot of ‘nothing’ reps where you’re left wanting a bit more.

This is why I’ve so far couched my rating for Carter. The flashes are great and I’ve no doubt they’d show up at the next level too. But you want to see more than the occasional flash. You want to see evidence of a more rounded game.

Can he be more than a one-gap penetrator? Can he be a plus run defender to warrant any-down value? Can he stack up blocks and draw extra attention at the LOS at the next level? Can he play with better leverage? Does he have the potential to take over a game rather than just flash every now and again? And when he’s given opportunities to shoot into the backfield, can we see more consistent production?

He only has three sacks in college football. It’d be nice to see a bit more production and consistency. I appreciate he’s been injured this year — but prior to jumping to the league, can he take another step in college to end this season on a high?

He has the physical tools to be a formidable force and that could be all that is needed in this light-weight first round to go very early. I suspect he’ll have growing pains early in his career though and there’s going to be some projection on what he can be. How high he goes will depend on a team’s willingness to take a chance on him delivering on his potential and being more consistent.

Elsewhere, UGA safety Christopher Smith was again impactful. He broke up deep passes in this game, ran to the sideline with great quickness, his read/react is very good and he comes up to the LOS and makes tackles. He’s trusty, fast and tough. As I’ve suggested before, depending on how he tests, he can be a second round pick.

Cornerback Kelee Ringo gets beat too often. Yes he has physical tools and that makes him a really intriguing prospect who will almost certainly go in the top-45. Yet at times he’s as close to a liability as Georgia can have. Ringo jumped too early on a deep ball from Anthony Richardson and gave up an explosive play downfield — a habit that we’ve seen a few too many times recently. Ringo’s phsyical tools are through the roof but to max out his draft stock he has to start doing the fundamentals better.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was hit in the thigh on his first snap and twisted his knee awkwardly falling to the ground. He played through the pain but couldn’t run in the first half. He still flashed great escapability, physical tools and arm strength. He was very creative to extend plays. Richardson can throw downfield with precision and velocity and he was incredibly difficult to bring down even when defenders burst into the backfield.

There were also some throws where he was a split second too late or misfired slightly.

By now we all know about Richardson — the obscene upside and the need for further development. It was reported over the weekend he is leaning towards turning pro.

I can’t see anything changing my opinion at this point. His physical upside is so extreme — as high as any quarterback I’ve watched entering the league. I think it would be a good use of a high pick to select him, let him develop behind Geno Smith with the possibility he eventually takes over. Richardson has the talent to be a Josh Allen level player. Like Allen, he also needs time, refinement and guidance to deliver on his potential.

I’m not sure he’ll be there for the Seahawks unless they pick very early. Even with his inconsistent play — he’s already performing at a higher standard than Allen did at Wyoming. I suspect someone will take him in the top-five because the upside is simply too good.

Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller doesn’t get much help on a struggling Florida defense but he’s a magnet to the ball carrier and a pillar of consistency. He’s been impactful all season. In this game he showed some ability as a blitzer, played with his usual aggression and did his best to slow down Georgia’s running game. I’m not sure he will have the physical profile or speed to interest the Seahawks but he’s having a very good season. Miller has also been playing through an injury all season and he’s been the heart and soul for the Gators.

Georgia tight end Darnell Washington is a tank. He’s not the quickest but his frame is fairly remarkable. In this game he again showed real potential as an extra blocker who can settle into soft areas of zone coverage and provide a big target on mid-range throws and in the red zone. He had one careless drop against Florida but otherwise provided a nice outlet. He will be a useful player at the next level although testing will determine how early he’s drafted.

Linebacker Nolan Smith is regularly projected as a first round pick but I’m not convinced. He’s a decent player, undersized and I just think there’s nothing particularly special about him. For me he’s a day two pick. I felt the same way about Nakobe Dean and he lasted into round three. The same might happen to Smith.

Michigan State vs Michigan

This was the best game I’ve seen from Michigan pass rusher Mike Morris. In previous games I think he’s played with a lack of urgency despite an increasing buzz in the media. This was a very different story. He led the pre-game speech to the team and came out roaring. He had a nice sack on an inside move before half-time, ran around like his hair was on fire and created pressure from the edge. More of this please.

Defensive tackle Mazi Smith had possibly his quietest game of the season but still looked a class above. There aren’t many nose tackles who come back onto the field for 3rd and long. Smith’s ability to shoot gaps at his size is virtually unheard of. Here he was pushing the pocket, winning with quickness again. He will destroy the combine. He can be even better when he learns to time his get-off to match the snap. He has shorter arms which will put some teams off but he’s a freakish athlete and the most disruptive defensive tackle I’ve watched this season.

Kentucky vs Tennessee

This was an absolute car crash of a performance from Kentucky and one I’m sure will lead to an overreaction from draft pontificators regarding Will Levis’ contribution to said car crash.

It’s absolutely the case that Levis played badly, had three turnovers and he deserves to be criticised for his part in this horror show.

His first interception was just a good play by the safety — hammering the receiver as he caught the ball leading to a tipped pass. That was unfortunate. His next two picks were late throws that were more ‘throw and hope for the best’ than anything close to timing and rhythm. These were mistakes by a pressing quarterback chasing the scoreboard.

What I will say though is I’m not sure any NFL evaluator is going to take even a second look at this tape. You can’t glean anything from a game like this where Kentucky were so hopelessly dreadful in every aspect.

Levis had no chance. He was throwing to overmatched freshman receivers who appeared allergic to contact. His one trusty receiver, Tayvion Robinson, dropped an easy back-shoulder fade on third down when the score was only 13-6. The Kentucky offensive line gave up another four sacks and eight TFL’s in another disaster-zone performance. The scoreboard pressure was constricting almost immediately. Why? Mainly because for whatever reason Kentucky’s secondary kept blowing the same coverage. The safety and corner on the left hand side kept being drawn to the same player, leaving Jalin Hyatt running wide open downfield. It was ridiculous how it happened twice for touchdowns — the exact same issue repeated.

Their punter kept kicking crap punts. There was one play where they had about 15 defenders on the field as they desperately tried to substitute to combat Tennessee’s up-tempo style.

Everything was a mess. The final score was 44-6 but it felt like 144-6.

Tennessee were everything Kentucky weren’t. Their defense, smelling blood, smothered them at the LOS and attacked in numbers. Their offensive scheme is so fine tuned it could win them a National Championship — that’s a distinct possibility now. They have two high draft picks at receiver and their right tackle should be getting mocked in round one.

The quarterback Hendon Hooker will continue to get a ton of praise and hey, he deserves it for the success he’s having. Yet there are so many easy wide open throws for big touchdowns. The scheme and talent makes his life so easy — half-field reads, instructions pre-snap from the sideline, guys running downfield with no defender in sight. In this game Tennessee specifically ran to the line after every play to stop Kentucky substituting and it worked. They couldn’t keep up. I’ve never seen a team use tempo to this extent before.

Levis can only dream of such an environment.

I don’t really blame him for pressing and making mistakes as things spiralled out of control. I’m not sure who would’ve succeeded at quarterback for UK in this game, against this opponent. That’s not to excuse or overlook Levis’ flaws — which we discuss as much as his positives. I genuinely believe though that it’s virtually impossible to take anything away from this game.

I still think if/when Detroit lands the #1 overall pick in the 2023 draft that they will view Levis as an ideal fit for what they want. Everything about his approach and profile fits in with the Lions and their staff.

Elsewhere, Running back Chris Rodriguez ran through tackles and collected yards after contact as per usual. He lacks cut back explosiveness and a second gear. He may have limitations in terms of next level upside but he’s fun to watch and his testing results will be important. He’s a bruising, physical, punishing runner.

I wrote about this last week but I think Tennessee duo Jalin Hyatt and Darnell Wright are destined to be high picks. They’re the best receiver and offensive tackle duo I’ve watched this season.

Stanford vs UCLA

Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet is a tremendous player worthy of at least a second round pick. He’s physical, shows great agility and quick feet to dodge tackles and he has the explosive traits you look for in a running back. He has amazing contact balance and ideal size. He continues to show he has value in the passing game.

