If Bjoern Werner slips, would the Seahawks catch him?

Those arms are a lot stronger than they look.

I usually wait until around December before I start scouting prospects.  Werner was one of the first I watched, and he quickly shot to the top of my draft board.  At the time, he was considered a mid first round prospect.  By the Senior Bowl, he had vaulted into “top five lock” status.

I’m not sure what happened after that.  Reports from NFL scouts began surfacing, saying that they viewed Werner as being just okay.  Good, but not special.  Mike Mayock stated that he didn’t think Werner would be a top ten pick.  Insiders reported that scouting opinions on Werner were polarized.  And all of this occurred before February’s NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Dion Jordan and Ezekial Ansah had two of the more over-rated combine performances in recent memory, posting much slower times in drills than guys like Von Miller or Bruce Irvin in recent years.  But even a 4.6 forty looks pretty electric in this pass rusher class, where big names like Werner and Moore were big disappointments.  Werner ran a 4.81 time, which is actually slower than defensive tackle Datone Jones (4.80).  Jones’ had a superior 10 yard split as well.

This can’t help Werner’s draft stock, especially as Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah are rocketing up boards.  Barkevious Mingo seems to be holding steady as a mid first rounder.  Russ Lande’s most recent mock even has Corey Lemonier going 15th overall.  I can’t help but think that the sudden rise of undeveloped athlete pass rushers and the decline of the slower more physical pass rushers is a sign that the league has noticed what Seattle is doing.

It might help Werner that Jarvis Jones is tanking as well on account of his medical status, and Damontre Moore has been exposed as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect.  That might be enough to keep Werner in the top 20 picks or so.  But what if it’s not?

In terms of teams that need pass rushers at defensive end, there only so many of them, and most of them pick very early.  Sharrif Floyd, Ziggy Ansah, and Dion Jordan all look like top five candidates.  The Jets need a pass rusher at #9, but they run a 3-4 defense and Werner would be an oddball for most 3-4 defenses.  The Titans run a 4-3 defense and might pursue a defensive end, but they have needs all over the place.  The Saints need pass rush help, but are converting to a 3-4 defense.  Then you have the Steelers, who also run a 3-4 but have a history of drafting bigger, slower 3-4 outside linebackers like James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Jason Worilds.  Werner going to the Steelers could make some sense, but as a player who would have to transition to playing standing up instead of on all fours, not to mention that he runs like a fast defensive tackle, even they might pass.

After that you have the Colts, maybe.  Again, a 3-4 defense.  Seattle would then be next at #25.  If teams don’t have a first round grade on Werner as a 3-4 outside linebacker, he could end up a surprise faller on draft day, all the way to Seattle’s pick.

Now comes part two of this discussion:  would Seattle draft Werner?  That poses an interesting question.  I’m not sure if they would.

Seattle drafted Bruce Irvin who ran an official 4.50 forty.  Pete Carroll raved about Irvin’s speed and even called him the “ideal LEO,” a statement he probably wouldn’t have repeated immediately after the Falcon’s game.  Regardless, Pete’s choice of words seemed to indicate that he puts a premium on speed with his pass rush prospects.  Seattle also drafted Dexter Davis who clocked a 4.62 forty and Jameson Konz.  Konz ran a 4.41 forty time and was eventually moved to LEO before being released.

On the other hand, Chris Clemons is probably slower today than he was as a 23 year old 236 pound linebacker coming out of Georgia, and even that Chris Clemons only managed a 4.68.  Raheem Brock had a career year in our system with 10 sacks (including playoffs) during the 2010 season.  Depending on which website you ask, he either ran either a 4.74 or a 4.91.  And it’s probably safe to assume he wasn’t quite that fast during his age 32 season.  Werner’s speed is probably in the neighborhood of both these guys, and both had great success in our system.

