Cassius Marsh could be Seattle’s next day three diamond

Cassius Marsh could be the next big steal in Seattle

Cassius Marsh might be my favourite pick from Seattle’s 2014 draft class. We’ll get onto why in a moment. First there’s this…

Justin Britt #68

Cassius Marsh #91

Kevin Norwood #81

Eric Pinkins #39

Paul Richardson #10

I’m not sure if this is deliberate or not, but these are the roster numbers issued to some of the rookies. Britt has been given Breno Giacomini’s old number, Marsh gets Chris Clemons’ #91, Norwood will sport Golden Tate’s #81 and Pinkins gets Brandon Browner’s #39.

Richardson gets the #10 jersey — the same as DeSean Jackson. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Obviously there’s no way of confirming if this is some kind of motivational tool to the class of 2014. Either way it’s a nice touch. It’ll be ever nicer if the Seahawks can find the new Gicomini/Clemons/Tate/Browner/Jackson from this group.

Let’s get into Marsh. I had to do him next because of all the videos I’ve watched since the draft, his play stood out the most.

He might have Clemons’ number, but he looks like a very different player. I doubt the Seahawks plan to turn him into a LEO. He can play end, but he’s really effective working inside. He’s a really versatile rusher and will probably line up in multiple different looks.

And there’s so much to like about his play.

I had to go back and double check his bench press number from the combine. Fourteen reps? Seriously? Because on tape you’d never guess it. He’s a strong dude. I’m not sure what he weighed in 2012 but he held his own working inside — more so than 2013 when I believe he dropped weight. He has strong hands, he holds his position and doesn’t get pushed around. He can disengage and work to the ball carrier. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Marsh is what he can do when he builds that core strength. If he can get even stronger, watch out.

Part of the excitement is built around his already sound hand technique. Sometimes I think it’s a major advantage to not be an elite speed rusher in college. If you just consistently beat guys off the edge with speed you don’t really have to develop your technique. If you’re jumping snaps and rounding the corner to be effective — what are you really learning? At the next level it’s so much harder to do. Tackles are quicker and stronger. You need to be able to mix it up, get off a block, counter. There’s been so many first round defensive end busts in recent years and in nearly every case it’s an athlete with little technique who just can’t adapt.

Marsh is a 4.89 runner at 252lbs, so he doesn’t have blazing long speed. He had a 1.66 ten-yard split — the same as Kony Ealy. It’s a pretty good get off but nothing special. Marcus Smith — a first rounder — had a 1.57. Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack both had 1.56’s. Smith and Mack both weighed 251lbs at the combine, while Clowney was 266lbs. You can see why he went first overall and the difference between the first and fourth rounds right there.

(Incidentally, Jackson Jeffcoat had a 1.60 ten yard split in the one forty he ran at the combine. He managed that at 247lbs.)

In college Marsh had to find other ways to be effective. He couldn’t rely on pure speed.

Hand technique is the #1 underrated characteristic in defensive ends for me. It doesn’t get talked about enough. You need a few strings to your bow. Cliff Avril is an exceptional pass rusher because he has 4.51 speed off the edge and he’s also incredibly strong with good hands. He can bull rush, he can get off a block. He can swim and rip. He sets up blockers and you really see him convert speed to power. He has a great lateral pursuit. He’s close to the perfect package.

Marsh will never have Avril’s burst but he’s well on the way to ticking the other boxes. His hand placement is excellent — whether it’s gaining leverage working inside, setting up for a club/rip off the edge or just using power to shove a lineman into the pocket. He loves a scrap — he loves to initiate contact and win 1v1 battles. Even when he over extends and stretches, he seems to generate a fair amount of power. Again, if he can get even stronger you could be looking at a really special player.

You’ve got to love his motor which never stops. When the play isn’t coming right at him, he’ll disengage and go looking for the ball carrier. He doesn’t seem to tire easily and he keeps going. You can tell he loves the game, loves the competition. He constantly plays on the edge of what’s legal — he’s pretty much the Breno Giacomini of defense. He’ll take some frustrating penalties but in the grand scheme of things he’s having an impact.

