Archive for October, 2023

Chase Young to 49ers, did the Seahawks overpay for Williams?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2023

Chase Young is a 49er

If you’re minded to not want to discuss the ins and outs of trade value, that’s fine. I just wanted to say this article probably isn’t for you.

You’re welcome to be disinterested in the subject and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of us want to discuss the trade value though. That is also OK. I’ve seen too many Seahawks fans in the last 24 hours try to shut down any opinion that strays marginally beyond, ‘OMG this is an amazing trade’.

Personally, I think value should always be discussed. Draft picks are the foundation with which you build. Your high picks are critical. The Seahawks have built an intriguing new core with back-to-back excellent drafts. When a trade is an ultra-aggressive, 10-game rental — with no guarantee of anything more — scrutiny is necessary.

A day after the Leonard Williams trade was confirmed, I think it’s increasingly starting to look like an overpay that is just irksome enough to want to write about.

Chase Young has today been dealt to the 49ers for a third round pick. According to Over The Cap, the trade will cost San Francisco $560,000 in salary:

Young has had injury issues in his career but he’s healthy in 2023 and has five sacks in six games. His PFF grade is 75.4. He’s seventh in the league for pressures (38) and sixth among edge rushers for hurries (27). For perspective, Boye Mafe (Seattle’s best performing pass rusher) is 29th for hurries (16) and 30th for pressures (23). As well as Mafe has played, Young’s pass rush numbers are superior (although he had a strong supporting cast in Washington and Mafe is a far better grader vs the run).

At 24-year-old and still on his rookie deal, if Young continues to be productive he will be due a big contract next off-season. That increases San Francisco’s chances of recouping a higher compensatory pick (although they would need to be inactive in free agency themselves). It’s not implausible, with Young playing across from Nick Bosa, that he will excel, sign a big deal somewhere else and the Niners will get the third round pick back in 2025. It looks like a shot to nothing.

Williams on the other hand has 1.5 sacks this season and only had 2.5 last year. His PFF grade is 67.6. You might argue sacks aren’t everything but his run-defense grade is only 59.4. His pressure percentage is just 5.8% — ranked 41st among defensive tackles. He does rank 11th for hurries (16) and 14th for total pressures (22). To me it paints a picture of a player who can be disruptive but is probably in the ‘good’ rather than ‘great’ territory, at least at this stage in his career (year nine).

At 29-years-old (30 next summer) and approaching a third contract, he’s less likely to sign another mega deal. That will make the prospect of a future high comp-pick slim. I like him as a player and am looking forward to seeing him in Seattle. I long felt the Seahawks needed another defensive tackle — but not at any cost. I do fear Williams’ best days are in the rearview mirror and they were simply too aggressive here, giving up a prized asset.

The 49ers trade feels opportunistic. Those are typically the best kind of trades. Seattle’s feels overly aggressive. Those are the types of trades that have led to mistakes being made during the Carroll and Schneider era.

It almost feels a little bit like they got carried away after the dramatic Browns win and San Francisco’s third straight loss and decided to go ‘all-in’ aggressive. They paid a premium to avoid paying Williams’ salary. The Niners, instead, seem to have got a similar financial deal for a cheaper pick with a little more patience but no-less action.

It should be acknowledged that clearly there wasn’t much of a market for Young. The Commanders moved Montez Sweat to Chicago to acquire a higher pick. Thus, they were already negotiating with teams. Compared to the Sweat deal, it almost feels like they gave Young away. It feels overly generous and the 49ers are the benefactors.

Even still, comparing the two deals, it feels just a bit too rich from Seattle’s perspective. Trading your second best off-season asset for such a short-term rental is a big call and now two things have to happen. One, Williams has to justify the move. Two, the Seahawks have to prove they are a team who should’ve even been considering making such an aggressive trade. They’re 5-2 and it’s a good start. They’ve also been very streaky, played some bad football at times and they’re about to face a gauntlet of opponents. They went from 6-3 to 9-8 last year and after making this trade, that simply cannot happen again.

Remember, they are stretched with the cap next year. Unless they’re willing to cut someone like Geno Smith, Jamal Adams or Quandre Diggs, they are going to struggle to retain Williams beyond this season. This trade is about the here and now. We need to see results on the field to justify their aggression.

I appreciate some fans will square the circle of this trade quite easily. For me, I’m just not in that headspace. I can hope for extreme success with the trade while having some reservations over the value. I think the Giants will be delighted with their return. I think the Niners will feel very happy about their trade today. I think the Seahawks overpaid and the Commanders undersold.

I really hope this trade works out for Seattle. I can’t help but feel like we’ve been here before though with similar, overly aggressive trades.

They transformed the team with sound, sensible roster construction and excellent drafting in 2022 and 2023. This move feels like a return to the iffy trades that came before their latest reset. I hope Williams can play well enough — and produce — to justify the outlay.

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My thoughts on the Leonard Williams trade

Monday, October 30th, 2023

Join me for a live stream discussing the big trade at 4:15pm PT

The Seahawks have brought in Leonard Williams, giving the New York Giants their second rounder in 2024 and a fifth round pick in 2025.

The first thing I wanted to touch on was the quality of the next draft. It isn’t very good. I’ve spent considerable time over the last few weeks building a horizontal board for 2024. At the moment I have only three players worthy of ‘legit’ first round grades. I have another nine players I’d be prepared to draft in round one. There are 32 more players I’ve given second round grades.

That’s only 44 players in total, with 64 selections to be made in the first two rounds. I think this provides some useful context for the value of Seattle’s second round pick next year. However, it still doesn’t necessarily justify what they’ve paid to the Giants in this deal.

Williams turns 30 next year and he’s a free agent at the end of the season. This is an extreme short-term move. It’s akin to the Rams acquiring Von Miller. The problem is, Williams isn’t the impact-player Miller was.

He only had 2.5 sacks last season and so far he has 1.5 sacks this season. His best season came in 2020 during a contract year, when he had 11 sacks. Williams hasn’t come close to reaching those heights since. His PFF grade this year is 67.6 — good enough for 37th among interior defensive linemen. That’s marginally better than Mario Edwards Jr (67.2).

If they were bringing in a legit blue-chip star to be a potential ‘tipping point’ for the defense, this would be an extremely aggressive move but one that was more understandable. Instead it feels like the Seahawks have just spent a second and a fifth round pick to rent ten games of a decent Leonard Williams.

Had they made this kind of move for, say, Chase Young or Montez Sweat — at least you could argue that there’s some potential long-term thinking at play. They’re 27 and 24-years-old respectively. The franchise tag would be a security blanket, with both players fresh off rookie deals. Both players would be highly motivated to ‘cash-in’ next summer when their rookie deals end.

Let’s compare it to a similar trade a year ago. The Ravens gave the Bears a second and fifth rounder in the 2023 draft for 25-year-old Roquan Smith, who was then extended on a long term contract last January. I’m not sure 10 games of Williams compares well to the deal for Smith.

Even if the Seahawks extend Williams, is this a long-term play? How many years can they realistically expect to get out of him?

What impact is he legitimately going to have? I liked him as a player at his best and there’s no doubt the Seahawks are improved for having him. Yet you do have to consider value with trades. It’s hard to see how a second and fifth round pick for potentially a ten-game rental makes sense.

It seems that the Seahawks might’ve paid a premium price because the Giants are taking on his salary. Essentially, the Giants are buying better draft compensation as they potentially prepare to aggressively pursue the quarterback market next April.

I don’t think that’s good business for Seattle, especially considering Williams is out of contract next year. If they had a commitment beyond 2023 it would be slightly more understandable. This feels like an overly aggressive, short-term move where the only justification is to win ‘now’. Anything other than a deep playoff run, and/or a well-crafted contract extension, makes this a questionable move.

It’s hard to know how the Seahawks can extend him beyond this year. They’re practically spent up for 2024 as it is. Overthecap is projecting $4,895,356 in effective cap space and that is dependant on rollover money. They have some levers, including Geno Smith’s contract, but they already have a long list of free agents who will need to be retained or replaced. Now they have another mouth to feed, or it will literally be a ten-game rental before hoping you get a good comp pick in 2025 (no given because it requires Williams receiving a significant pay-day and the Seahawks being inactive in free agency).

This feels very similar to the Sheldon Richardson trade, another extreme short-term move that didn’t work out. Except at least they got a full season out of Richardson, who was younger when he arrived in Seattle and had the extra motivation of being in a contract year on his rookie deal, not having already been paid a fortune.

After two years of extremely effective drafting, where they’ve been incredibly restrained to retain picks not splurge, this feels like a return to the mistakes of the past. They’ve not succeeded chasing big trades. Their best moves were cheap and opportunistic. The foundation of their current roster was built through smart, sensible, conservative decision making. This is risky and similar to what they were doing in the latter stages of the LOB era.

