Cassius Marsh off to a fast start

More than anything, this is what I wanted to see at the start of training camp: Cassius Marsh fitting right in straight away.

This is just my personal preference, but the two things I want to see in a pass rusher is get off/speed and hand technique.

The speed aspect is pretty obvious. You need it if you’re going to work the edge and compete against increasingly mobile quarterbacks. It’s not just about the pass rush either — the QB’s move around so much more these days you also need to contain and work against the read-option. DE’s and linebackers have to be faster and smarter.

The thing is, it can’t just be about speed. Too many college DE’s dominate a college tackle on speed alone and look great doing it. Then they make the step up to the pro’s and suddenly the speed doesn’t have the same impact. NFL tackles are quicker, bigger and stronger. You need a counter, you need a repertoire. You can’t rely on just being quick off the edge.

How many athletic DE busts have there been in the last 10 years? Pass rushers who look great flying off the edge and rounding the tackle. Then they get into the league and can’t make it happen. Sometimes being a little slower in college helps because you’re FORCED to work on technique. Speed is not the be-all and end-all.

Hand use is so important. You need to be able to engage and get off a block. If you’re relying on speed what are you doing? The same edge rush time after time with the occasional stunt inside?

If you can engage contact and release effectively, you’re just making life harder for an OT. They’ll take awkward angles, it might draw a guard into a double team. They can’t just set, kick-slide and mirror over and over again. Edge speed is great — but it’s even better with strong hands and the ability to get off a block.

When I studied Marsh after the draft (you can read the full article here) — he showed excellent technique. He isn’t a burner (4.89 speed) and it’s clear he’s had to work on other aspects of his game to compensate. Here’s a quote from that piece:

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.

The Seahawks need another pass rusher. They didn’t just lose Chris Clemons this year, they also lost Clinton McDonald. Cliff Avril is a free agent in 2015. The defensive line is the one area Carroll and John Schneider haven’t had the midas touch in the draft. They’ve relied on veterans.

Marsh could break that duck.

He can work inside or out, he’s naturally strong and the extra weight gain will help here. He’s another Michael Bennett type of rusher. The Seahawks had a lot of success at the end of last season rushing Clemons, Avril and Bennett on obvious passing downs. It’d be a shame to lose such an aggressive and potent attack — and Marsh has an opportunity to fill the gap left by Clemons in these types of situations.

San Francisco and St. Louis both sport elite pass rushing units. Arizona has one of the best overall defenses in the NFL. Seattle’s defense is also right up there, but if they want to stay at #1 they’ll need the pass rush to continue to prosper. And that means some of the younger guys such as Marsh need to have an impact.

It’s early days but so far, so good.


  1. James

    Even with the best draft room in the league, it took the Seahawks four years to construct a championship team, and in just one year you can lose enough key pieces to be knocked off, unless you can restock. Cassius Marsh is a key component, and you could almost see the glee on Pete and John when they selected him in R4….next to QB, pass rush skills are the most difficult to find, and if Marsh continues his trajectory, he might well move ahead of Mayowa and Irvin to fill Clem’s spot, and you need all three elite rushers (Avril, Bennett, Clem/Marsh?) to shut down the elite QBs like Manning, Brees, et al.

    …what we also need to see is someone emerge at RT. We are hearing/reading that Britt looks really good in the run game, but is being dusted by guys like Avril. No surprise there, because even an all-SEC OT doesn’t face all-pro DEs, so Britt is on a huge learning curve. I wonder, like others, whether Bailey should start the season at RT, allowing Russell Wilson time to throw the ball?

    • Ben2

      Yeah, that RT spot is worrisome. I didn’t like Bowie there last year (not quick enough to play tackle it appeared IMO). I like Bowie better at guard….without some better O-line play this year I’m worried that Russel might not survive playing the Rams twice.

  2. Steve Nelsen

    There was so much attention on Marshawn’s holdout that it is nice to talk about one of the more positive early developments. Marsh is building on his positive OTAs and minicamp. He could be the second interior rusher next to Bennett in the NASCAR package or maybe the LEO replacement for Clemons.

    There were a couple other notes from the start of camp that got lost in the Marshawn Lynch holdout:
    1. Rookie Eric Pinkins had a Lisfranc injury and is on the PUP list and will be out 4-6 weeks. I thought he had a great chance to make the team on the basis of his special teams play but I think he is probably going to go on IR and get red-shirted for the season.
    2. Korey Toomer (hamstring) and Bruce Irvin (hip surgery) were on the PUP list.
    3. Russell Okung (toe surgery), Kam Chancellor (hip surgery) and Malcom Smith (ankle surgery) were all held out of the first practice but were medically cleared and expected to start practicing any day.