I had him in round two a year ago and was surprised he returned to UCLA. He’s been a blog favourite for 15 months. He’d be a tremendous player to pair with Ken Walker as a highly dynamic 1-2 punch.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson was beaten up in this game, played through the pain and laboured throughout with an injury. Even so — he still threw the ball well and made gains with his legs when the situation called for it.

I’ve been a DTR fan for a long time too and although he lacks amazing physical tools and size — his creativity as a runner is an X-factor and he doesn’t have a weak arm. If nothing else, he would be a very useful Tyrod Taylor style backup.

Jake Bobo had a bad drop in the game but was also UCLA’s leading receiver. He’s big, athletic and generally trustworthy. I think he lacks the change of direction skills and suddenness of some of the receivers in this class but even so — he’s had an impressive season and warrants serious NFL consideration as a big WR3 type.

Tanner McKee continues to struggle on Stanford’s hopeless and directionless journey to persistent mediocrity. In every game this year he has 2-3 throws that flash genuine talent but then there’s also a lot of dross. I still think he looks too much like Mike Glennon for my liking but like Glennon, I think someone may take him in round three.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks make statement vs Giants

This was a performance to get excited about.

Yes — there will be tougher opponents on paper than Daniel Jones and a bits-and-pieces group of receivers.

Yet the New York Giants have found a way all season to get the job done. They hang around — as they did today — and then they finish in the fourth quarter. That’s why they were 6-1 — paired with the running of Saquon Barkley and the brilliant coaching of Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka and Wink Martindale.

I watched them beat the Packers in London. They’ve been tough, an upstart opponent and a difficult out.

The Seahawks absolutely handled them today. This was an outstanding performance.

One of the best we’ve seen in a long time.

The creativity of the offense was breathtaking. The ideas, the movement, the formations, the execution. Shane Waldron and Geno Smith delivered a ‘wow’ game that warranted all of those ‘Geno’ chants at the end. This was a masterpiece.

The defense completely shut-down Barkley in the running game and the only touchdown they conceded came after an unfortunate Tyler Lockett fumble on the two-yard line.

Lockett was having a tough day and after that had an unusual drop after the ball bounced off his helmet. No worries. He came roaring back with a vital touchdown. The perfect route, the perfect throw. A magical moment of football redemption.

Ken Walker continued his statement arrival to the NFL with a rumbling touchdown — finding a way to get involved and seal the game on an otherwise quieter afternoon.

The defense has rapidly improved since the early season disaster zone it was showing to be. They fly around and stick in games — helping the surprisingly brilliant offense to deliver three wins in a row.

Yes they clearly lack an X-factor pass rusher who can ensure those long third down conversions aren’t so easy when they rush with four. Yet the likes of Uchenna Nwosu are proving to be great value (that’s an understatement, actually) and Shelby Harris running his arse off to get to Daniel Jones to force a punt was a thing of beauty. The secondary looks vibrant and aggressive. Let’s hope Ryan Neal hobbling off isn’t anything serious (update — it was just cramps).

The whole vibe around the Seahawks was top notch. The sideline looks to be buzzing, Geno is pulling his best ‘BAMF’ face and this was the most enjoyable Seahawks game I’ve watched in ages.

Football doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t have to be 45 throws and 35 points. It’s often like this. The NFC, in 2022, is often like this.

How can you not fall for this group with the way they compete and entertain in their own special way?

This is far better than many of us ever expected this team would be. Something is brewing in Seattle and it isn’t a coffee.

Curtis Allen’s week eight watchpoints (vs NY Giants)

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen. After the game today tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

This game highlights what makes the NFL such gripping entertainment — the drama of the unpredictable.

There is simply no way that any reasonable person would have looked at the NFL schedule before the season started and circled this game as the only game in Week Eight that would feature two teams with winning records.

And yet here we are.  Both teams are in the midst of their own individual Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes stories.  The Seahawks smashing low expectations has been well-discussed here.  

The Giants are reinvigorating the NFC East with their own renaissance — highlighted by some fantastic foundational decision-making from its top brass.  Hiring a bright offensive mind in Brian Daboll to be head coach, pairing him with a deeply respected and successful defensive coordinator in Wink Martindale and drafting talent in the trenches have all proven to be successful moves and demonstrated a great blueprint for rebuilding a franchise.

Both teams have found a way to make this game go from a yawn to good watching.  

There is a lot riding on this game.  Each will want to prove their mettle and keep their forward momentum going.  It may also prove to be a critical point of the season.  A week where these teams prove they are not just having a brief flash of success, only to then sink back into the darkness.

The best way to avoid that?  Beating a team that is also playing good football.

While these two have demonstrated success this year, they do have weaknesses that can be exploited.  Now is an ideal time to truly demonstrate their mastery of coaching, whether they can either strengthen their weaknesses, or minimize them through smart scheming and decision-making.

That is the story this week.  Which team can do that more effectively?

The Seahawks are the fifth-ranked scoring offense.  The Giants are the sixth-ranked scoring defense.

The Seahawks are the 29th-ranked scoring defense.  The Giants are the 18th-ranked scoring offense.

Both teams are top rushing teams with serious threats at running back.  Both teams are bottom-five in defending the run.

The Seahawks can step right on the field and score explosively.  The Giants try to keep your offense off the field and wear your defense down with dink and dunk passes and then enforce their will in the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks are awful in the red zone on offense.  The Giants are amazing in the red zone on defense.

I could go on and on.

These matchups will make for some high drama.

How can the Seahawks come out ahead and go into their rematch with Arizona at 5-3?  One of the ways you will see is by relying on their experience in regularly facing their NFC West opponents.  The Giants have some similar tendencies as their division mates on both sides of the ball.

Do Not Lose Focus

Last week’s victory over the Chargers is their biggest win so far this season, particularly when you consider how badly the Broncos have continued to play.  Going on the road, beating a very talented (albeit banged up) team that has serious designs on a deep playoff run is the best evidence yet for the argument that this Seahawks team is legitimate.

What would strengthen that argument?  A win against a 6-1 Giants team at home this week.

New York might be the best opponent the Seahawks could possibly measure themselves against in the mental aspect of their game.  Why?

First off, the team will get a chance to put a blemish on their record in the rearview mirror.

In 2020, the Seahawks entered Week 13 with an 8-3 record.  Enormously frustrating losses to Buffalo and the Rams were followed with a “let’s do what we do well” win against Arizona and a Monday Night win against the Eagles that featured a dominant performance by D.K. Metcalf.

The top seed and a bye week were within their grasp, and they badly needed it.  Here come the Giants — who without Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones seemed like easy prey.

They blew it.  The defense gave up some big runs, Russell Wilson was sacked five times and the coaching staff made several poor decisions.  After the game, Shaquille Griffin publicly admitted they did not take the Giants seriously and it cost them.

The praise the Seahawks have been getting from the press this season – the last two weeks especially – has been getting louder.  Can they tune it out and stay focused?

One good note to hear:  Pete Carroll has remarked more than once that young players like Tariq Woolen are already focusing on the next game by the time their team plane lands in Seattle.  See you tomorrow for more work.

It is possible that the team still remembers the harsh beating they got in Week Two from San Francisco after the Denver victory hangover and are determined not to make the same mistake again.  We will see Sunday.

Secondly, the way this Giants team plays.  They make you earn everything.  Nothing is given to you.  It will take focus to consistently execute good football plays.

Their offense runs you to death in the ground game and patiently lulls defensive backs to sleep in the passing game.

They do not give you the ball – they only have six giveaways this season, good for fourth-best in the NFL.

They have had as much success as anyone in the NFL in forcing defenses to make mistakes, they have more explosive runs than anyone else and they have gained more first downs by penalty than anyone else.  They get opposing defenses to help them down the field with regularity.

The Seattle defense will need to be very sharp to avoid playing the game the Giants want to play.

On defense, they are incredibly stiff in the red zone.  Watch them swarm to Christian Kirk at the one-yard line to keep him out of the end zone to seal the win as time expired last week.

Now that is defensive desire.  The offense will need to match their intensity and yet keep their focus in order to not make too many mistakes.