While it might not be a great 2024 draft overall, it is deep at quarterback. I believe it’s increasingly clear they need to draft a quarterback. I won’t repeat everything I wrote yesterday. However, Geno Smith is showing impressive physical traits that are allowing him to make impressive plays and have moments where he excels. However, since the Germany game last year we’ve also seen a lot of the stuff that has prevented him from being more than he’s shown to be in his career so far. There are too many turnover-worthy plays, too many turnovers, the offense is streaky and going large stretches of games where they just can’t function.

This is not all Smith’s fault. As noted yesterday, Shane Waldron’s play-calling leaves a lot to be desired and he deserves to shoulder some blame too. I don’t think he has played well enough, however, to eliminate questions about his suitability as the long-term answer at quarterback or his ability to lead the team to the pinnacle. For me, he’s proving he’s a bridge to what’s next. It’s harder to acquire what’s next if you trade away good draft picks on extreme short-term trades.

You now have less scope to be aggressive in the draft (if you want to be). You’ve also given away a club-controlled young player for four years (two players if you include the fifth rounder) for a 10-game rental.

I’m sure there will be a feeling that they’re being aggressive because they sense an opportunity. The 49ers are on a three-game losing streak. The Eagles are not playing particularly well. The Lions were exposed against Baltimore. Minnesota just lost their quarterback. I can’t deny that this all makes a big trade more appealing. Yet I still want this team to get good value and I simply don’t think this is it. Not for such a short-term rental as this. Not for a player pushing 30 who hasn’t been a game-wrecker since 2020. Not for a second rounder.

As Curtis Allen points out, they’re basically all-in now:

God forbid that Williams would pick up an injury between now and the end of the season yet that isn’t implausible for a player who missed five games in 2022. He has to be impactful, dynamic and healthy. Otherwise you’ve just blown your second best off-season asset in 2024, plus change.

Williams has to be worth it. He has to impact and change games. He has to be a difference maker. He needs to be the 2020 version the Giants added for just a third rounder a few years ago. Is he still a player who can do that?

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Instant reaction article & stream: Somehow, Seahawks win

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

How can you play so poorly for three quarters and still win? Get your safety to head the ball to a teammate to change the game.

There have been some bizarre wins in the Pete Carroll era plus some strange and unique ways to claim victory. This was a new one.

The end result is the Seahawks dodged a major bullet to take advantage of San Francisco’s improbable third straight defeat and claim first place in the NFC West. They avoid having to go to Baltimore staring at the prospect of a 4-4 record going into the challenging part of a tough schedule.

There aren’t that many positives apart from that — but that in itself is the main thing. That’s what makes this such a confusing game to assess because, well, they won.


Even so, I want to discuss some real issues with the team.

The offense has too much talent to play the streaky brand of football we’ve seen so far. The second half against the Rams. The second half against the Bengals. The first half against Carolina. This entire game after the initial two drives.

The offense has a habit of grinding to a complete halt, with no idea how to utilise an assortment of weapons to kick things into gear. There are too many good skill players on this team to be this inept for long stretches.

They’ve ploughed resource into the offense to make this a formidable unit. What they’ve got instead is an offense that can look great and horrible in equal measure.

They scored 17 points in the first quarter and were shut-out after that until the final minute. Until the end, it felt like the Rams in week one all over again.

It all felt so avoidable too.

Curtis Allen outlined the importance of running the ball in his game preview, pleading with the Seahawks to playing to their strengths while limiting Cleveland’s on defense:

The Colts last week decided they would rather play to their strengths and planned accordingly. They only asked Gardner Minshew to throw the ball 27 times (against a whopping 40 runs). They gained 168 yards and had three touchdowns on the ground.

A 23/40 pass/run day for the Seahawks would be just what the doctor ordered. Split those 40 runs between Ken Walker, Zach Charbonnet and Deejay Dallas and keep Garrett in check as he chases runners rather than the quarterback.

When Geno Smith threw his second interception, it was his 26th throw. At this point, Ken Walker had six carries. Zach Charbonnet had three.

In the fourth quarter Charbonnet drove them over half-way and a drive was finally on. What then? A false start, Geno throws a bad incompletion and then took a sack.

They ended up throwing the ball 37 times in total, with Walker and Charbonnet combining for just 13 runs. How did this happen? Those 13 runs produced 119 yards. That’s 9.2 yards per play. Why didn’t they lean on the run and play off that today?

They did the opposite of what worked for Indianapolis last week. Even if it wasn’t Myles Garrett wrecking the game until the end, the offense completely stopped functioning and it didn’t necessarily have to be this way.

People will point at the Browns defense. This same defense gave up 38 points to the Colts last week, the same Colts who just got pummelled by the Saints and Jaguars either side of that game. They’re good but let’s not mistake them for the ’85 Bears or the Legion of Boom.

For whatever reason, Seattle’s play-calling seems muddled and their plans all over the place. The tight ends are unstoppable one game and then anonymous the next. The running game hasn’t been fluid, consistent or felt like their identity at any point this year (despite the claims that they want it to be). They don’t seem to know how to properly feature their star receivers in a way other teams do.

None of this reflects well on Shane Waldron, who has too many weapons to see his offense switch between so many extremes. He should be under pressure. This offense should be performing far better and far more consistent than it is.

Geno Smith, meanwhile, looks like the player many of us initially expected in the summer of 2022 when they made him the starter. He has physical tools, nobody can deny that. Thus, he has some impressive moments. He can make really nice throws — including his first touchdown today. However, throughout his career he has played too often like we’re seeing currently and it’s why he’s never stuck as a long-term starter.

Last year he had fantastic turnover fortune with regard to turnover-worthy plays. This year, the luck is running out a bit. He has six interceptions compared to nine touchdowns. Even today, he could’ve easily had a pick-six on a miscommunication with Jaxson Smith-Njigba (dropped by the defender) and he nearly chucked away the game at the end with an poorly executed end-zone throw to D.K. Metcalf.

He’s not playing well enough. You can’t have an 9/6 touchdown/interception ratio in 2023 and be given a pass. While he’s far from the only one to blame for the offense being so streaky and lurching between extremes, he’s also the quarterback. The main man. The one who will always take on extra scrutiny.

He and Waldron have to be better. Otherwise it’s only fair to question whether Seattle’s roster chock full of offensive talent is in the right hands. Increasingly the only conclusion you can come to with Geno is that he’s an adequate bridge quarterback and nothing else. That doesn’t mean he should be benched. It doesn’t mean Drew Lock is better. Yet it’s hard to watch him playing at this level and feel like he can lead Seattle to a Championship, justify a $31-41m salary next year or be anything more than a placeholder for whoever is next.

The Seahawks should be looking to draft a quarterback in 2024 and be aggressive about if needed to get the right guy. It’s time. It was probably time this year if we’re honest. It definitely will be next April.

Then there’s the defense. Kudos to them for sticking in there with no help from the offense. The Browns are well coached and found answers in a way Seattle barely ever does on offense. The defense still made the key plays at the end to give the team a chance to win and they were able to snatch this one away. The offense owes the defense a debt of gratitude.

Even so, they also struggled at times to make an impact. Playing hapless teams like the Giants, Panthers, Cardinals and a stuttering Bengals maybe created a bit of a false dawn. A Browns team with a backup quarterback and no Nick Chubb had their way with the defense for large stretches here.

The unit contains talented players for sure and has a lot of potential. Boye Mafe collecting sacks is a major positive. They have youth, depth and extreme talent at corner. The linebackers are playing well. Two safeties combined to make a game-changing play at the end. There’s a lot to like.

I still think, based on this showing, they are clearly missing a blue-chipper up front and/or the creative schematic chops to change games.

I don’t think the thing to do would be to splurge tomorrow ahead of the deadline. I hope their approach is restrained and opportunistic (but probably more restrained).

I think we need to embrace this team for what it is. It’s young and talented. It can be exciting but also very streaky and frustrating. Questions haven’t been answered about the coordinators yet and the quarterback isn’t playing well enough currently to cement his place as the unquestioned starter. Another good draft class is required and keeping stock to possibly be aggressive in the QB market is worth considering.

Even so, first place is first place. Time to enjoy it — that and the fact the 49ers have lost three in a row.

Cheers 🍻

Curtis Allen’s week eight watch notes (vs Browns)

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

In the NFL there are always teams who start well but cannot sustain their success and just as quickly as they rose, they fade back to the pack to make way for the real contenders.

Two such candidates face off Sunday as the Seahawks host the visiting Browns. Both teams sit at 4-2. With wins they are poised to join the top of their divisions. Both have designs on more than just making the playoffs.