Out of all the day three picks Seattle made on Saturday — Marsh is the one that I’m most looking forward to watching during the pre-season. When he gets pro-guidance and can concentrate exclusively on development, he could make immediate and drastic improvements to what was already a pretty solid college career. It’s going to be hard work. He didn’t look in great shape at the combine despite slimming down to 252lbs. He could gain another 10-15lbs and look better for it. If he’s prepared to put in the graft he could be an exciting player.

Arizona State (2012)

There are two big plays in this game that really show what Marsh is all about. The main one comes at 3:06. He’s lined up over the A gap, initiates contact with the left guard and drives him into his own end zone. The quarterback senses the pressure immediately and panics — Marsh disengages from the guard and closes in on the sack/safety. The QB desperately tries to get rid of the football and throws an interception, turning the ball over in his own red zone.

Marsh didn’t record a stat for this play but it was all on him. Brute power to drive back the guard, the ability to disengage and force the mistake/turnover. This is brilliant, textbook interior rush play — befitting any of the top three techniques. It’s not always about pure speed and exploding through gaps — in the NFL you need plays like this where you just win in combat.

At 0:26 we see another example where he keeps his feet moving to drive back the center into the quarterback, again collapsing the pocket. He shows active, violent hands. I’m a sucker for interior rush plays like this where you drive the lineman back into his own QB. Speed’s fun to watch, but this is just a great exhibition of power and flat out wanting it more. It’s about desire.

Look at those two plays and remember this is a 14-reps guy on the bench. Now imagine what a summer in the weight room at the VMAC could lead to.

It’s not just about power either. Look at the quick hands at 4:12 and 5:03. If you want to see Marsh’s daft penalty for the game, head to 4:30 for a late hit out of bounds. He plays almost the entire game inside and doesn’t get blown up until 5:16 on 4th and 1 — a situation he wouldn’t face at the next level (not working inside, anyway).

I watched two other games — New Mexico from 2013 and Houston from 2012. It’s not all great. When he played at a lighter weight last season he didn’t appear to be quite as stout in the middle. He’s not an explosive edge rusher — he’s more of an effort and motor guy. He’s never going to be Clemons working the edge and putting up 11-12 sacks a year.

But the Seahawks have got something to work with here. Something to really develop. A player who can work against the run off the edge, who will provide some pressure at end. A player who can slip inside and hold his own while providing some pocket-collapsing ability even on early downs.

Yet more than anything he’s just a fantastic competitor. A really sparky, zoned in brawler who isn’t scared to mix it up. He could develop into another strong leader and personality for this defense. This first summer is vital though. If he can improve physically and put in some big work in the weight room — you could see an impact even in year one as part of the rotation. He has to make the most of every day leading into camp.

Providing he does this — if I was putting money on the next day three diamond this team uncovers, it’d go on Marsh.

And oh yeah, he can even take the occasional snap on offense too as a red zone receiver/tight end.


  1. Arias

    Awesome. Yeah, from his interview it sounds like he really could use some direction with regards to diet and targeting his ideal playing weight, as that seems to be key to getting the max out of him. He mentioned how he had to be careful about what to eat because of limited funds but how that shouldn’t be an issue anymore. Hoping the strength trainer and dietitians get hooked up with him immediately and give him a concrete daily agenda so he can be optimally ripped and at his ideal weight in time for camp.

  2. Steve Nelsen

    Great analysis, Rob. I am looking forward to your write-ups on the other guys.

    And now I am looking forward to watching Marsh play. Thank you.

  3. Mark

    OK, he’s not going to be running down Kaepernick from behind. Bradford and Palmer, however, will be like sitting ducks.

    • Michael M.

      Love it.

      • Michael M.

        And as far as running down Kaepernick from behind… That’s what Cliff Avril is for.