They will need a tremendous amount of it to keep New York’s top two offensive players from dictating the pace of the game…

Defend Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones – Particularly in the Running Game

The Giants rely on these two players to make their offense go more than any other duo in the NFL — they account for an astounding 62.4% of the team’s touches, the highest percentage of any two players in the league (and more than half of their total yards).  It would be appropriate for the Seahawks to conclude that they need a proportional amount of their attention from the defense.

The Giants are one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL with 54% of their plays being runs — so let’s have a look at that area first.

Saquon Barkley provides a supreme challenge.  The Giants are dedicated to squeezing every bit of production out of him this year – he accounts for 46% of their touches all by himself.  Seahawks will need a big day from the front seven in order to keep him from controlling the game.

The interior linemen will need to maintain their gaps and not let themselves be blocked out of position.  The linebackers will need to read and react far better than they have so far this season.  The edges will need their speed to get around pulling guards and make some stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Those players are not alone though.  Barkley’s ability to turn on a dime, reset and accelerate in nearly the same motion means backside defenders need to be just as zealous as the men in the flat in pursuing him.  

You see it time and time again with Barkley – he is able to elude men with a quick change in direction and defenders on the opposite side of the field are caught napping, thinking the play is over.  They are usually the guys spotted on the highlights trying to accelerate to catch one of the NFL’s fastest runners who is already up to top speed.

Barkley is so talented there generally is not one scheme or way of stopping him.  The best thing a defense can do is commit to each player doing their job.  Watching Barkley’s good and bad games, the bad games have one thing in common — when Barkley goes down to the ground, there are at least two or three defenders in the area.  And often four or more.  It is all about winning your individual battle and then swarming to the area you need to be.  Pure effort and desire.

Given his skill and that he takes the lion’s share of touches, I can easily envision Clint Hurtt giving a fiery pregame speech to his guys, telling them their one overriding thought today will be “Saquon Barkley is not going to beat us!”

And Daniel Jones.  I feel safe calling him the most underrated runner in the NFL.  About a third of his plays are runs, and the Giants use him as a real weapon in their offense.  

He is far more effective than you might think.

He currently has more runs for first downs than any other quarterback in the NFL.  Think of some of the great QB runners the NFL has to offer and let that sink in.  Jones has more rushing first downs than any of them.

On an overall level?  He has more rushing first downs than everyone in the NFL except Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb.  Only…Jones has done it in almost half the attempts as the two runners above him!

Defenders know about his ability to run.  He ran a 4.81 40 in his draft testing.  But they consistently do not take him seriously.  Why not?

Jones is not – to put it politely – a graceful runner.  

Quarterback runners like Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson are sleek European supercars, able to cut and accelerate on a dime and they look so stylish while doing it.  Whereas Jones is a fast but lumbering doofus.  A big heavy American pickup truck with plenty of torque under the hood.  

Defenders have trouble tackling him, just in different ways than the other guys.

Watch a textbook example of this.

Jones sees an opening and takes off.  He makes the slightest of cuts and blows through an arm-tackle attempt by Andre Cisco for an additional ten yards, and then – in typical Daniel Jones fashion – loses his balance and eats it on the turf.

A 24-yard run is a 24-yard run no matter how you get it.  But Jones presents himself in a way that seemingly makes defenders underestimate his ability.  The Seahawks need to consider Jones a serious threat in their minds.

That video demonstrated an unacceptable level of tackling effort.  Defenders need to pursue Jones like they would any other runner.  They need to take good angles, let the sideline be their ally (remember, ‘the sideline never misses a tackle’) and position their body in order to tackle him properly and wrap up.

The Seahawks need to designate a spy on Jones.  If he runs on a third of his plays, and is extremely effective at it, it is necessary.  Be it Ryan Neal, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton or someone else, somebody needs to always have their eyes on the backfield and be ready to shoot gaps.  

How does Jones get so many first downs?  The Giants love to spread the field out on third and five or less and then have Jones take the snap in shotgun, take one step back into a drop and then take off running.  Do not let him.

What about the passing game?

Brian Daboll has been able to effectively mask a rebuilt offensive line and Jones’ deficiencies as a pocket passer so far this season.  His sacks per dropback rate is one of the highest in the NFL.  Therefore, he only asks Jones to throw past the sticks three or four times per game.  His passes only travel an average of 4.8 air yards per throw – one of the shortest distances of any quarterback in the NFL.  

They have a much more horizontal than vertical offense, with the quarterback being asked to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible, and if his read is not there, to take off running.  So get ready to see lots of slants, screens and short crossing patterns.

Sound familiar?  The Seahawks have faced this offense twice a year for several seasons in the form of the San Francisco 49ers with Jimmy G at the helm.  They should be versed in the principles — be patient.  A quick slant for five yards is not disastrous.  Just get the receiver to the ground and get set for the next play.  Everybody read your keys and react.  Make your tackles and force the quarterback to stay in the pocket and make a real throw and then get after him.

When the Seahawks can regularly get the Giant offense into third-and-longs, their leverage in the game swings heavily in their direction.  Barkley and his explosive ability is taken off the field and the Seahawk offense – explosive in their own right – gains snaps and opportunities to work their magic.

As for Barkley in the passing game, the Giants will send him out in patterns but they also use the passing game as an extension of the running game, a way to get Barkley in space away from the scrum of the line of scrimmage.  Not unlike Alvin Kamara.  How do you defend him in this area?

I would recommend the Seahawks double-cover him, or at the least bracket him in coverage.  Have a man on him that plays between Barkley and Jones and one about 8 yards downfield covering the other side.

Why so much attention?  Two reasons.  Firstly, Barkley is as talented as Kamara, capable of turning the game on its ear with one innocent little swing pass.  Secondly, the Seahawks are once again one of the worst teams in the NFL in defending running backs in the passing game.  If you cannot improve it with player instruction, just throw bodies at the problem.

Again, I’ll reference it:  62% of their plays run through these two.  46% of their plays involve Barkley.

Play the odds and double cover him.

Rising safety outlet Daniel Bellinger will not play Sunday.  The receivers are rarely asked to beat their corners one-on-one deep.  There is help for corners in the center of the field.  And the few times a game Daboll and Jones may feel like taking a shot, the pass rush and the ball-hawking Tariq Woolen should stand ready to help squelch that notion.

If the Seahawks can keep Barkley and Jones under wraps, there are not enough options to mount an alternative attack to get them where they want to go.

It will also put pressure on the defense to control the explosive Seahawk offense…

Use The Tight Ends Wisely to Attack This Defense

The Giants:

-Are the blitzing-est team in the NFL, sending an extra man on 38.8% of snaps

-Are one of the bottom-five teams defending tight ends in the passing game

-Are the worst team in the NFL defending the run, giving up 5.7 yards per carry

-Are the fourth-best defense in the red zone, allowing a touchdown on only 40% of trips (whereas the Seahawks are an awful 31st in offensive red zone touchdown percentage at only 36%)

All these factors cry out for one solution.  Or should I say three solutions:  Will Dissly, Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson.  How can they be the golden ticket for Seahawk success on offense?

Managing the Giants’ blitzes.  Let me describe their blitzing patterns and style and see if it sounds familiar to you.

The Giants blitz a ton.  They love to blitz, not just as a means to sack the quarterback (which they are very middling at it, ranking 21st in sacks and 19th in pressures) but as a way to create chaos and force incompletions or even turnovers.  Wink Martindale will overload one side with a blitz look and then two of those supposed blitzers will drop into coverage when the ball is snapped and he will send a nickel corner from the opposite side.  He mixes and matches these patterns to keep the quarterback focused on where the rush is coming from and away from his primary reads.

Which is exactly what Vance Joseph in Arizona likes to do.

It was effective two weeks ago.  Geno Smith played indecisively at moments and was sacked six times in a low-scoring win for the Seahawks.

Hopefully, Geno and Shane Waldron have learned from that experience and are prepared to handle it Sunday.  Martindale may not run the exact same sequences and looks that Joseph does but the intentions and principals are similar.  How do the tight ends help with this?  