Werner looks every bit of his 4.81 time when in coverage or pursuit, but his burst off the snap is at an elite level despite that.  Werner often plays in a four point stance and he uses that stance to coil his body for maximum explosion on the snap.  Werner is a bit of a one trick pony in that he is at his best as a basic edge rusher, and is not as special when trying to spin inside or stunt.  Werner combines an explosive get off with an aggressive downhill angle while keeping his shoulders square- meaning that his inside shoulder is aiming at the tackles chest.  Werner’s signature is then using his inside arm to reach around the tackles outside shoulder and use his excellent arm strength to defeat the incoming punch.  Because Werner’s chest is not available as a target (see picture above), tackles often fail on their initial punch, allowing Werner to explode through the missed block, slipping around the edge.

Werner can bull rush fairly well and can easily shove tackles off balance.  Though he’s obviously very different from JJ Watt, I think it’s the reliance on upper body strength that is the basis of what was for a while a popular comparison.

I think a better comparison is Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams.  Long also plays in a four point stance and has very strong arms.  Long ran a 4.75 forty time at his combine, but plays plenty fast on the football field.  Werner is 6’3″ and 266 pounds.  Long is 6’3″ and 270 pounds.  I think Long is a superior prospect because he is a better athlete and has a more complete pass rush repertoire, but if you said Werner was a poor man’s Chris Long you wouldn’t be off by much.

Bottom line, Werner is a strength based pass rusher that uses excellent edge rush technique and benefits tremendously from an explosive get off.  Within the first second or two, his forty time might as well be irrelevant since he is so explosive in his first few steps.  Werner can spin inside, bull through blockers, and rip through arm blocks, but all those techniques are merely adequate.  Werner’s star power comes from his edge rush, which is why he edge rushes on almost every pass rush attempt.  Werner has decently long arms (33.25″) but plays like he has 35″ arms on tape, I guess just because of how he protects his body from the initial punch and from his pure arm strength.

Werner is inconsistent against the run.  He can get destroyed by a road grader if he isn’t careful, although he usually plays the run smart, even if he doesn’t dominate.  Basically, he’s about what you’d expect from a LEO in run defense, and I’d grade him ahead of alternatives such as Barkevious Mingo or Corey Lemonier as a run defender.

Like Chris Long, I don’t think Werner’s speed hurts him much as a pass rusher.  But speed still matters.  Beating Colin Kaepernick twice is job number one next season.  Seattle will also drop their defensive ends into coverage from time to time.  You don’t want a 4.81 athlete put in those situations.

While I used the argument of Clemons and Brock, I should also point out that both were cheap acquisitions.  Clemons was a throw in as part of the Tapp trade.  Brock was signed off the street in 2010 to a minimum contract.  Seattle’s draft history, though limited, has shown that speed matters.  When Seattle is bargain hunting at the NFL’s garage sale and they see a good buy that won’t saddle them for a decade, they tend to be less picky.

So what will they do if Werner unexpectedly falls into our lap at #25?  It’s a similar situation with John Simon, actually.  Though both are excellent pass rushing prospects, I’m just not convinced they pass the “athlete test” that Seattle seemingly always applies to their draft picks.  John Schneider has recently said himself that his staff grades for athleticism first before moving on to grade for any other criteria.  This regime has a clear history of drafting athletic, versatile, explosive players.  And outside of his get off being explosive, I’m not sure any of those three adjectives apply to Werner.

My guess is that Werner will never be a Seahawk, and I think that’s kind of a shame.  Maybe he won’t reach our pick and we’ll never know either way.  Or maybe he does reach our pick, and we’ll have fifteen interesting minutes to wonder to ourselves what might happen.


  1. Hay stacker

    I would like to think that they would still draft him at 25. If he’s that explosive at the snap maybe other teams will thro an extra blocker his way. It would be a dammed if you do ( mebane or the 5 tech (hopefully hill!!) gets the TFL or sack) or dammed if you don’t and Werner gets the TFL or sack. Do you think that’s something Seattle is thinking of maybe rob?