However, looking beyond just their record shows they are not on as solid a ground as it would appear. A return to the earth could be in store for both if they do not take a big step forward.

The Browns have the NFL’s best defense statistically so far this year. Jim Schwartz has proven to be a great fit as a defensive coordinator for them. They dedicated themselves to building around Myles Garrett and that has made him even more effective. His game last week against the Colts was as dominant a performance as we have seen from a defensive player this season. He personally accounted for 10 points with a blocked field goal and a sack in the end zone that resulted in a touchdown.

They have really struggled at the quarterback spot though. Deshaun Watson has been injured an ineffective (then injured again). They have turned to Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker. Both have faired badly in the role and weapons the Browns have collected like Amari Cooper and David Njoku have not been utilized as much as they could.

On offense, they have relied on a strong running game and plenty of creativity to offset the lack of talent in the game’s most important position. The defense has been so good, they have nearly made up the difference on offense.

Cleveland is also the beneficiary of two major end-of-game miscues in as many weeks. San Francisco missed an easily make-able 41-yard field goal try at the end of their game, sealing a Browns victory. Last week the game looked like a Browns loss until the referees explicably flagged pass interference on a throw that was headed out of the end zone and nearly into the third row of seats and the Browns capitalized on a first-and-goal at the one-yard line to win it.

They could easily be 2-4 at this point.

The same could be said for the Seahawks. They appear in good shape at 4-2 with an improved defense and plenty of weaponry on offense. Yet three of those four wins have come against teams that will very likely be picking in the top-five of the draft next year.

Last week’s 20-10 victory over Arizona was not nearly as comfortable as it should have been. The offense once again had execution problems as well as three turnovers. The defense – while only conceding 10 points – struggled to maintain their discipline, with the edges failing to maintain their integrity at critical moments and tackling being a problem at times.

That leads of our first critical watch point in this matchup of two talented but flawed teams.

Stand Your Ground on Defense

The Seahawks are rightly proud of their rush defense, as they have consistently been near the top of the league in yards conceded per carry. Right now, they are #3 in the NFL at 3.5 yards per attempt.

It should be noted, however, that this defense conceded 5.08 yards per carry last week to a Cardinals offense that features one of the worst passing quarterbacks in the NFL. Joshua Dobbs completed 58.8% of his passes, was sacked four times and finished the game with 146 passing yards. The point being — run defense was a known key before they even stepped on the field and they still struggled with it.

I point out Dobb’s performance as a way to highlight that is probably what the Browns are expecting from P.J. Walker in this game. Once again, the Seahawks benefit by playing one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL today. Walker’s PFF grade is currently 29.5. He has played in two games as a practice squad elevation. If Walker has even a mediocre game at quarterback, it will be a career best.

To say they are going to feature the run is a massive understatement.

They will try all manner of plays to set up the run. From your standard between-the-tackles runs, to screen plays, to the Wildcat, to clever reverses to get Elijah Moore and maybe old friend Marquise Goodwin in space to let their speed and shiftiness create havoc.

Emari Demarcardo had a career day with 58 yards against the Seahawks last week, including runs of 18, 12 and eight yards. He had an average of four yards per rush before he was touched by a Seahawks defender.

Rondale Moore had a 15-yard run and Josh Dobbs had his 25-yard touchdown run, banging off Seahawks tacklers like a pinball.

The Browns have a better offensive line and more running weapons than the Cardinals had. The Seahawks need to tighten things up and not allow the Browns’ offense any breathing room to move the ball while simultaneously keeping it out of their quarterback’s hands.

This is the test right here. You can hang your hat all you like on the stats. Can they put a stop to the run when they absolutely have to?

It is a fight. A challenge. Who can minimize their weaknesses and in turn help maximize their strengths even more? The Browns will likely be very happy with a short intermittent passing game and a stout rushing attack if they can keep the Seattle defense on the field and win the field position game.

With Uchenna Nwosu out, it will be on the young shoulders of Boye Mafe and Derrick Hall to contain the edges on run plays. Time to step forward, fellas.

Game-Plan the Offense to Minimize Myles Garrett’s Impact

If you have read any of my previous watch points posts, you probably have heard me say a weakness of the Seahawks over the years has been a lack of humility. At times they do not account for an opponents’ strength, preferring to run their set plays and let the chips fall where they may.

Myles Garrett is one such player that Shane Waldron and Geno Smith need to be aware of on every single snap. I submit he should be closely considered when working up and implementing an offensive plan for this game.

In Week Three, the Tennessee Titans did not adjust for Garrett and it cost them dearly. They ran the ball only 15 times (a team with Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears only calling 15 runs!) and threw the ball 30 times. Ryan Tannehill was slow, indecisive and unable to find his second and third reads.

Garrett’s stat line for the game (I promise you I am not making this up): 3.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, five quarterback hits and six pressures. Tennessee ended up with 94 total yards for the game. It was brutal.

The Colts last week decided they would rather play to their strengths and planned accordingly. They only asked Gardner Minshew to throw the ball 27 times (against a whopping 40 runs). They gained 168 yards and had three touchdowns on the ground.

Garrett still had a memorable performance. He had two sacks, three pressures, blocked a field goal and had two forced fumbles. One of them resulted in a touchdown. Yet the Colts had the game virtually won until that terrible blown call by the officials. They found a formula on offense and it worked.

A 23/40 pass/run day for the Seahawks would be just what the doctor ordered. Split those 40 runs between Ken Walker, Zach Charbonnet and Deejay Dallas and keep Garrett in check as he chases runners rather than the quarterback.

As for how to plan for and handle Garrett, let’s take a brief look at his “worst” game this year against San Francisco. He ended the game with one pressure and five tackles, nothing more.

How did the Niners game plan for him? Have a look at the highlight reel from the NFL.

— Run away from him. Look at the very first play. Garrett is lined up over the left tackle and they run behind the right guard. McCaffrey jukes through the traffic and Garrett actually pursues him on the backside. If you can get him huffing and puffing after chasing running backs all day, that will only help you when you do decide to pass the ball.

— Run right at him. Look at the next play. He’s lined up over the left tackle again but Trent Williams seals the tackle inside and both the guard and Kyle Juszczyk are pulling to seal him off and give the runner space. Also look at 8:46. They let him penetrate inside and run a sweep with the tight ends leading the way.

— Use his aggressiveness against him. Very next play at 0:35. Nobody blocks him, McCaffrey gives him a token chip and then turns to receive a shovel from Purdy and Garrett is totally out of the play. But also…

— Do not try the typical screen. Cue the video to 1:33 and get ready to cringe and say a prayer for Charles Cross. The Niners have a typical screen set up with offensive linemen pulling and trying to set up. Trent Williams – the best left tackle in the NFL – tries to just chip and release Garrett and gets manhandled. The other defenders’ speed takes over and cleans up a play wrecked by Garrett.

— Pay the Garrett Tax. 2:42, 5:12, 5:40, you see the Niners double teaming or otherwise chipping Garrett. I’d like to point out at 5:12 they use McCaffrey to chip him with Trent Williams right there. Now that is humility. It is OK to admit that good players need some help and that you can use other good players to do some dirty work once in a while.

— Get your QB in motion. Cue to 3:42. Garrett lined up over the left tackle and they are at the left hash mark. Purdy takes the snap and rolls to a large swath of open ground to his right and has a great option to hit Brandon Aiyuk.

— Don’t miss your shots. 8:18 the rush is coming and Purdy has his man sighted and just overthrows him off his back heel. If you are going to stand tall in the pocket and take a hit, you have to keep your mechanics clean and make the play.

— Throw slants and other quick passes. 11:40, 11:55, 12:02. The Niners are moving the ball down the field late in the game. Garrett can’t sack anyone if the ball is thrown before he gets there. PFF says he had an insane 45 pass rush wins that he never translated to a pressure last year because the ball was already gone.

There has been a lot of talk about the Seahawks’ success in play action passes this week, mostly fueled by a PFF tweet:

Fans have taken the obvious road in asking ‘why don’t the Seahawks run more play-action then?’ That reasoning is a bit like the old joke about ‘if the black box is the only thing that survives a plane crash, why not make the whole plane out of the black box material?’

Running play-action is not always practical. Especially if the pass rush is coming (as the Seahawks should absolutely expect it to be). If it opens up middle lanes for quick passes to tight ends, so be it. But with a still-developing offensive line problem and Geno Smith’s indecision, this could simply take too much time to rely on regularly in this game.

Geno Smith has been hesitant and has been double-clutching a lot lately. In the Cincinnati game, Shane Waldron left the tackles to fend for themselves without much assistance in pass protection. Both of these troubles have cost the Seahawks dearly.