The initial answer is obvious.  More blocking.  If they can pick up a blitzer or two at key times in the game, this would prove tremendously helpful to their playmaking ability.

The other major way they can prove valuable is in providing Geno Smith with hot read options for simple completions.  Here is another similarity to working with Arizona’s defense:  the Giants are vulnerable to tight ends in the passing game.

It is no coincidence that at times the “heaviest blitzing teams” and the “worst tight end coverage teams” are one in the same.  This is how you counter the blitz:  get the ball into your safety valve’s hands quickly.  And with a break or two, you can turn some of those plays into explosives.

As for the running game, the Giants are right in the Seahawks’ wheelhouse.  The Chargers were the #31 run defense in the NFL and look what Kenneth Walker did to them last Sunday.  He almost single-handedly propelled the Charger defense to worst in the NFL, if not for a big day by Travis Etienne last week against these Giants.

More than just pure numbers though, the Giants are strong in the middle and vulnerable on the edges in the run game.  They do not have enough speed at the linebacker position and the edge rushers can be attacked and handled.  Having tight ends that can really block in the running game will make for a decisive advantage.  

Witness Will Dissly destroying his man and Colby Parkinson taking on two blockers for the price of one on Kenneth Walker’s game-breaking 74 yard run Sunday.

What about in the red zone?  

Tight ends have always been a classic answer to this thorny challenge of not settling for field goals every time you get into tight quarters close to the goal line.  However, it is not just the use of tight ends that breeds success.  How they are able to get open for passes is where offenses and coordinators differentiate themselves.

How about we have Shane Waldron draw up some creative plays to get this working?  Have a look at what the Packers cooked up to counter the Giants’ effectiveness.

The Giants love to blitz even in the red zone and will naturally be focusing on the run game.  A simple misdirection play not unlike this could really offer an elegant solution to solving this challenge.

Or the Seahawks could just keep doing what they are doing and just score touchdowns from outside the red zone (11 of their 18 touchdowns have been for 20 or more yards).  That way works too.

Having a regularly effective tight end trio opens up all kinds of options for the Seahawks to attack this Giants defense.

College Football week nine open thread

This weekend I’ll be watching them following games:

Florida vs Georgia
Kentucky vs Tennessee
Michigan State vs Michigan
Stanford vs UCLA

Plus there will be others I dive into later in the week to watch specific players as I continue to build my horizontal board.

Meanwhile, Tony Pauline is reporting that Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson is leaning towards entering the 2023 NFL draft:

Seahawks status check — the present, the future, the draft

This feels like a good point to take stock of where the Seahawks are, where they’re potentially going and what the future holds in terms of team building.

How are things taking shape for the 2023 draft?

A lot has changed since the start of the season and yet things are also still the same in their own strange way.

Many people expected the Seahawks to end up with a top-10 pick and a pick later in round one. They didn’t necessarily expect the Broncos to be the ones delivering the top-10 pick, however.

Denver are not just struggling — they are in crisis. There’s a very real chance Nathaniel Hackett could lose his job in the coming weeks. Maybe he’ll be gone if they lose to the Jaguars in London this weekend.

Russell Wilson is struggling, has suffered two relatively serious injuries and missed the last game against the Jets.

It’s not unrealistic for the Seahawks to get a top-five pick out of this mess. At the very least, a top-10 selection feels extremely plausible short of a major turnaround.

Right now Seattle would have Denver’s pick at #6 overall and their own native pick at #23 (due to them being currently ranked first in the NFC West and therefore in possession of a playoff spot).

How is Seattle’s start to the season changing opinions?

Geno Smith has performed way beyond anyone’s expectations (including the Seahawks — otherwise they wouldn’t have signed him to a mere one-year contract).

The defense is also showing signs of life after the now annual awful first few weeks.

People are starting to wonder whether Smith could start for multiple years, negating the need to draft a quarterback early.

Is that the right approach to take?

I would push back against that view at the moment.

With any draft class you have to play the cards you’re dealt. If this was a fantastic defensive draft at the top of round one, it’d be far easier to make the case for pivoting away from quarterback.

The truth is it’s a very poor draft class at the top of round one — apart from at quarterback. There are no obvious offensive linemen, cornerbacks, receivers or pass rushers (outside of Will Anderson) who deserve to go in the top-10.

Alternatively, this is a rich QB class with four players you can justifiably argue could end up being franchise quarterbacks.

So although many fans might be tempted to make the argument that a defensive-focused first round is the way to go — we have to embrace what is actually available in the top-10.

Should they extend Geno Smith now?

Smith has become a cult hero and fully deserves not only the praise he is receiving but also longer-term consideration as Seattle’s starting quarterback.

Fans and media are already discussing whether contract talks should begin immediately.

Personally, I think this is something that should wait until the off-season.

The Seahawks would be bidding against themselves, with no real leverage in negotiations.

It’s also difficult to project Smith’s value. This is a fairly unusual situation, with a quarterback aged 32 enjoying a career renaissance. With the top quarterbacks earning $50m a year and Smith currently only earning $3.5m — there’s a lot of space between those two numbers from which to establish fair value.

The danger for Seattle is twofold. If you wait until the off-season, the league will set the market for you. However — you also run the risk of losing him. Yet if you start talks now, you run the risk of spending more than you need to.

As we’ve noted previously — that would be a problem. Seattle only has $31m in effective cap space for 2023 according to They also only have 33 contracted players for 2023. That’s not a lot to play with — and this accounts for a $17m rise in the cap that OTC fits into their calculations.

Contrary to popular belief, the Seahawks don’t have that much money to spend.

There’s also some risk for Smith. Negotiate now and he can guarantee longer-term security after years of going year-to-year. You avoid the potential for regression later in the season impacting your value.

At the same time — if there’s a robust market for his services next year, he stands to benefit from a bidding war. It remains to be seen, however, whether such a bidding war would take place.

Clearly it’s a complex situation for both parties, deserving of greater thought than the too frequent ‘pay the man’ shouts on social media.

What’s the ideal situation for Seattle?

An A+ outcome for the Seahawks would be waiting until the end of the season and the market remaining sceptical that Smith can repeat his success with another team. You would then have the opportunity to find common ground with Smith on a 2-3 year contract that doesn’t eliminate most of your cap space for 2023 — enabling you to make some choice additions in the market and retain or replace key starters.

Ideally you then draft someone as an understudy. Geno becomes at worst a bridge to the future, much like Alex Smith in Kansas City before he handed off to Patrick Mahomes. At best, he remains a productive starter and you don’t worry about covering your arse with a quarterback draft investment at the most important position in the sport.

Wouldn’t it be best to draft an understudy outside of round one?

Again, you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.

I don’t have all the answers and will never claim that I do. But unlike most people, I’ve dedicated the last few months of my social life to watching all of the quarterbacks eligible for this draft (I know, what an exciting life I lead…).

Draft media is very good at rolling with a narrative. As noted yesterday — you’ll often see Jalen Carter and Bryan Bresee mocked in the top-10 yet Mazi Smith is clearly, for me, the top defensive tackle in this draft.

At quarterback there are four players you can make a very strong case for drafting early — Will Levis, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson. Levis, Stroud and Richardson all have outstanding physical traits. Young is a creative yet extremely undersized natural talent. Levis is as pro-ready as you’ll see from a quarterback. Young could be able to start quickly, too. Stroud and Richardson would benefit from time and development.

Beyond these four, there’s a ton of depth and people will have heard several names being mentioned and touted as possible targets.

Personally, I think this is overstated. You can make an argument to draft someone like Hendon Hooker in the middle rounds but he plays in a half-field, cheat-code offense and despite his extreme success this year — the truth is, when you watch the tape, his accuracy is erratic and he has a lot of easy throws.

People will make a case for Mike Glennon, errr, I mean Tanner McKee. Players like K.J. Jefferson and Dorian Thompson-Robinson (who I like a lot) are more suited to the round four or five range and I can’t say with any certainty they have the necessary skills to ever become a starter in the NFL. Washington fans will ask about Michael Penix Jr. I think he has a good arm and size but he’s a one-read quarterback who locks onto intended targets, playing within a QB-friendly scheme. He will get a shot in the NFL but he won’t be a high pick.