        • Troy

          Running down Kaep and Newton… No prob, unleash Bruce Irvin

          • SHawn

            Or Wagner. I love this Defense.

  4. Kelly Orr

    I like Marsh alot but i think Kevin Pierre-Louis is the one i will have my eye on the most. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ken Norton turns him into something special. Having a scout compare him to Navarro Bowman is promising as well.

    • bigDhawk

      Agreed. I think KPL is the best player taken outside the first round by anyone in our division. Knowing we would miss out on Shazier, I really wanted KPL as a 1A option that is not that far of a drop off. I think he will be special.

      • CHawk Talker Eric

        I wanted Shazier so badly because an uber-athlete like him could’ve transformed the front 7 the way ET transformed the LOB. But I knew there was no way SEA would get him.

        So to come out of this draft with KPL, who is almost Shazier’s twin physically and athletically, to me is a major score. His smaller stature might make it tough for him to take on and shed blockers, but with a MIKE and FS as fast as Wagner and ET, all KPL needs to do when being run at is contain the edge and drive the play back to the middle of the field.

        He has the look of a special teams standout, and if he can develop some coverage skills, he could very well be the best pick of this draft for the Hawks.

    • JeffC

      This is the dude I’ll be watching as well.

      • Ben2

        Yeah, I’m excited about him too after watching some video after he got drafted.

  5. Sam Jaffe

    I really like his discipline as a pass rusher. He keeps his gaps filled even when pushing the lineman back. That’s crucial to the Seahawks defense: blindly rushing the passer while leaving holes for play action is not an option. He seems much more likely to fill a Michael Bennett role than a LEO role. Which means that Jeffcoat better be spectacular or the defense is one Cliff Avril injury away from having a huge hole in it.

    • Kelly Orr

      Sure they would move Irvin to that role if Clemons was hurt.

      • Michael (CLT)

        You mean Avril :). Or you’re a Jags fan… Which I am becoming.

      • SHawn

        Mayowa looked really good last year too.

  6. House

    Marsh is an interesting player. Prior to the draft I heard a few folks refer to him as a Poor man’s Jared Allen. I’m good with that…

    If he could get/stay at 270-275, he’ll be fine. He will not be our LEO, but he can back Bennett or play inside on blitz downs. Very high motor and intensity. I’m excited about his future in this DEF

  7. bigDhawk

    Marsh could end up being a Justin Smith-type player for us once he settles into a defined role – an extremely physical, disruptive interior mauler who knows how and when to hit below the belt and make everyone else around him much better. I’ll take that in the 4th round.

    • JeffC

      …and maybe he’ll learn how to hold as well as Justin does so that KPL gets the sack.

      • bigDhawk


  8. SC

    Good friend of mine is director of football operations at UCLA. Said marsh could be an amazing nfl talent.

    Couldn’t stop talking about his potential and how good he’s going to be.

  9. Frank_MTL

    I’m intrigued by Marsh too. Since he was bigger earlier in his college career (he could maybe go up to 280-290 lbs), I’m wondering if he could play a similar role as Red Bryant on the outside while being more “active” (for all the good things big Red did, he didn’t offer much pass rush…). I could see him, Scruggs and maybe Williams giving a nice competitive trio (with each guy having his own skill set) at the 5-tech for Dan Quinn. If one of those guys emerges, it could really give us a great rotation with Bennett.

    As you said a few times Rob, Bryant might not be replaced by a similar type of player. His loss could nonethess have an impact on our ability to stop the run (which from time to time has been a slight weakness). Marsh could be good at setting the edge (it’s something that has been mentionned a few times about him), “sniffing” the run and provide some pass rush occasionally. Then again, as the tape showed, he could be more disruptive inside…

  10. CC

    Thanks Rob – great stuff once again! Do you think he’ll redshirt this year or get some action?

    • Rob Staton

      If he gets busy in the weight room he could feature this year.

      • CC

        Thanks! I love football and the Seahawks! Can’t wait to see how this team comes together!