If both cannot improve rapidly by using some of the game-enhancing tools we outlined above, we may witness another dominating performance by Myles Garrett on Sunday and another game lost the Seahawks ‘woulda coulda shoulda’ won, making that mountain climb through that tough stretch of games next month even harder.

Win the Turnover Battle

This is always critical — but even more so for this game.

The Seahawks have their heads just barely above water at +1 after that poor performance against Arizona, while the Browns are a miserable -6.

They will have to hold onto the ball in the running game, avoid any strip sacks and Geno Smith will need to cease and desist with his poor decision-making when he tries to plays outside himself.

Another big key: With the #1 defense in the NFL on the other side, a short field for the offense created by a turnover would be huge. For the obvious reason (less work to get in scoring range) but also a very curious secondary one. For all of their great defense, the Browns are one of the worst teams in the NFL in defending the red zone. They are currently allowing 70% of opposition red zone trips to result in a touchdown. I know the Seahawks have had trouble there but this is too good an opportunity to pass up. If they get there, they must take advantage.

Friday thoughts on the 2024 draft (and the O-line depth)

Friday, October 27th, 2023

Troy Fautanu plays a lot like Alijah Vera-Tucker

This isn’t looking like a good 2024 draft

My horizontal board is taking shape with the players I needed to scout. The one position I’ve not spent any serious time on is cornerback but that feels like the position of least need for Seattle. I won’t publish it for a few weeks yet. There seems little point, with plenty of football still to be played and adjustments are inevitable.

I don’t think it’s a very good draft. It’ll be one of the worst I’ve covered. There’s a dearth of top-end talent. The Senior Bowl and combine can change things but as I keep noting, it’s hard to find first round players. It doesn’t help that the pass rush group is seriously underwhelming. There’s depth at some positions as I’ll touch on here. But even then, there are issues.

For example, take the much vaunted QB class. Caleb Williams has lost his last two games. Drake Maye just lost to a one-win Virginia team at home. Michael Penix Jr’s stock took a reality check when, for the first serious time this year when he faced pressure, his performance was really ugly against Arizona. Riley Leonard is trying to play through a high-ankle sprain and Quinn Ewers might be out for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury. Tyler Van Dyke missed Miami’s last game through injury while South Carolina’s rancid O-line is giving up more sacks than any other team in college football, making Spencer Rattler’s life miserable.

I feel for the people having to do mock drafts (to an extent). An October projection should really be about highlighting players with the potential to go in round one. You’re not actually ‘guessing’ what will happen. Yet there are so few players deserving of going early, it’s a challenge to even come up with 32 names. I keep seeing players touted as early picks who have no business receiving the hype they’re getting.

I read a report this week suggesting the Panthers have no interest in trading Brian Burns. I understand why. Carolina might have a lack of picks next year but giving a proven player away for picks in the next draft would be beyond stupid. While I’m sure they’d love an opportunity to add Marvin Harrison Jr or Brock Bowers to their offense with their native pick, having a selection in the 20’s (or 30’s) for trading away Burns makes no sense with this class.

What does this all mean for the Seahawks? It’s early. The gauntlet of games on the horizon will reveal how good this team is and where they need to improve.

However, I would suggest a couple of things.

Personally, I think it’s time for the Seahawks to invest in a quarterback. Not a token gesture ‘Alex McGough’ pick either.

The poor overall quality of this draft means they should consider being aggressive to acquire a QB if John Schneider sees a long-term solution within the class. Even if that isn’t viable, there are enough quarterbacks available next year for the Seahawks to identify one they like, draft them and if nothing else — take a chance on developing someone. They’ve successfully acquired talent across the roster in the last two years. They’ve positioned themselves to invest in a young QB — not necessarily to start right away but with an eye to the future.

The defensive tackles in this class are, for me, more day-two and beyond types. It’s a tiny tight end class, albeit with a trio of intriguing early round options. If the Seahawks aren’t going to go quarterback early, which may well be the case, then I think it’s looking increasingly viable they look to the trenches on offense.

O-line could be a strength in the 2024 draft

Is it a brilliant O-line class? We’re not talking about three surefire top-10 talents. We’re not talking about endless depth. Right now though, I’ve got more names in my ‘fringe first’ and ‘second round’ area for the O-line than any other position group.

Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton tops the list for me. Athletic, big, powerful. I think he’s the Darnell Wright of the next draft. Olumuyiwa Fashanu has a lot of physical potential to play left tackle but I think Guyton is a ready-made beast.

Amarius Mims has missed time with injury and the ‘will-he-won’t-he’ transfer stuff at the end of last season — especially when he’s at Georgia — makes you wonder. Nevertheless, he is a crazy physical specimen — enormous size, length, minimal body-fat. You just don’t see many human’s who look like Mims. On appearance alone he screams top-15 pick.

I think Wisconsin left tackle Jack Nelson is seriously underrated and could probably play any tackle or guard position very well. Like Guyton and Mims, JC Latham is another very athletic, huge right tackle prospect. Kingsley Suamataia is an insane athlete who will win the combine. Joe Alt’s a bit overrated for me but could be a Mike McGlinchey-type prospect for someone if he switches over to the right side. Patrick Paul is inconsistent but has remarkable length and size and moves well for his frame.

I have all of those players — all tackles — graded in the first two rounds. None are sure-fire polished, ‘come in and be Andrew Thomas’ players. Yet they all have the potential to be very competent starters at the next level.

Pete Carroll is being really vague about Abraham Lucas’ injury situation. The tone he uses to discuss Lucas is troubling. It feels a little bit like we’re just waiting for the day they announce he’s out for the year. I’m sure we all hope it isn’t anything longer term than that given how much of a home-run that pick was a year ago. Even so, some of the names above can play guard or tackle. It wouldn’t be the worst idea, if they choose to go O-line early, to have depth, versatility and insurance.

There are also very attractive interior O-line options. These are not positions the Seahawks have typically drafted early in recent years. They’ve relied on middle-rounders. That said, Troy Fautanu looks a lot like Alijah Vera-Tucker to me. Both played left tackle with frames better suited to inside. Vera-Tucker was a top-15 pick and I wouldn’t bet against Fautanu matching that status. He has been excellent for Washington this year and looks the part of a good tackle or an excellent guard.

Cooper Beebe has been a rock for Kansas State for back-to-back years and looks like a plug-and-play guard. Jordan Morgan and Brandon Coleman, like Fautanu, appear better suited to kicking inside. All three players could provide the same versatility and ability to play multiple positions.

Graham Turner might be the best offensive lineman in the draft next year but the Duke left tackle has just over 32-inch arms. A switch to center is being projected although he’s good enough to play guard too. I think he’s an excellent player. The Seahawks have already invested in the center position with Olu Oluwatimi but Turner — along with Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran and LSU’s Charles Turner — could easily be drafted in the top-50.

This might be where the true depth is in the 2024 draft, especially if the often-discussed quarterback class continues to step on rakes and/or get injured. Teams are always looking for good offensive linemen so don’t be surprised if the first frame is filled with O-liners, making up for the lack of options at other positions.

Quick note on the defensive tackles

I now have only four defensive tackles graded in the first two rounds. Jer’Zhan Newton (who is more of a 3-4 defensive end), McKinley Jackson, Howard Cross and T’Vondre Sweat. I have my doubts about Cross in this range (he’s undersized so has to test well) and Sweat will need to be in good shape for the combine and convince teams he didn’t just switch the light on in his final year at Texas.

There are good athletes eligible for the draft — namely Kris Jenkins and Leonard Taylor. I only have them graded in rounds three and four respectively. I also have Maason Smith currently in round four.

There are a lot of good DT’s set to reach free agency next year. Some might be available via tag-and-trade scenarios. If the Seahawks can create cap space — or want to be aggressive — they might be better off looking to the veteran market.

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Why I don’t think the Seahawks will be deadline buyers

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023

I don’t think John Schneider will be rushing to spend his 2024 picks this week

Uchenna Nwosu is injured, out for the season and the discussion among Seahawks fans and media has turned to the possibility of additions.

I don’t think the Seahawks are going to be active. Not unless they suffer further injuries this weekend.

For starters, it’s a simple cap issue. They have $7.4m to spend this year which is more than enough to take on a reduced veteran contract now that we’re nearly halfway through the season. However, that $7.4m is already accounted for.

The Seahawks have rolled money into next year by re-working various deals. It means they currently only have $4.7m in effective cap space next year. The $7.4m exists in 2023 purely for serious emergencies, otherwise it is being saved to roll into 2024. Without that $7.4m rolling over, Seattle would be $2.7m in the red next year.