There are a ton of others too. I have 15 quarterbacks tentatively graded between rounds 5-7. The chances of any becoming NFL starters, though, are slim.

I would prefer to draft a quarterback who can become a great starter, rather than someone you’re ‘taking a flier on’. That would likely be a wasted pick. A third rounder on a player destined to be a backup, to me, would be more egregious than a top-10 pick on someone who could be the next football superstar in Seattle. And I believe the top-four quarterbacks in this draft carry that potential.

Also — I’ve been compiling by horizontal board and right now — there are some very attractive non-quarterbacks in rounds 2-4. It’s worth repeating — a draft isn’t an idealistic process where you target ‘preferred positions’ when it suits you. You have to act accordingly based on what’s available. At the top of round one — it’s simply a fact that quarterback is the strong position in 2023.

What were the Seahawks thinking before the season?

I think they spent a large chunk of their 2023 cap (which is why they only have $31m remaining in effective cap space) because they fully expected to be starting a rookie quarterback next year.

Joe Burrow’s year-one cap hit as the #1 pick in 2020 was just $6m. Based on what Seattle did this year, I think they expected to be paying that as a maximum in 2023 for their starting QB.

This is something to consider as they move forward. As noted, they are probably as pleasantly surprised as the rest of us that Geno Smith is playing at the level he is. They can pivot to retain him — and they should do, if his play continues at the level we’ve seen so far. But a plan is a plan and this is a puzzle you have to piece together — the draft, the cap, the players on your roster.

If Smith becomes too expensive, it might be a situation where you have to stick to the original idea.

What if key quarterbacks aren’t available?

This is certainly possible and could force Seattle’s hand. While it’s certain that Levis, Stroud and Young will turn pro — it’s possible Richardson could return to Florida. He would almost certainly benefit from another year starting in college. However, I also think he’d equally benefit from getting into a pro-playbook and preparing for life in the NFL — much like Mahomes did at Kansas City.

On top of this, the Seahawks might not be in position to draft a quarterback. If their first pick is only in the #6-12 range — they might be on the outside looking in. They have the draft stock to trade up. They should consider doing so, given this is looking like one of the worst first rounds in some time. It’s very top heavy. However, you also don’t want to blow a ton of stock on one player, eliminating the ability to repeat what you did in the 2022 draft in building great foundations.

If Richardson opts not to declare and the top three quarterbacks go in the top-four, meaning the Seahawks miss out, what could they do?

As much as I remain sceptical that Will Anderson is a Bosa-brother, Myles Garrett, Von Miller level player — he’s still a very talented prospect and a top-five lock.

The player likely to receive the highest grade on most boards will be Texas running back Bijan Robinson. As much as I celebrated the Ken Walker pick and wasn’t one of the voices noisily pushing back against it on Twitter — I think it’d be a hard sell to pick a ‘RB2’ in the top-10 even if he has the highest grade on your board.

Even so — the dearth of alternatives in the top-10 may push the Seahawks to consider it as merely a representation of value. Prepare yourself for that. The alternatives simply aren’t there I’m afraid.

You can make a strong argument for Mazi Smith. He’s so disruptive despite his nose tackle size and while he’s unlikely to be a game-wrecking pass rusher at the next level — there aren’t many players with his physical profile. He will be a combine superstar and his tape is a lot better than people realise. For me, he is a player who deserves legit consideration in the top-12.

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer is also very good but again, that position is a hard sell with a top-10 pick.

After that, it’s very difficult to recommend alternatives. I still think Bryan Bresee and Jalen Carter are second half of round one types rather than legit top-10 types. Bresee played better against Syracuse and might be able to make a late charge in the second half of the season.

This is a class with a serious shortage of top-end players outside of the quarterbacks, Anderson, Robinson and Smith.

Which positions are strong beyond round one?

It’s the #25-65 range where you’ll likely get your best value on the defensive line.

I have six centers graded for day two. None of them fit the Austin Blythe/Rams model for a center, which makes me sceptical that the Seahawks will show much interest. Even so — it’s a good center draft.

There are tremendous options at receiver again, with nice depth at the position. This is an annual occurrence these days.

There’s edge rush depth going into day two. I think some of this group will get pushed into round one as teams scramble to identify legit first rounders. Overall it’s a class with a lot of upside at the position but not a lot of proven, dominating quality.

If they want to replace Rashaad Penny with a draft pick, they’ll have no problem doing so. This is a good looking running back class.

Which positions are weak?

There’s a black hole at offensive tackle. Good job the Seahawks found their answers this year. There are no viable first round options at linebacker or safety. Tight end is thin again.

Could trades come into play?

The fact there’s a dearth of legit first round prospects increases the chances of trades taking place before and during the draft. This year we saw Devante Adams and Tyreek Hill dealt pre-draft, then Marquise Brown and A.J. Brown followed during the first round.

It won’t be a surprise if several teams see more value in trading for veterans than using picks in the #18-30 range. I wouldn’t count the Seahawks out of that either. They’ve been burned on big veteran trades in the past but they’ve equally been burned reaching on inadequate players in the early rounds.

If they end up with pick #23, as they’re currently projected, I don’t think it’d be a mistake to see what’s out there. Just make sure it’s a premium position, this time.

What should be the key priorities?

Come up with a long term plan at quarterback (preferably combining Geno Smith with a very talented rookie understudy).

Upgrade the defensive line. If you can create a fearsome D-line for the long term, this team has the potential to go far.

Who are the 10 best players you’ve seen who are eligible for the 2023 draft?

The four quarterbacks — Levis, Stroud, Young and Richardson.

Two running backs — Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs.

Two defensive linemen — Will Anderson and Mazi Smith.

One offensive tackle — Darnell Wright.

One tight end — Michael Mayer.

After that, the next group are more prospects based on potential that proven production. This includes players with a lot of talent but mixed tape and/or injury issues such as Kelee Ringo, Bryan Bresee and Jalen Carter.

I would also include the two Clemson pass rushers here — K.J. Henry and Myles Murphy, plus Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt. Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba can work into range if he gets healthy plus Quentin Johnson has wowed in flashes, as has Zay Flowers.

Who are some lesser known draft prospects to watch?

Chris Rodriguez (RB, Kentucky) — Incredibly powerful, drives through contact, always finishes runs. A pleasure to watch, just like UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet.

Jonathan Mingo (WR, Ole Miss) — A 6-2, 225lbs receiver who runs with great fluidity, is an explosive play specialist and can be a real mismatch weapon lined up in the slot.

Olusegun Oluwatimi (C, Michigan) — Mr. Consistency at the heart of Michigan’s offensive line. He might lack the flashy traits but Oluwatimi just gets the job done.

K.J. Henry (DE, Clemson) — A legit pass rusher with 5-star tools and a passionate approach to football and leadership. He gets after it and flies off the edge.

Byron Young (DE, Alabama) — Big bodied 3-4 DE who doesn’t look amazing and probably won’t test brilliantly but every game he is disruptive by breaking into the backfield with a combo of sneaky quickness and brute force.

Ventrell Miller (LB, Florida) — A heart and soul leader who leaves it all on the field and has just made play after play for the Gators this year.

Christopher Smith (S, Georgia) — Pulsating safety with the quickness and range to cover ground quickly, great ball skills and a nose for the football.

Abraham Camara (S, TCU) — He can line up in the slot, at free safety or in the box. He’ll knock your block off and he’s a fierce hitter — but he has quickness and agility to cover ground superbly.

Who are the overrated players?

I think Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith is a second or third round pick and not the first rounder the media says he is. I am not convinced Paris Johnson Jr is a first round pick at left tackle and I think Peter Skoronski is better suited to kicking inside to guard.

What about early suggestions for free agent targets?

It’s too early to say with any certainty but here are five names I’ll throw out there:

Isaiah Wynn — it hasn’t worked at tackle for Wynn in New England but he always projected best during his Georgia days to the guard spot. The Rams blocking scheme, which Seattle is using, has had great success using converted tackles at guard.

David Edwards — a guard for the Rams, he already knows the scheme and would be a plug-in-and-play type who presumably won’t break the bank.