        • RJ

          2nd that! You know with his motor he is probably pumping iron right now. What a beast!

          • xo 1

            Not pick, but my thought was the opposite – why would he wait until after the draft to get busy in the weight room? Obviously the light bulb can go on at different times for different players, but it’s difficult to believe the UCLA football team didn’t have available a more-than-adequate weight room and training table. Love the attitude but I have reservations. Maybe the change in environment will spark him.

            • Arias

              Because he’s unsure as to what his ideal playing weight is? The team that drafts him might be expected to offer him better guidance on that. Plus he mentioned how he really didn’t have the funds to eat well though now that’s not going to be an issue anymore. If he’s down to 251 right now and it’s determined they want him playing at 275 then adding 24 pounds will require some heavy eating and training too. It sounds like he was scraping by prior.

              • xo 1

                I hear but I find it hard to believe that there is an inadequate training table at UCLA. I do acknowledge that Mora talked about his weight fluctuation in his discussion with Softy and it does sound as if dropping down was a conscious decision. I may be hearing what I want to hear, but it did sound as if there is reason to believe Marsh is looking for direction. Sort of a “how high” kind of guy.

  11. Michael (CLT)

    He is Jared Allen. Jared Allen measureables and overall style are Marsh. They should take 91 and give him 69.

    • JeffC

      Just out of curiosity does anyone know what Jared Allen did at his combine?

      • shams

        He cracked some fart jokes, humped a traffic cone and did a keg stand.

        • William&Polly

          Ha ha, shams you crazy.

    • bigDhawk

      I don’t think he’ll be the outside player Allen is. If he settles into a weight around 290 I see him being more of a Justin Smith comp, as I mentioned above.

      • williambryan

        Is it a coincidence that you guys are comparing Marsh, a white DL, to probably the best two white DL in the NFL…? Come on… we can do better than that.

        • Rob Staton

          Michael Bennett might be a better comp. Could be very similar.

        • Colin

          Please don’t bring up the feaux morally superior ideologue regarding race, go read Peter King’s stuff if you want that.

  12. Michael (CLT)

    Is that Bitonio he is ripping past?

    • Michael M.

      I think it’s Kyle Roberts.

    • Rob Staton

      Bitonio wore #70 at Nevada.

  13. Brincke

    Could Marsh maybe be a M. Bennett-like player? With the ability to play both inside and out?

    As for the LEO-position, I think that J. Jeffcoat could be a prospect to keep an eye on, similar build to Clemons, a decent ten yard spilt (1.60) and an overall SPARQ around 120?

    • Rob Staton

      Marsh can definitely be similar to Bennett.

      As for Jeffcoat — he needs a lot of work. Lots of college production but not a lot of great tape.

    • Darnell

      It may seem silly to say, especially given Jeffcoat’s pedigree at that University – but I am actually more hyped for year two of Mayowa.

      I believe his measurables and testing was all very similar to that of Clemons when Clem came went UDFA out of Georgia. Mayowa also registered pressures o Newton against Jordan Gross in his only regular season action.

    • plyka

      I don’t see any comparison between Bennett and Marsh. On the field Bennet is like a bolt of lightening. I still remember a superbowl play where a Denver receiver (i think it was an RB) caught the ball on the outside, after an 8 yard gain you see this blur come from behind and pounce –it was Bennet. No way in the world Marsh can match that type of quickness and speed, he just lacks the physical tools to be a Bennett in my opinion.

  14. phil

    As a UCLA alum, I watched the Bruins whenever I could. IMHO, Marsh and Zumwalt were responsible for much of Barr’s production. Marsh broke down the pocket and flushed the QB and then Barr used his speed to run the guy down. Marsh will be Jim Mora’s only gift to the Seahawks.

    • Darnell

      To be fair to Mora, the speed and efficiency in which he sucked the life out of the organization hastened the arrival of Pete and John. No telling if you can land those two 1-2 years later.