If you trade for a veteran on a rental basis in 2023, you will create a major cap headache in 2024. Equally, if you trade for someone with the intention of extending them (eg a Brian Burns type), how are you paying for that? The money simply isn’t there in 2024.

Here’s the other side of this. The Seahawks have a large number of free agents at the end of this season. This includes:

Bobby Wagner
Jordyn Brooks
Damien Lewis
Noah Fant
Colby Parkinson
Phil Haynes
Drew Lock
Devin Bush
Mario Edwards Jr

Darrell Taylor will also be a restricted free agent and there are a number of depth players who are either out of contract or can be retained using the ERFA tender. There is an incredible amount of work to do to retain or replace players and virtually no money, currently, from which to do this.

Making a rental or long term trade at this point, to try and win in 2023, simply doesn’t add up. The money isn’t there.

The only plausible situation is to be ultra-aggressive — essentially acting like the Rams in 2021. I don’t think the Seahawks are in a position to do that. It’s not ‘2023 or bust’ like that season felt for LA.

I appreciate there are levers that can be pulled next year to provide some relief. The obvious one is Bryan Mone’s $6.4m cap-hit which can save $5.9m (how it ever came to be that Mone is earning this much, or why there’s dead money attached to this deal, I’ll never understand). There’s also Geno Smith’s contract, plus they’ll need to do something to reduce the remarkable combined cap-hit of $49.1m for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams next year.

This is all money, however, that is needed to retain or replace the long list of free agents named above.

I don’t think the Seahawks are buyers. Even signing Frank Clark to a minimum contract takes money away from next year. Could the Seahawks use another pass rusher with Nwosu out? Sure. Yet they’ve already invested three second round picks in Boye Mafe, Derick Hall and Darrell Taylor. Mafe (#40), Hall (#37) and Taylor (#48) were all top-50 picks. The investment has already been made here. The logical thing to do is to promote Tyreke Smith and trust in the young players you drafted.

I also think it speaks to where the Seahawks are as a franchise. It’s clear for everyone to see that they’ve drafted very well the last two years and have created a talented, young team with a lot of promise. Given their cap situation, they need to stay on that path.

Firstly, there’s a probable desire to keep building on their draft success with another great class in 2024. Their plan and approach to the draft has been excellent the last two years. If it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it. Stay on track.

I wrote about the upcoming draft and how thin it is looking currently. That is true — but there’s depth at the positions the Seahawks might be most interested in (defensive tackle, O-line, quarterback).

Secondly, it’s the QB situation. I won’t rehash previous arguments about Geno Smith but the fact is he is going to be far more expensive next year and his performance so far this season fits somewhere between ‘good not great’ and ‘streaky’. He is showing, in my opinion, to be a very adequate bridge quarterback to whatever comes next. He is not, however, the long-term answer.

It’s time for the Seahawks to invest in a quarterback. They may even wish to be aggressive to do so, if they see someone good enough to be the tipping point to Championship glory on a fantastically beneficial rookie contract. Lest we forget, the Chiefs moved up 17 places in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes. They were aggressive then and nobody should be shocked if the Seahawks follow suit. Perhaps John Schneider will finally find that player he ‘has to have’?

I’m not even sure he’ll feel he needs to move up. There are players I think he’ll like, such as Quinn Ewers and Spencer Rattler, who might be available for the Seahawks without a bold trade. I do sense, however, that this is building towards a crescendo where the Seahawks are more likely to draft a QB than they have been in some time.

Right now it feels important to be restrained, keep your picks and wait until the off-season. This keeps all options on the table. The Seahawks don’t feel like they’re in the airspace of making the big, aggressive move — whether that’s financially or in terms of roster construction. Neither does a rental fit into their current situation.

It’s a time to see what this group can do against the gauntlet of tough opponents they’re due to face in the coming weeks. That’s information you need for the off-season as you plan the next move.

The Seahawks have some cap headaches to contend with and it should leave them relying on their rekindled mojo in the draft to continue growing as a team.

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Thoughts and notes on several 2024 draft prospects

Monday, October 23rd, 2023

Jer’Zhan Newton has been excellent for Illinois this season

Some reflections, both in general and based on what I saw at the weekend…

Spencer Rattler (QB, South Carolina)
Another six sacks conceded by South Carolina’s shocking offensive line and that only tells half the story. Rattler was constantly harassed, pressured or hit. Despite this, he still managed to complete 23 passes, show off his natural arm talent, scramble and create to extend plays and break off big runs (including an impressive 16-yarder under duress). South Carolina’s O-line is giving up exactly five sacks per game, tied for worst in the whole of college football along with Colorado’s shambles of a line. In comparison, Washington is giving up 0.6 sacks a game, Oregon 0.7, Duke 0.8, Michigan one sack, Miami 1.2, Florida State 1.3, Ohio State 1.7 and even Kentucky has improved to 1.6 per game. Rattler isn’t getting any attention because the Gamecocks are mostly dreadful but he’s finally developed into the player his talent suggested he could be. He should be getting so much more draft focus. He looks and plays like a mini-Mahomes and he has the talent and ability to be a plus starter at the next level. Seeing him still find a way, somehow, to look as good as he does under constant pressure is a major feather in his cap. He’s a collector’s item — a QB who will actually face less pressure in the NFL.

Caleb Williams (QB, USC)
Back-to-back defeats and a second game where Williams had moments of adversity. However, he is everything teams are looking for in terms of improvisation, creativity, pure arm talent and star quality. It’s surprising that USC haven’t done a better job building a better supporting cast around Williams, who remains a cast-iron guarantee to be the #1 pick. I only currently have three players graded with legit, high-end round one grades — Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr and Brock Bowers.

Quinn Ewers (QB, Texas)
It’s another shoulder injury for Ewers and although reports suggest he won’t necessarily miss the rest of the season, it has to be a possibility. Against Houston he combined the routine, easy short-passing game Steve Sarkisian utilises with the natural flair he possesses to get the ball downfield. He played well, avoiding errors. The way he flicks his wrist and the ball flies out of his hand is, it has to be said, very impressive and almost Rodgers-esque. He is erratic at times but still highly talented. However, this is back-to-back years with shoulder injuries. He’s been playing lighter at sub-200lbs too. Scouts and certain GM’s (including John Schneider) are probably going to love the arm talent and potential with Ewers. However, the injuries are officially a thing to contend with. Tony Pauline recently reported Ewers is 50/50 on whether to turn pro in 2024.

Riley Leonard (QB, Duke)
Mere weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, Leonard took the field against Florida State on Saturday. He had no business playing. He was clearly hobbled, couldn’t properly step into his throws, couldn’t function anywhere close to his best and he didn’t finish the game. His final play was a nasty hit that left him clutching his injured ankle. Protect your players. He still had one incredible side-arm throw that screamed ‘high draft pick’ but he otherwise functioned as if he was playing in a walking boot (and probably should’ve been). Teams/coaches need to look after their players in these situations. Leonard shouldn’t have played. I still like his upside potential a lot though and he clearly has the talent to go early in the draft.

Michael Penix Jr (QB, Washington)
One of the knocks on Penix is the difficulty with which to project his NFL potential given how little pressure he faces at UW. As noted earlier, Washington is giving up less than a sack per game (0.6). Against Arizona he faced plenty of pressure and adversity and I’m afraid he struggled. Arizona took away Washington’s timing, flustered the quarterback and he simply lacked any kind of poise, improv or ability to adapt. The offense ground to a halt. For all of the dazzling stat-bombs over the last few weeks, this is the kind of game scouts focus on. He can play pitch-and-catch against a bad Michigan State defense all day. He won’t get that in the NFL. He’ll be pressured, hit and he’ll need to make quick, precise reads. He won’t have a clean pocket or be playing in a system he’s mastered over a number of years. He’ll be playing in this environment a lot and this performance suggested he’s not entirely comfortable when life is muddied in the pocket and the timing is thrown off. The arm talent is still wonderful and very enticing but this game is a bit of a reality check.

Will Howard (QB, Kansas State)
Bizarrely he was spelled against TCU and split drives with Avery Johnson but when he was on the field he was accurate, made key throws look easy and he showed off great running ability for his size. I really like Howard. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a top-end starter but there’s something there and he’d make an intriguing top-100 pick.

Brady Cook (QB, Missouri)
I don’t know if he’ll declare or not in 2024 and I’m not suggesting he’ll necessarily be a high pick one day but Cook can play. He is consistently playing an attractive brand of football — combining dynamic running with accurate throws to all levels of the field. Every time I watch Mizzou he catches the eye.

Jack Nelson (T, Wisconsin)
I don’t care where you play him. Left or right tackle, guard. The guy can play. He locks on and finishes blocks. He’s powerful and aggressive. He’s a good player who I think deserves a second round placing at least.