Garrett Bradbury — hasn’t lived up to expectations at center in Minnesota but he has the size/profile the Seahawks and Rams are looking for in a center.

Daron Payne — the Commanders are going to find it very difficult to pay everyone on their D-line. Payne would be a terrific addition and worth spending a pretty penny on. He’s at a good age, he’s physical and tough and provides pressure and size.

Zach Allen — perfectly sized to play 3-4 DE and he always seems to perform against Seattle. He currently has a PFF grade of 76.0 with 18 total pressures.

Notice a theme? The trenches. That is where Seattle should be spending their resources as they continue to develop this roster.

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Week eight NFL draft Seahawks scouting notes

The draft is about projection

What can a player become? What are they facing in college that helps you project success at the next level?

These are fairly obvious points, right? Essentially the core of what the draft is.

Yet it feels like we on the outside are increasingly forgetting the basics.

Todd McShay was at the Mississippi State vs Alabama game on Saturday. He was asked about the top quarterbacks in the draft. He said his top two remained Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud but people in the league favoured Will Levis.

Tony Pauline has voiced a similar sentiment.

I respect McShay and Pauline greatly and this isn’t about pointing fingers at them. They’re far from the only ones sharing this opinion.

For me, though, it’s fairly obvious why the league feels the way it does about Levis.

He’s operating the Kyle Shanahan offense with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Last year he had Liam Coen, who’s now Sean McVay’s right-hand-man. He utilises pro-concepts, is asked to make reads at the line of scrimmage and he needs to function like a NFL quarterback.

He plays for an unfancied team in the SEC without the perks of playing for one of the giants of college football. He has to play behind a horrible offensive line — meaning he faces weekly adversity. Just like in the NFL.

Levis also has outstanding athletic qualities (123.27 SPARQ score), he has ideal size and arm strength. He has all of the traits teams covet.

He can do this:

As a GM it’s very easy to turn to an owner, list those positives and explain why you’re going to invest their money in Will Levis to lead the franchise.

It doesn’t mean Levis will succeed. It just means when you consider what he can become, it’s not a stretch to imagine a Josh Allen or Justin Herbert-type projection. Levis is having a better college career than either Allen or Herbert and he has similar physical tools. Jim Nagy at the Senior Bowl made the comparison before the season began, so don’t just take my word for it.

Levis has transferable qualities and experience. That is why the league, reportedly, values him more than the others.

Let’s now look at two other quarterbacks. I get asked a fair bit about Mississippi State’s Will Rogers. He has no arm strength to speak of and he looks mightily like a system player from the air-raid offense. It’s very hard to project Rogers to the next level as a consequence. Again — it doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed failure. Yet you have to follow the evidence to make the best judgement call. Very little about Rogers’ play suggests he has a NFL future.

Let’s take it a step further. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is the darling of the internet currently. That’s not a surprise. The Vols are playing incredibly well. They beat Alabama. They have an explosive, exciting offense.

I’ve seen some people suddenly projecting Hooker to round one.

I’ve watched all of Hooker’s 2022 games so far. Josh Heupel has done a tremendous job but we need to be honest about what’s happening. Heupel’s offense is a half-field attack filled with simple reads. It sets the table for the quarterback. Hooker’s experience within the scheme certainly brings everything together. But this is an offense that churns out production and we see a lot of this in college. Washington does something very similar, for example.

On top of this, Tennessee’s receiver group is absolutely loaded with talent and they have a potential high first round pick at right tackle in Darnell Wright — a player who shut down Will Anderson last week.

When you watch the tape closely — Hooker does indeed have some good throws (especially downfield) and he has a strong command of his brief. He can be streaky with his accuracy though, there are a lot of easy throws and I fear that when he’s not operating in a system that acts as a ‘cheat code’ for quarterbacks — and when he isn’t surrounded by the talent he is at Tennessee — he might be found out. Is he good enough to excel when the environment isn’t tailor made for success?

I wouldn’t rule it out. Far from it. But I think any of us talking about the draft have a duty to be honest about this and grade accordingly. You won’t know whether Hooker can handle a pro-system and pro-challenges until he’s in the building. If someone takes him early, it’ll be a massive role of the dice. And they’ll probably take him early based on faith rather than grade.

The truth is despite his 2022 success — he’s a far harder projection than Levis.

You might ask — why Levis over Stroud and Young then?

With Young it’s obvious. It’s easy for an internet pundit to dismiss any concerns over size. You’re not spending someone else’s money. Your job isn’t on the line if you get this decision wrong. There simply aren’t any 5-10, 185lbs quarterbacks with middling arm strength winning in the NFL.

Young has the natural talent, charisma and creativity to be the one who makes it work. That’s why he’ll still go in round one. Yet there’s a risk factor here. Again — the projection is difficult. The transferable qualities are not as clear.

Stroud is like Hooker with a glow-up. He’s surrounded by four and five star recruits. The offense holds his hand for him. He can produce moments of absolute majesty. His arm strength, accuracy and touch — at times — has to be seen to be believed. Yet when the sideline tells him to throw somewhere — you better believe he’ll throw it.

Numerous times this year his intended target has been smothered like the screen-shot below and he’s thrown the ball anyway, leading to a turnover:

He will go in the top-three picks because the talent and upside is through the roof. Yet the projection is far harder than Levis. He won’t be playing on a star-studded offense in the NFL, with his reads made for him on the sideline, with first round picks getting open and making insane plays every week at receiver. He’ll need to operate the kind of pro-offense Levis is already showing he’s capable of. It’s why the Kentucky quarterback should be viewed as the favourite to go first overall.

If the Seahawks plan to take a quarterback early — and they currently have the #6 pick thanks to Denver — I still think Anthony Richardson (if he declares) could be an option. The Seahawks love tools, upside and special qualities. Richardson is far from the finished article and needs time and development. Yet as I’ve said a lot — his upside/projection is superstar level. It remains an enticing thought to retain Geno Smith and then draft and redshirt Richardson for a year or two.

Stop getting defensive tackles wrong!

Most mocks and articles have Bryan Bresee or Jalen Carter as the top defensive tackle. Let’s get one thing straight — Mazi Smith is the best eligible defensive tackle for 2023.

Bresee has been in-and-out of the Clemson line-up due to a personal tragedy and injury, while Carter has been missing games also with an injury. Smith plays every game. He doesn’t get the media hype because he only has 0.5 sacks for the season. Yet when you watch Michigan tape — he is constantly creating interior pressure and disrupting opponents.

With respect to Bresee and Carter — so far they haven’t come close to making the same kind of impact when they’re on the field.

Further to that, Smith will be a physical phenomena when he tests at the combine after topping Bruce Feldman’s freaks list for 2022.

The media has a tendency to latch-on to players and stick with them. We see it every year. One name that springs to mind is A.J. Epenesa before the 2020 draft. Frequently touted as a top-10 pick — nothing on tape suggested he warranted that type of grade. He lasted until pick #54. That was the range he was always destined to go in.

I think we’re seeing something similar now. Bresee and Carter are both athletic, talented players. They appear more likely destined to go in the second half of round one in a typical draft year. Maybe they get bumped up due to the lack of alternative options?

Mazi Smith is the real deal, however. He is the one with the size and freakish athletic potential — plus the consistent impact on the field — to talk up as a high pick.

Clemson defenders impress

Having said all of that — I thought Bresee had a much more impactful game against Syracuse. Hopefully he’s working into some form — although he was upstaged by his defensive team mates.

K.J. Henry is wildly underrated and was again bright and disruptive off the edge. His best football should come at the next level. He’s a truly dynamic, athletic edge rusher with star potential who deserves a fringe first round mark.

Myles Murphy continues to grow on me. He looks a bit lighter and quicker this year and while he’s still somewhat overrated by the media, his last three games have been very impressive. For a rusher with his size he appears agile and quick with the ability to attack the edge with burst and lean. I’ve bumped him from a round two grade to a fringe first round grade.

Tyler Davis also excelled and while he’s perhaps more of a third-round type at defensive tackle — he showed a great motor and the ability to swim into the backfield.