  3. Steve Nelsen

    A few other early training camp notes:

    Jermaine Kearse looks really good. Another step forward for him. Paul Richardson is really fast but he is a rookie. The speed flashes but he has a lot to learn. Phil Bates is playing better than I expected and is in the early mix for the 6th wide receiver spot.

    No signs of clarity yet on who is returning punts.

    My optimism about seeing Okung, Chancellor or Malcolm Smith practicing “any day” was probably a bit premature. Those guys are doing non-contact stuff but Pete Carroll says they will be cautious with all three.

    James Carpenter looks as good as anyone could have hoped. The early optimism that he could have a breakout year continues.

    • Bjammin

      Nice info Steve. Cheers rob. Some of Pete’s comments on marsh during Ota’s sounded a lot like some of their previous unheralded studs. Can’t wait to see how he fits in and develops.

  4. bigDhawk

    To me, Clem was our biggest loss during the off-season (McDonald a very close second) and LEO was the biggest hole to fill on our roster. After the draft and free agency I was not thrilled about any of our options, including Marsh, for 2014 at this position – at least how we have known it to function since Clem has been here. So this is perhaps a little bit of good that LEO may not be a complete vacuum, though I’m still in wait-and-see mode. I’m thinking that with the departure of both Red and Clem, our D-Line scheme will be different in 2014 and the LEO position will look different as well.

    • Steve Nelsen

      I didn’t mention it in my earlier posts but Benson Mayowa looked good in the practices. I hope it wasn’t just Britt struggling that made Marsh and Mayowa look like legit LEOs. Jeffcoat hasn’t had the same level of success so I am inclined to believe in Marsh and Mayowa.

      I was reminded of a conversation last year between Bennett and Red Bryant about who was “next up” in the D-Line and they said Benson Mayowa was a future star. He flashed in preseason last year.

      For all the talk about Britt and Bowie competing for the starting RT spot, that hasn’t materialized. Bowie showed up a bit overweight to minicamp and now he tweaked his shoulder so he has been disappointing. Britt got some positive comments for his minicamp play but he has looked overmatched in camp. The guy who has looked pretty good so far is Alvin Bailey playing LT for Okung. I could see him getting added to the RT battle when Okung starts practicing.

  5. Adog

    I’m curious to see if they change their base defense from last year. Red Bryant was a unique player… Not sure if he’s easily replaced…I’ll say the same is true of Clemons . They both were above average in run defense and set the edge efficiently. I could see our Sam and will lbs being asked to do more on helping the dends setting the edge this year. I think that was where the Quinn defense evolving to last year.

    • Steve Nelsen

      Carroll and Quinn were both asked that question and they both said no. They have Bennett pegged to start at Red’s 5-technique which is certainly a different look on early downs but they think he can set the edge against the run and provide a bit of pass rush that Red didn’t have. That may be true but Bennett was so valuable inside on the NASCAR package last year and I can’t imagine that he will play 75% of the snaps.

      Scruggs and Jesse Williams have the size and I expect that one of them will earn time at the run-down 5T spot if they can stay healthy. There was talk that Kevin Williams could also be in the mix for that role when he was signed.

  6. David M

    I’m hearing good reports out of camp that the redshirted D tackles. Hill and Williams are looking good. Williams is constantly finding his way into the backfield, and hill has a strong interior pass rush just like that of McDonald.

    As stated before nickel D line looks like Avril Bennett Hill Mayowa/ Irvin when he is healthy..

    And many has Said Kevin Williams May be well on his way in replacing Tony McDaniel starting spot on the base defense.

    Other reports of Sherman is playing in “god mode” he is so in tune to what is going on, he can read everything and is at the top of his game mental and physical wise.

    Simony also taking reps on Maxwells side, fight for that CB position??

    • David M


    • Dan

      Simon’s competing with Maxwell? Now that IS a good sign. I saw an insiders article right after the superbowl that Maxwell could be the next big FA (he’s on his contract year). I don’t pay for ESPN insider but that headline both excited and worried me.

      • James

        No matter how well Maxwell plays this season, it seems very unlikely the Seahawks would sign him. They simply cannot afford to tie up even more money in the LOB. Too many needs elsewhere to maintain a balanced roster….big $$ about to go to QB, LB and maybe DE. Tharold Simon appears to be next man up.

  7. HD

    I know we haven’t heard much about him this year…but it will be interesting to see if Brooks an UFDA from last year get another look in the pre-season…he started a game last year on the D Line and looked good…I really like the idea of giving Bailey a shot at RT when Okung returns…he is much better at pass protection that Bowie or Britt…and he also has some experience from 2013

  8. CC

    Give Marsh time working with the other guys and Quinn/D-line coaches, he’s going to be really good!

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