  15. EranUngar

    A few words on Marsh –

    Immediatly after the draft i labeled March as the most “seahawky” pick in the group. I described him as a Breno plus in attitude and the type of player that will have a penalty flag with his name on it.

    This is the best pick of the draft IMO. It’s not only about what he can do, it’s about what he can make others do. His phisical shortcomings like speed and core strengh are a part of it.

    When you get a Clowney with his obvious superior athletic capabilies others may look up to him to get it done. When you get a March playing his heart and body out on every snap all the way to whistle and beyond without the obvious phisical advantages. When your teammate is playing like his hair is on fire and is clearly giving 110% on each and every play it makes you want to play harder beside him. It makes you feel you should do at least as good or better then he does. You don’t take a snap off when this guy plays besides you.

    I agree that pro training will improve his phisicality. I’m know he will learn how to play on an NFL level and be a contributor himself. What makes him special IMO is that he is the type of player that makes others play better besides him.

    His body may not be high on the SPARQ table but his heart is right at the top.

  16. EranUngar

    The OL is the classic “all for one” group. All must perform cohesively to achieve their mutual goal. The DL is the classic “one for all” group. It only takes one of them to make it to the QB to achieve their goal. It’s players like March that enhance a pack mentality in such group and that contribution does not appear in the stats.

    • CC

      Great analogy!

  17. lenert

    Flashes of Kevin Greene.

  18. Headband

    Question to the group.

    Rob lauds Marsh for his technique, which he says may prove his saving grace due to measurables that don’t blow the roof off.

    Would you say that Bruce Irvin is the opposite? Rob writes: “There’s been so many first round defensive end busts in recent years and in nearly every case it’s an athlete with little technique who just can’t adapt.”

    I know that Irvin isn’t considered a bust, not even a DE anymore. But given where he was taken in the draft, is he someone who would benefit from greater technique? My question with him is whether he is someone who might not be able to adapt. If it’s that hard to learn technique as an older player, Marsh would certainly seem to have a lot of upside.

    • Colin

      Irvin did not get many opportunities to rush the passer last season. Why, I have no idea, but his game was mostly to spy QB’s and play coverage. He got very little time as a blitzer.

      • AlaskaHawk

        Irving plays better as a linebacker with an occasional blitz. I doubt that he will ever be on the line again. He is more a threat when you don’t know he is rushing.

  19. Darnell

    I remember the first time he caught me attention.

    He was an underclassman playing in the interior, and if I had to guess, he was playing at around 270-280. Thought he looked like a 2nd round prospect (1st round impact, if not for the tweener size) and the player that came to mind was Michael Bennett, who was playing for the Bucs at the time.

    I am really excited about this pick if the Hawks are smart enough to have him play at a a similar size and in a similar role as Bennett.

    Get-off, motor, and technique has made really good players out of guys with a lot less to offer than Marsh.

    His personality, which is pretty much the opposite of a wilting wallflower, is the only way to survive in that defensive room anyway.

  20. Clayton

    Rob, I noticed on the film that ASU scored twice (4:11 and 5:22) on screens that went to Marsh’s side. Is this a weakness in his game that ASU exploited, or were these plays that weren’t his fault?

    • Rob Staton

      He played inside so for me not his fault at all.

  21. hawkfaninMT

    But can he dance between plays when the Clink is rocking?

  22. plyka

    This must be one of the few selections that they don’t look at physical traits and look more towards the mental aspect of the game. His motor, tenacity, etc. The reason I say this is because I remember Marsh at the combine –I thought he was a weak physical specimen. He doesn’t have the quicks or the strength. When you get outbenched by QBs and WRs, you know there may be an issue.

    I wouldn’t have selected Marsh AT ALL in this draft, before I saw the HAwks pick him. Now I’m hoping that there was something else that they saw and loved that I don’t see.

  23. Ben

    I watched the video and I didn’t see a whole lot to get excited about personally. At least, not when I compared to what I saw from Hill last year after the draft.

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