Keep an eye on Jonathan Mingo

The Ole Miss receiver is one of the players I’ve enjoyed watching the most this year. He’s 6-2 and 225lbs but he’s just so fluid as a runner. He glides around the field and does an excellent job getting downfield. He’s big and quick, presents his hands to the ball and he’s just a fantastic weapon.

A couple of things really stand out for me. Firstly — explosive plays. He has nine +25-yard receptions this year. Secondly — he’s so effective when you move him to the slot and get him matched up against a safety. Every time I watch him I can’t help but wonder how good he’d be as Seattle’s WR3. Pre-testing I think he’s a second rounder.

B.J. Ojulari continues to rise

I really liked his brother and if anything — B.J. is longer, leaner and quicker. He was a handful again at the weekend against Ole Miss and he just creates so much pressure rushing in space. He’s well versed in the role of a 3-4 OLB and has shown he can drop effectively but also provide a challenge for blockers throughout a game.

I mentioned last week he wears the famous #18 jersey for LSU — an indicator of his leadership qualities. At the very least, he warrants a second round grade. He’s far better than players like K’Lavon Chaisson who had no business going as early as he did.

Alabama notes after a blowout win vs Mississippi State

There was a better performance from Will Anderson on Saturday and he’s a top-three lock next year — but I maintain he’s not on the same level as a Bosa brother, Myles Garrett or Von Miller. At least not based on what he’s shown in 2022.

Byron Young is a personal favourite simply because — as a 3-4 DE — he stays so active. He doesn’t record a bunch of sacks but he consistently breaks into the backfield and gives the quarterback something to think about. He thought he had a sack-fumble in this game but it was overturned as an incomplete pass. Young has great power and mobility for his size and is someone to think about for day two, depending on testing results.

In terms of Bryce Young — in the first half he looked so mature, talented and naturally gifted. Yet the injured shoulder is clearly bothering him. His throws lacked the same kind of zip, he was receiving treatment on the sideline and his second half was, unfortunately, quite bad. He took unnecessary sacks, had plenty of misses, should’ve had multiple turnovers — including a fumbled snap, an avoidable sack fumble and he could’ve been picked in the red zone. He only finished 21/35 for 249 yards and two scores despite the blowout.

C.J Stroud continues to be streaky

The good with Stroud is ever so good. The bad is utterly frustrating.

The screen-shot from earlier in the article led to another interception we see all too often. It was a nice leaping grab by Jack Campbell — a player I’m not sure has the mobility to be a great linebacker at the next level (but this was a great play). Stroud also had a really careless sack/fumble. He was just barged over by a defender and dropped the ball. It was returned for a touchdown.

Yet offsetting this were the usual pretty passes and another collection of a highlight reel moments. The talent is there — but can you trust him to make the step up to the NFL and adjust to the demands of the pro’s?

Thoughts on UCLA’s triplets

I’m yet to study Oregon from this game but have watched the Bruins’ key trio.

The Seahawks should seriously consider drafting running back Zach Charbonnet to pair with Ken Walker. His toughness, explosive traits, ideal size, footwork to make people miss and acceleration is absolutely fantastic. I’ve got him graded in round two. A tremendous player.

Jake Bobo made several clutch catches to extend drives. He also had a wonderful one-handed catch with a defender draped all over him. If Bobo tests well — he would be another fantastic ‘bigger’ WR3 option for Seattle. I have him in round three at the moment but testing is key.

I thought this was Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s worst game of the season (from the games I’ve seen). It wasn’t terrible or anything. He made some plays as a runner and passer and his interception was merely a hopeful, desperate heave late in the fourth quarter on fourth down. You might as well take that shot. I just thought he looked a little bit limited when the game was drifting and he does unfortunately lack size and traits — even though he’s incredible creative and talented. I think a fourth round grade is fair, although he might go later.

Another defensive tackle to monitor

I checked out South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens yesterday after reading a recommendation from Tony Pauline. He’s one to keep an eye on. He has ideal size and you see real flashes of quickness and power on tape. Pickens can shoot gaps to disrupt, he can drive blockers back into the pocket. I like his motor and effort — I just think his conditioning looks like it could use some work. He seems to tire quickly and need a breather. As an impact rusher though from the interior he has some potential. I can imagine him taking a year or two to maximise his potential, though. Even so — a likely day two pick.

A quick word on Michael Penix Jr

He’s probably the player I’m asked about the most and he won again at the weekend, meaning the questions re-started.

I like his size and his arm. There’s a sturdy quality to him which is impressive and it provides the solid base from which he’s able to generate throws with velocity. Yet the offense is a classic ‘set the table’ scheme and he often zones in on his intended target to telegraph throws. It’s a very comfortable offense to play in and he has a history working within it at Indiana. Thus — it’s no surprise he’s executing at a high level.

Penix Jr will get drafted later on and will get an opportunity to see if he can make it stick as — if nothing else — a useful backup. He won’t be a high pick though and he’ll need a lot of work at the next level, even though he has a decent arm.

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Curtis Allen’s week seven watchpoints (vs LA Chargers)

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen

NOTE — I am hosting the BBC’s national radio coverage of the Seahawks game in LA today. You can listen online by clicking here

After the game tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

The Chargers currently sit at 4-2 and are undeniably talented.  They have the most valuable roster piece of all – a franchise quarterback on a rookie salary – and some big pieces on defense.

This year, though, they have been the living embodiment of the “live by the sword, die by the sword” nature of this NFL season.  Most of their games have featured very slim margins, with a singular play or two making the difference.

They lost a close one to Kansas City in a game that included Justin Herbert throwing a backbreaking 99-yard pick six in the fourth quarter.

They beat Cleveland by the skin of their teeth when the Browns’ kicker missed a 54-yard field goal try with moments to play.  Jacoby Brissett also had a very poorly thrown interception late in the game in the red zone.  

Their most recent win came in overtime and featured a muffed punt by the Broncos that sealed the game.

That does not mean their record is inflated.  I am just pointing out that for a team that has very high expectations for this season, they have been playing close to the razor’s edge. That is a good thing for the Seahawks.

Still, this game will require Seattle to be sharp in all phases – including the coaching staff to prepare a proper game plan in order to put their players in the best position for success – if they want to come away with a victory.

The Rookie Class Will Need Both Great Individual Efforts and Team Support

This group has exceeded all expectations so far this season and has been a massive boost to the team and their future team building plans.  This game will be their biggest test yet.  Why?

Practically everywhere you look at this Chargers team, there are very accomplished players that will match up against a Seahawks rookie.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will line up across Tariq Woolen and potentially Coby Bryant.

Khalil Mack will be trying to get past Abe Lucas and Charles Cross (more on that below).

Those are tough assignments for anyone, let alone players with only six games of NFL experience.  No doubt the coaching staff will not put them all on islands and ask them to consistently win every snap.

The pass rush and Quandre Diggs will need effective games to keep these great receivers from tilting the field.

The tight ends and running backs will be needed to chip and block the rushers and Shane Waldron will need a balanced attack with a steady diet of runs and quick passes to maximize Geno Smith’s effectiveness.

Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu and the interior players will need to be effective in their assignments.

At the end of the day though, there will be several plays Sunday where a rookie player will be one-on-one with a very talented Charger.  Holding them to a draw would be a big, big victory for the team.

For their long-term development, sure some mistakes and losses would provide some great teaching moments for the players and the coaching staff.  In this game though, there is quite a large burden being put on the rookies’ shoulders.  How they respond will have a lot to say about the outcome of this game.

There is one more rookie we have not yet discussed that should also figure very prominently on Sunday…

Feature the Run Game and Do Not Abandon It

Some fun with numbers…

The Chargers had the #30 run defense last year, conceding 139 yards per game and they gave up a league-worst 144 rushing first downs.

This year they have risen to #23 in the NFL at 125 yards per game and incredibly, are on pace to concede only 77 rushing first downs.  So, in this one area they would flip their position from league-worst to league-best.

The numbers would suggest the Chargers have made a serious improvement in run defense.

Don’t believe them.  They are lying to you.  The Chargers are still one of the NFL’s worst run defenses again this season.