Troy Fautanu (T/G, Washington)
One of the big reasons Washington give up so few pressures is the scheme, the other is the play of Fautanu. I was way more impressed than I expected to be watching him on tape. He’s just so comfortable with his technique and plays with great control. He can lock on to finish blocks, he can shadow speed rushers and hold his own versus power. He reminds me a lot of Alijah Vera-Tucker (former USC, now with the Jets) and similarly could be used at guard or tackle at the next level given his size. I really like him.

Tyler Guyton (T, Oklahoma)
Big, athletic, brilliant. He is this year’s Darnell Wright and is destined to be a first round pick. Every time I watch Oklahoma the big right tackle stands out. He has a great chance to be a top-12 pick.

Graham Barton (T, Duke)
His lack of length (approx 32-inch arms) will be an issue at left tackle, where he excels for Duke. Many are tipping him to kick inside to play center. What I’d say is this — his performance at tackle is top-level in college football. If he can play as well as he can blocking the blindside, he has the potential to be a star at center and deserves a strong grade (top-40). Jacob Monk, who actually did play center for Duke on Saturday, is also worth keeping in mind. I think he can play anywhere along the interior and deserves early round three consideration.

Theo Johnson (TE, Penn State)
For a player listed at 6-6 and 264lbs, he moves so well. He has a gliding presence running routes and he makes a number of catches appear effortless. He’s very good at adjusting his body to gain a good catching position and he’ll be able to box-out defenders at the next level. Johnson also has soft hands, major blocking potential with his frame and he looks like he has speed to burn. Expect a strong combine. For me, he’s a potential second round pick.

Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama)
I can’t get excited about Turner — and that’s generally how I feel about the entire EDGE class. He looks small and quick and there are flashy moments. Does he look like a dominating edge rusher destined to go early in round one like many are projecting? Not to me. I currently have North Carolina’s Kaimon Rucker rated marginally higher (Rucker has a pass-rush win percentage of 21%, Turner’s at 20.1%). Teammate Justin Eboigbe might lack Turner’s flash but his size intrigues me more and he’ll be available later on.

Jer’Zhan Newton (DE/DT, Illinois)
I think he might best suited to playing 3-4 end but you can’t get away from the fact that he causes consistent, major disruption. Against Wisconsin he was a constant threat, either overpowering blockers to shove them back into the pocket or winning with a twitchy pass-rush move or a stunt. He was eventually ejected from the game for an unfortunate targeting call on a sack but that shouldn’t change how well he played up until that point. Newton’s pass-rush win percentage is 16.7%. He is the most disruptive defensive lineman eligible for the 2024 draft and it’s not really that close. He is a pure playmaker up front who should test well at the combine. Length and size will be monitored, however.

McKinley Jackson (DT, Texas A&M)
The Aggies didn’t play this week but I still wanted to touch on Jackson again, one of my favourites in this class. He’s just a hulking, brutish defensive tackle who equally plays stout and physical but still creates ample pass rush from the interior. He’s a heart and soul leader of the team and would fit perfectly into the Seattle’s D-line rotation. He’s their kind of guy, I think.

Howard Cross (DT, Notre Dame)
You have to give it Cross. As an undersized interior defender he holds his own and consistently finds a way to disrupt plays. His effort and intensity is impressive, he plays with quickness and penetrating ability. Whether he’ll be overwhelmed at the next level at his size is a question mark but there’s a lot to like here and his testing numbers will be interesting. He has a pass rush win percentage of 14.3%.

T’Vondre Sweat (DT, Texas)
Despite his enormous frame (he could stand to lose a few pounds, frankly) Sweat still manages to play a complete brand of football. He can be a stout nose tackle and he can also disrupt more than you’d expect as a pass rusher, registering a highly impressive 19.1% pass rush win percentage so far this year. Supposedly the light switched on for him in 2023 and he’s taking advantage. The talent is obvious. Keep him this motivated and he can be a good player at the next level.

Tyler Davis (DT, Clemson)
He’s kind of a forgotten man in the class really but whenever you watch Clemson’s D-line you do notice him. He’s very active and difficult to block. He might lack the star quality of a Dexter Lawrence or Christian Wilkins but he could make a very solid pro with a round three pick.

Cedric Gray (LB, North Carolina)
Linebacker is one of my least favourite positions to study unless a player shows off a very clear and obvious combination of agility, quickness and violence. I was enamoured with Logan Wilson in 2020 because for me it looked obvious what kind of career he was destined to have. I really liked Fred Warner in 2018. Alternatively, Jarrad Davis — who I also felt very strongly about — has not lived up to expectations. I haven’t seen any linebacker yet to get that excited about apart from Jeremiah Trotter at Clemson (who I really like). I have a block of names graded for early day three (pre-testing, which will change things based on athletic potential which is critical at this position). Gray is the only one between Trotter and the rest, nestled into round three. He can drop well, he fills gaps with a forceful attacking nature. He can shift around the field and tackle. I think he looks like a capable if unspectacular starter.

Jeremiah Trotter (LB, Clemson)
Every time I watch Clemson he seems to do something cool. He’s excellent defending the run, he looks like a good athlete who can drop. He has NFL bloodlines and is a former 5-star recruit. If you think linebacker is a vital need in the off-season and want to invest in the position, Trotter — for me — is a good bet.

Closing thoughts
I’m still struggling to find legit first round players for this draft. I currently have a breakdown of three legit R1 talents (high first round picks), nine other players I’d draft in round one (because you have to take someone) and 35 players marked with round two grades. That’s only 47 players, with 64 set to be taken in the first two rounds. Currently I think the draft is particularly weak at tight end, defensive end and safety. There’s depth at quarterback and defensive tackle. There’s also some good offensive linemen who will be available in the first three rounds. There are still players I need to watch but I’ve not missed anyone being rated highly by anyone else. I can’t say this is currently shaping up to be a deep draft but there’s still plenty of football to be played, not to mention the inevitable impact of the Senior Bowl and combine.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks defeat Cardinals 20-10

Sunday, October 22nd, 2023

This was a mess of a game with a few big positives.

Devon Witherspoon’s crunching hit at the end of the third quarter will be a season highlight. That’s why I love football. That’s what I want to see from a Seahawks defensive player.

To look this good this early in his career is quite a thing for Witherspoon. He was unlucky not to end the day with an interception and a sack (both called back for penalties by other players). The #5 pick was well spent on this playmaking, sparky defensive talent who is setting a tone in a way few players are able to.

He’s not the only rookie playing well. Jake Bobo continues to be a revelation. He can make the big play, the important play, the crucial block. Every team needs a Bobo and the Seahawks played a blinder adding him as an UDFA. I had him graded at the top of round four on my horizontal board this year and still can’t believe he wasn’t selected.

It was good to see Jaxon Smith-Njigba get his first touchdown and provide more of a contribution. We’re yet to see what I’d say are flashy, ‘special’ qualities from JSN but hopefully this game will give him confidence.

The Cardinals are not a good team and they lack proven quality on offense but I thought this was another good display by the defense. The D-line is playing far better than I expected prior to the season starting. They’ll be tested in the coming weeks by some powerhouse opponents but so far they are aggressive, stout and not as easy to play against as they have been in previous years. Boye Mafe has four sacks in as many games, Jarran Reed continues to shine and things are looking up.

All in all, though, it was a dog’s dinner of a game. Arizona are dreadful and deserve to be 1-6 on this evidence. The ‘fake punt’ they ran summed things up, as did their inability to cash-in on three turnovers (scoring just three points after the interception and two fumbles). They had a few moments of inspiration but otherwise look like a rebuilding team starting from scratch.

The Seahawks should’ve coasted to a victory but conspired to make it closer than it needed to be. I suppose you could say that’s been a Pete Carroll staple over the years but it’s never a justification for a stop-start performance.

For me the biggest concern coming out of the game is the offense. They have too many weapons to look this middling. They are inept in the red-zone so far. Geno Smith’s performance warrants another conversation this week.

I spent a lot of time talking about Smith after the Bengals loss and this game today just further illustrated the point that he should be seen as a bridge only. Smith has good physical tools and can make good passes, move the ball and he’s far from a terrible quarterback. Yet he’s still Geno Smith. He’s still the player who has too many turnover-worthy plays. He still makes too many critical errors. He still has fluctuating halves of football, as we’ve seen in all but the Detroit game this season.

The interception was horrible — hesitating when the throw wasn’t there, then throwing it anyway. He was responsible for the fumble, dropping a simple snap. He could’ve easily had a pick-six in the first half too.