What is the real story?  The Chargers are giving up an awful 5.6 yards per carry, worst in the NFL except for the Giants by a slim margin.  Why so few first down runs then?

The Chargers have only faced 22.5 rushing attempts per game this year, good for 27th in the league.  Teams are running very well on them, just not very often.  This is a serious weakness the Seahawks are primed to exploit.

Why are teams not pounding the rock on Los Angeles?  I am not sure.  They do have a good number of tackles for loss, which might be concerning to play callers.

One thing I am sure of:  It is not because the Chargers have such a dynamic offense that they run up the score early and teams are being forced to abandon their running game to catch up.  

The Charger defense has taken the field with a lead on 49% of their snaps.  Compare that to the #28-32 teams in terms of fewest rushing attempts faced:  their defenses have been on the field with a lead a whopping 66% of the time.

What does facing a low number of attempts and conceding a high average per carry mean?  They are allowing some really explosive runs.

Look at this chart of their opponents’ successes running the ball so far this season:

Twelve explosive runs and four of them more than triple the 12-yard threshold for an explosive run.  And the efficiency – my goodness, these runners are just gashing the Chargers in a relatively small number of carries.

Is there one specific direction runners are making these big gains?  No.  Look at the two right columns – they are happening both inside and outside the box, and are attacking the left side, the right side and the middle.

So, what is happening with the Charger defense that is causing so many big runs?  One big factor is they are running a defense very similar to what Head Coach Brandon Staley ran with the Rams as defensive coordinator.  On the defensive line, the interior players have a ‘gap and a half’ responsibility.  In short, it means the defender is tasked with engaging the guard or center, reading the runner and the gap and then coming off his man and making the tackle.

It works brilliantly when you have Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers.  Not so much when you do not have players of their caliber.  Thus, the Chargers can be exploited with a heavy package of blockers.

That is exactly what is happening.  Looking at those explosive runs on tape, there was a common thread in the vast majority of them:  the offense employed a power formation at the line of scrimmage.  All of Nick Chubb’s runs had at least six on the line.  One had seven.  One had eight!

Look at Dameon Pierce’s 75-yard run.

You have six on the line, Nico Collins is off the line but crashing in to help on the edge (that’s seven) and Fullback Troy Hairston is leading Pierce through the hole and taking Derwin James out of the play.

Did you notice that Pierce was never even touched?  On a 75-yard run.  Runs do not get any easier than that.

The Seahawks have a running back ready to explode in Ken Walker.  Last week against the Cardinals he had four explosive runs.  Alright, fine.  He only had three.  I rounded up.  His 11-yard run counts as explosive in my mind because he wasn’t stopped by a tackler but the goal line.  And that little okie-doke move he gave Byron Murphy at the end was sweet.

The point being, running with a power formation should be a regular feature of Seattle’s offense on Sunday.  The have the means, motive and opportunity.

Other teams so far have just flirted with it.  They get their explosives and then check out of the runs and go to the passing game.  So odd.  

Just to be clear, I am not stumping for the Seahawks to run 35 or 40 times on Sunday.  Just make sure you do not shy away from running, even if it does not produce amazing results immediately.  We have seen rock-solid evidence that it will come if you stick to it.

Having a stacked offensive line and running a lot will also assist you greatly in keeping the strongest area of their defense in check…

Do Not Allow Khalil Mack to Disrupt the Entire Offense

Let’s not mince words.  The Seahawks are countering maybe the NFL’s best pass-rusher on Sunday with bookend rookie tackles who had a really challenging day last week against Arizona.

Charles Cross (59 PFF Sunday) and Abe Lucas (61) facing off against J.J. Watt and Marcus Golden last week was just a warmup for this weekend.

They will be taking the point on keeping him in check and they will need to bring their A-game Sunday for the offense to function as it wants to.

Mack is having a tremendous season.  While league talking heads are not unjustifiably focusing a lot of attention on the Russell Wilson trade as a huge win for Seattle, the Chargers must be over the moon with their trade for Mack.  For only a second-round pick this year and a sixth-round pick next year, they have an 86.9-graded PFF player on the field for 85% of their defensive snaps who has collected six sacks, seven tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

Oh, and they are paying him only $8.75 million this year.  And they have him under contract for the next two years with little to no guarantees.  That is what you call a steal of a deal right there.

But back to the game Sunday.  The Chargers line Mack up against both tackles, so they will both need to be ready.

There are several things the Seahawks can do to help mitigate the effect that these two players will have on the offense:

-Run the ball consistently.

-The tight ends will be a critical piece for this game.  From just straight up helping the tackles in a standard blocking formation, to chipping and then releasing and getting open for a quick timed pass, to using them in a fullback/H-back type position to lead the runner through holes.

-Geno Smith will need to be even quicker with his processing.  There will be plays the Seahawks do not max-protect and he will have to know that sooner rather than later the rush is coming.  He will need to decide to throw or scramble at a faster pace.  Typically, this year he has been fine in this area but he regressed Sunday against Arizona a bit and that led to him being sacked six times — as Pete Carroll has acknowledged.

-The running backs will need to stand ready to pick up rushers.  The Chargers blitzed 24 times last week against Denver.  The backs will need to give more than a token effort to pick them up and give Geno that extra half-second he needs to make his throw.

All those are great ways they can help.  But as I said above, at the end of the day Cross and Lucas will still face Mack or a blitzer one on one at times.  It is just a numbers game.  You cannot double-team him and a blitzer on every single play.  How they do in these matchups will be crucial.

One thing that will provide incentive for them to play well – the Chargers are not just giving up explosive run plays.  They have been burned several times in the deep passing game.  Big acquisition J.C. Jackson is struggling with a new scheme and his health to the point that he got benched Sunday.  They have claimed that he will start Sunday.  At this point, what looked like an offseason area of strength is now looking like a real vulnerability.

One of the reasons Los Angeles is struggling with deep passes:  Staley misses Jalen Ramsey just as much as he misses Aaron Donald.  He literally had Ramsey on an island and flooded coverage on the other side of the field.  You look very, very good as a defensive coordinator with a player who can take half the field away.

Staley does not have that advantage anymore.  In fact, his corners have been beaten with regularity.

And those nine blitzes per game I mentioned up above?  They open the middle up and put pressure on the backfield to consistently win one-on-one, which they have yet to do to the degree they need to.  So, if the blitzer does not get home or otherwise effect the play, the defensive backs are vulnerable.  And they will be more so if they are trying to cover D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

The Seahawks should be able to take advantage of this.  If – and this is a big if – their blockers can provide the quarterback enough time to make his reads and throws.

Special Teams, Please Do Not Do Anything Stupid

This point is self-explanatory.  Two weeks in a row we have seen a punt go horribly awry and both resulted in touchdowns for the other team.

In the Saints loss, the margin of victory was seven points.

In the Cardinals win, the Seahawks were able to shrug it off because they won comfortably and the defense had an uncharacteristically great day holding the offense out of the end zone with some assistance from a wonky Cardinal offense.

The Chargers are more talented than those two teams, and the Seahawks defense is still fragile.  Barring some strange collapse by the Chargers, a best-case scenario is this game will be another close matchup.  Another blunder could make the difference like it did in the New Orleans game.

Special Teams has always been a source of pride for Pete Carroll.  When he spoke earlier this week about the mistakes driving them crazy, I believe him.  Look for the Seahawks to right the ship this week.

They better – they will need to be very effective to beat the Chargers.

College football open thread & notes (week 8)

This weeked I am watching the following:

Syracuse vs Clemson
Ole Miss vs LSU
Mississippi State vs Alabama
Washington vs California

My focus will mainly be on defensive players this week. I will watch the quarterbacks as usual when those become available (I will aim to watch all 2022 games of the big name QB’s) but I also want to get an angle on the defensive class.

Due to work commitments no notes this week but a quick plug — if you’re in the UK (and you might be able to listen globally online) — I am hosting the BBC’s national radio coverage of the NFL tomorrow and the featured game is none other than the Seahawks vs Chargers. I’ll post a link tomorrow and if you get a chance, check it out.

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