I’m not calling for him to be benched or anything. I think if Drew Lock were better he’d probably already be playing. I do think we need to be realistic about Smith, though. He’s an acceptable starter for now. Yet if this Seahawks team ever wants to take the next step and be a true contender — which is a distinct possibility given the talent acquisition over the last two years — they are probably going to need a better quarterback. The aim has to be great and Championship caliber, not merely be good and content with life.

There’s also the cost factor. What we’ve seen through six games, in my opinion, isn’t worth between $31.1m and $41.1m (Smith’s salary next year). Especially not when Seattle’s estimated effective cap space is now at $4.5m for next year, with a decent collection of pending free agents on the team.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting. They play Myles Garrett’s Browns next week, an enormous test. Then it’s Baltimore (A), Washington (H), LA Rams (A), San Francisco (H), Dallas (A), San Francisco (A), Philadelphia (H). We’re going to find out what this team truly is (or isn’t) very quickly.

Curtis Allen’s week seven watch notes (vs Cardinals)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2023

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

This week, the Seahawks face an Arizona team that looks distinctly unfamiliar for a division opponent.

Not only did the Cardinals part ways with Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim this year, the roster looks dramatically different. Stars like J.J. Watt, Markus Golden, DeAndre Hopkins, Isaiah Simmons, A.J. Green and Zach Allen are no longer part of the team.

The two best players on the roster have been on IR since the season started (Kyler Murray and Budda Baker) and running back and offensive rock James Conner will now miss extended time.

This team is seriously lacking in talent.

Knowing a teardown was coming, the organization passed up a shot at one potentially great player (Will Anderson or Anthony Richardson) with the #3 pick in the draft in order to trade down and gather more picks.

The future looks much better than the present does for the Cardinals.

The plucky team that nearly beat the Giants and shocked the Cowboys early in the season has come back down to earth and at 1-5, has been revealed as a team without the skill players to run with teams with playoff aspirations.

Their last three games have been a 19-point loss to the Niners, a 14-point loss to the Bengals and a 17-point loss to the Rams. Each of those teams collected 380 or more yards of offense on the Cardinal defense and have won the turnover battle 5-2 over them in those three games.

As you can guess, Arizona’s defense in particular has been dreadful. They are #28 in yards allowed per game, #27 in scoring per game, #24 in rushing yards and #22 in passing yards allowed. Only a couple of their starting players on defense are currently graded higher than 60 by PFF.

The offense is only slightly better. They are #20 in scoring and #25 in passing yards. They are the #6 team in the NFL in rushing offense – but as we said James Connor is on injured reserve.

They are flat even in turnover differential and are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL.

What happens when you combine a poor defense with a lack of rapid-fire weapons and no turnover or penalty luck? The Cardinals are the NFL’s worst second-half offense, only averaging five points per game in quarters 3/4. The defense is also poor there, ranking #30 by giving up over 16 points per game in the second half. The second half is generally when gameplans have been revealed, teams have adapted and star players make their mark. The Cardinals are just not built to finish games.

When you take all this into account, this should be an easy game for the Seahawks. One that gives the impression that they have regained their footing after wasting a fine defensive effort in a loss last week to the Bengals.

However, there is no lack of questions surrounding the Seahawks. Their offensive line is once again plagued by injuries, as Evan Brown, Jake Curhan and Phil Haynes have been banged up. The combination of injuries to the line and a game plan that did not utilize the tight ends to max protect provided for a frustrating game against the Bengals, one that Geno Smith could not compensate for.

Zach Charbonnet being held out of practice with a sore hamstring is keeping the team from fully deploying their two-headed monster attack in the ground game. And despite back-to-back good performances by the defense, the spectre of a regression is always looming.

It feels like this game could be similar to last year’s Week Six game against the Cardinals, a 19-9 Seahawks win that was comfortable, yet unsatisfying. Kyler Murray rushed for 100 yards in 10 carries but the Cardinals could not execute much when they really needed to and ended up only scoring three points of their own on offense. The other six came from a Michael Dickson fumble for a touchdown. Both teams surrendered more sacks than they would have liked to and the Seahawks had the only offensive touchdown in the game.

Yet truthfully, the Seahawks should have this game well in hand by halftime. How can they do that?

Control the Game with the Offense – Primarily the Running Game

Speaking of halves, what can we learn from the Rams beating the Cardinals last week?

In the first half of the game, the Rams ran the ball a grand total of three times for six yards. That is it. The Rams went into the locker room at halftime down 9-6.

They ended the game with 28 rushes for 179 yards and a touchdown, a meaty 6.39 yards per carry average.

What did the Rams do? Did they employ all kinds of tricks and misdirection? No. They just committed to the run. They came out of the locker room with a mentality, ran the ball right down the Cardinals’ throat. It was a sight to see. Look at it for yourself (the fun starts about 5:25):

The Rams called eight straight running plays and gained 60 yards and capped the drive with a Stafford to Kupp touchdown pass. Just look at Kyren Williams’ run chart for this game by Next Gen Stats:

There is simply no reason the Seahawks cannot do the exact same thing – only, I would advise starting the game that way. Trample this Cardinals defense. Set the terms of the encounter and tell them this is going to be a long day. Turn the tables on the Arizona offense and make them chase you instead of leaving the game up to whether Josh Dobbs has crazy enough legs to pull off a miracle.

The Seahawks are currently running about 22 running back runs per game through five games. Ken Walker is getting 16-17 runs per game. They inexplicably are in the bottom half of the league for running back usage.

That is not enough. The offense is out of synch and sputtering for a number of reasons – the offensive line pass protection has faltered, Geno Smith has been shaky and indecisive at key times and some of the playcalling has been overconfident – but we can all agree that this team should be more run-oriented. Many of those problems tend to be minimized when you can give the ball to your running back and gain 5-6 yards per rush.

Worried about Ken Walker getting hurt, with Zach Charbonnet already nursing a tender hamstring? Get Deejay Dallas the ball and let your offensive line open some holes. I could even see preseason sparkler SaRodorick Thompson getting some touches if things go well.

They have three tight ends who are capable in run blocking, offensive linemen who have scored well in that area and have invested second-round picks in runners in the last two drafts.

It is time to use them.

Bottle Up this Cardinal Offense – Particularly on the Edges

The Cardinals have featured one of the more run-heavier offenses in the league so far, running a 43/57 run/pass split of plays through last week. However, that number is slightly misleading because they deploy Rondale Moore as a sort of ‘line of scrimmage weapon.’ His average depth of reception is a miniscule 1.3 yards beyond the line. Call half of his catches “runs” and they are over 50% in their splits.

Their game on offense is to spread defenses horizontally and then attack the spots that develop. If you are covering all these gaps, you are less likely to get upfield and generate a tackle for loss. This gives Josh Dobbs time on his feet to diagnose the defense and choose whether to throw to Zach Ertz in a soft zone spot, find Hollywood Brown on a crossing pattern, or maybe take a shot downfield to Michael Wilson.

The offense is workable for them as Josh Dobbs is not a classic pocket passer, distributing dimes all over the field. His accuracy ratings are poor. He is a 62.8% completion passer, with an “on target” percentage of only 67.5% and a “bad throw percentage” of 18.3%. Those numbers are at the bottom of the league with players like Kenny Pickett, Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr.

So, what is he good at? Making plays with his legs. He runs about 6-7 designed times a game and frequently picks up first downs with his 5.6 yards per rush average. The Cardinals use his runs as a set part of their offense to loosen up the defense and keep them guessing.

Watch him rip off a 43-yard run against the Cowboys.

It is fun to see Micah Parsons completely fooled and grabbing air. But safety Donovan Wilson (#6) gets drawn into the ruse and leaves the edge completely open for Dobbs to exploit.

He also has no qualms about exploiting the protections afforded quarterbacks in the running game, refusing to go down at the slightest contact.

If he spots a window, he is taking it.

He also is a scrambler, with a bit of early-career Russell Wilson to his game. When the play breaks down, he can hurt you in two ways: finding the man that has uncovered (which requires using his feet while keeping his eyes downfield) and using his speed when lanes open up. He has a league-best 14.5 yards per scramble. As in, a running play that is not designed initially as a run but has broken down and all bets are off.

This will require a great bit of balance on defense by the Seahawks. They will have to maintain their gaps and be strong on the garden-variety runs between the tackles. That’s you, Jarran Reed, Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks.

They will also have to maintain their edges and not get too far upfield or out of position. Boye Mafe, Uchenna Nwosu, Derrick Hall, even Darrell Taylor will have critical roles in this game. Sensing and knowing when to stay home and when to rush the passer will be key.

In case anyone needs a refresher in how to set the edge against the Cardinals…

But the key positions might be Jamal Adams and Devon Witherspoon. They will likely be covering the short passing game and be roaming around the edges in the running game. Also watch for some disguised blitzing from these two. They are quick enough to disrupt Dobbs before he can set up. This game should be a feast for their specific talents and may open up some poorly thrown passes for Quandre Diggs to intercept.

Scouting notes: Michael Penix Jr, Tyler Van Dyke & Drake Maye

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

This has been a slightly elongated week for me in terms of watching tape. The guy who usually produces it got married over the weekend, so today was the first day he published material. I was able to watch Notre Dame vs USC on British TV on Saturday.

I have more to watch in the coming days as more tape is available. For now, here are thoughts on Michael Penix Jr, Drake Maye and Tyler Van Dyke.

Michael Penix Jr vs Oregon

Firstly, Rome Odunze is a first round lock. From the field IQ to the speed, body control, ball-tracking and exceptional character — teams are going to love Odunze and see him as a reliable pro-receiver who will be consistent at the next level. Although this is a quarterback review, I wanted to get that in first.

As I’ve said a few times, Penix probably throws the prettiest passes we’ve seen since Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. His arm talent is exceptional. The first two scores in this game are great examples of this.

The first is a throw from his own 35-yard-line off a pump-fake and he makes it look easy. It’s virtually a hand-off into the end zone because he has the arm to put it on a plate for the receiver, combining velocity with touch. Elite-level arm talent enables you to make throws like this look simple.

The second is a throw from the left hash to essentially the right pylon (near enough) from his own 35-yard-line again. This is a long throw but he could not place it any better. The arm strength means the ball gets there directly and the talent means the placement and loft is spot on. You can’t defend this. The throw and the route by Ja’Lynn Polk are just too good:

The throw I liked the most in this game, however, came with 10:44 remaining. Penix is hit as he throws and still manages to make a 3rd and 8 conversion with a 22-yard dime. Because he’s pressured so infrequently, to see this kind of pass under the most intense pressure was vital for projection and shows he can still be a playmaker with defenders hitting him. He’s off-balance, he knows the hit is coming and he still gets the job done.

He can throw from different angles. Sometimes he trusts his arm too much and can get a little bit lazy with his technique but it’s not a huge issue. There have been a lot of downfield overthrows though. At UW it feels like they just take shots knowing they’ll get the snaps to keep taking chances with his arm. In the NFL, you get fewer shots to make these completions so he’ll need to be more precise at the next level and make the most of the limited downfield opportunities. He’ll need to add a short-game to his driver too and blend both together, if that makes sense.

The interception he had in the game felt like an unfortunate issue due to a stumble by Odunze during his route. I didn’t pin any blame on the QB there.

There’s no doubt he has exciting tools. The counter, as we’ve touched on a lot and will continue to do so through until April, is the scheme, situation and injury history.

With the injuries, all teams will check this out obviously. It’s just part of his college career and prior issues will need to be cleared.

Schematically what he’s doing is completely foreign to the NFL. A lot of QB’s are in the same boat, including C.J. Stroud (who is thriving in Houston). So it doesn’t have to be a huge issue but it’s worth acknowledging.

Penix doesn’t make full reads. He is required to look-off defenders and then come back to the intended target. Half-field reads and throwing to well-schemed open receivers is the order of the day — not throwing into tight, complex windows. There’s a ton of pitch-and-catch that is practically worthless from a pro-evaluation sense because he will not get to do that in the NFL. He’s also worked in this scheme for years, mastering it. He’ll need to start from scratch at the next level. For this reason, there’s a high degree of projection required.

Further to this, he has an excellent left tackle, is barely ever pressured and he’s throwing to NFL receivers against overmatched opponents.

Some teams will be enamoured by the arm talent. His arm is well worth taking a chance on. Jim Nagy mentioned this week on a podcast that Al Davies would’ve taken Penix Jr very early because of the arm. Maybe ‘son of Al’ will do so too for the Raiders? They need a QB. Either way, he will have suitors prepared to draft him early while others will be more sceptical. Personally, I see both sides. Yet Penix Jr’s arm is to die for and I wouldn’t bet against him for that reason.

Penix is the #1 ranked QB per PFF with a 93.4 grade.

Tyler Van Dyke vs North Carolina

TVD’s stock has been a bit of a rollercoaster. From showing great promise two seasons ago, to collapsing last season as Mario Cristobal’s wretched offense infected Miami. Now, things have levelled off and I think we’ve come to learn where his stock rests as a consequence.

Van Dyke is big, strong and makes some really nice throws. He also isn’t that creative and while he can execute within structure to a high level at times, there isn’t any special creativity or improv — which feels increasingly necessary to be a first round pick.

He did have a beautiful throw on a wheel route up the left sideline for a touchdown. He was hammered at the 45-yard-line by a defender but still delivered a perfectly weighted throw with pinpoint accuracy 35/40-yards downfield, allowing the receiver to catch it in stride and score. It’s a really nice play:

The other side was on show too in this game. Van Dyke threw an ugly interception in the third quarter, dropping back to his own five-yard-line while not noticing the sitting defender under-cutting the route. The linebacker read the play easily and the quarterback never saw him lurking even though it looked fairly obvious on tape. He locked on to his target and didn’t move off him. It’s a bad, basic error and cost his team seven points.

He had an excellent fourth and 10 throw — a pro-throw — for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. We see a good throwing base, he reads the route well, he places the football exactly where it needs to go right down the line and it was into tight coverage. This is another excellent example of what he can do.

Van Dyke had another late touchdown with 2:22 remaining where he set perfectly, saw the 1v1 outside and lofted a beautifully timed pass downfield from his own 45-yard-line. The ball flew about 35-40 yards downfield for a receiver to catch in stride for a touchdown.

He wasn’t elusive when UNC brought pressure and he can be leaden-footed when contained in the pocket. He’s not a slouch as an athlete. He can do a bootleg perfectly well and when he has to get on the move to extend plays, he can. Yet the NFL is increasingly looking for a young QB who can either scramble around to create or can be adept with their footwork to extend within the pocket. That isn’t TVD.

I think he’s a classic day two quarterback pick. He’s big, strong and has a decent arm. He’s not a bad athlete for his size but not particularly creative or elusive either. He lacks the magical qualities to go higher but there’s a little glitz to some of his throws. Someone will take a shot, I think, in round two or three with the hope that he can become a reasonable starter, while probably knowing he’s unlikely to be elite.

He is PFF’s fifth ranked QB with an impressive 91.5 grade.

Drake Maye vs Miami

I feel like the only person who ever says anything non-gushing about Maye. Twitter was awash all weekend with nonsense about him going before Caleb Williams. That would be nuts. Williams had a carless performance against Notre Dame and it might act as a useful kick up the backside, given reports today that he might seek an ownership percentage in his first contract (come on). However, he is clearly also so unbelievably talented and the rightful #1 pick next year.

Maye is an intriguing player too but this idea that he’s a top-five lock is hard to fathom.

He should’ve thrown an interception on his first possession. Maye felt pressure on his own 20-yard-line and tried to escape but couldn’t. Thus, he just lobbed the ball up for grabs and two defenders got in each others’ way — with a linebacker tipping it away from the grateful hands of a DB, who was about to make the pick. It’s a huge error by the quarterback and we do see moments like this. Maye pushes his luck and sometimes gets away with it but sometimes doesn’t. The NFL won’t be so forgiving.

This play the week prior was a good example. It ended up being a touchdown but could’ve easily been a horrible interception on a lousy throw behind the receiver, who bails Maye out:

Back to the Miami game and he bounced back on the next drive, scrambling to his left and throwing across his body while delivering a perfect throw to an open receiver down the left sideline. These are the two contrasts with Maye. The creativity and improv to make big things happen but also the risk-taking and frustrating, avoidable mistakes that are also a part of his game.

He scrambles well for his size and can be a plus runner. When he plays within structure he’s very good at letting things develop and executing. He has the arm to fit the ball into tight windows across the middle. There are no physical limitations here. However, sometimes the head and the body aren’t necessarily co-operating.

He threw wildly with 1:15 left in the first half and completely missed the receiver, almost throwing it straight to a defender. There were some inaccurate throws and some avoidable sacks too.

A deep-shot touchdown to Tez Walker was badly played by the last defender who jumped too early and once he didn’t tip the (slightly under-thrown) pass, it was a simple TD. On Walker’s next score, it was awful coverage leaving him wide open across the middle, then a missed tackle enabled him to find the end zone with YAC.

Maye clearly has appealing tools — size, arm and mobility. He’s a very solid prospect who will find a home in round one. I still think some of the hype is over the top. He’s a good, fascinating player who deserves to be praised as a prospect. The idea he could go before Caleb Williams, though, simply isn’t true.

For what it’s worth, Maye is the 16th ranked QB per PFF with an 85.6 grade.

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