  2. Leonard

    I have been wondering lately if the Seahawks draft strategy might change a little now that they seem to be so close to a Super Bowl. Would they be more willing to go with the more polished player, like Werner, rather than the athletic upside guy? In other words, would they trade an inconsistent first year with potential for greatness for solid if unspectacular production from day one? With very few holes to fill, it might make sense.
    I get the feeling that they are going to stick to their strategy as usual. Anything else might seem like compromising the future for the present. They have every right to be confident in their approach.

  3. Barry

    There’s a guy that has been in the league a few years and was even Defensive MVP. Coming into the league a few years back he was only known as a explosive pass rusher. He then ran a 4.8 forty and just put up 19 reps for scouts. He’s done alright for himself and this years SB winners.

    I want to go back and watch more film, but those numbers by Suggs are almost identical to Moore’s. What made me sour on Moore was the he is better against the run so I expected working mans work-out numbers. I will think it sad if he falls to the third and we miss him because guy looked better in shorts but couldn’t in two years post the numbers he did in one. I was following Von Miller back in ’11 after his nice ’10 showing. When he was out the D didn’t miss much of a beat because of the play of Moore. Now don’t get me wrong when Miller came back on a Nationally televised game you fell in love with his dip and fly-by. It will take something serious standing out on film for me to believe he(Moore) cant be a good player in this league.

    • John

      I don’t think there would be comparisons to Moore and Miller if they didn’t go to the same school. I do not think Moore will bring anywhere near the impact Miller has brought. My brother is a Denver fan so I usually end up catching huge chunks of games during the season. Miller is a freak of nature and seems to make impact plays on a regular basis. I don’t see that with Moore. I see a high motor guy with good production, but with noticeable flaws to his game. But his speed and bench are terrible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bad of a workout in my limited time of following the combine. My brother can put up those bench numbers.

      I get the point you’re making. If he was able to produce then the combine shouldn’t hurt him as much as it has. He still has a pro day and I’ll be watching to see if he improves, but my stance on Moore remains lukewarm.

    • Trudy Beekman

      The best Damontre Moore comparison I can think of is Whitney Mercilus. Both overrated because of a bunch of sacks one year, and are really just solid players that cleaned up a lot in the backfield. Neither do anything particularly well, and Moore isn’t a 1st round talent.

  4. Barry

    Also to further my point of measurable’s VS production, watching Irvin bull-rush much bigger men was impressive to see, but in the playoffs after the third time of doing it and not getting to the QB or causing a sack you start to wander where the counter is after a full season. If you run a 4.3 but if you cant disengage or if you don’t have the instinct the time does not matter. Same goes for every other facet of the sport, you cant catch and run routes you cant be a all-star WR, cant read a D but can run a 4.5 forty, nope move on Qb, and so on.

    Sure most technique can be learned. But how long should it take? Teams bank on growth and potential but there is a reason that guy are good without all the blow your mind numbers. It’s reasons so many people love John Simon, hard worker, and smart. (Simon’s unknown playing at a heavy weight still scares me)

    When people bring up Ezekial Ansah (or Dion Jordan) and make the comparison to Jason Pierre Paul, they are just taking the now and seeing that. The are not looking at JPP’s tape that showed promise nor are they considering that the Giants at that time had great depth at D-end and JPP could learn from the guys he was playing with and not just coaches. Ansah worries me in comparison to Jordan or other long fast athletes he’s compared to because at times he looked as lost and out of plays at times as anyone could on film. I hear he had a great senior bowl and that would off set bad film one would think.

    • Barry

      Also the “slow” Tereell Suggs played about the same exact amount of time as Irvin, Suggs had 4 more sacks and 1 int on the year his rookie season.

      • mjkleko

        So just to try and understand your point, are you faulting JS/PC’s strategy in drafting an extreme athlete such as Irvin for the defensive end position over trying to find a player with more developed technique coming out of college instead? I’m not trying to disparage your pour, just want to clarify.

        However I don’t very much agree with what your saying vis Irvin. While he was obviously an athlete first, Irvin had signifcant producion in college and was not just a gamble on a player who looked good in shorts. In addition, despite being the first end of the board, the draft did not contain a Von Miller level consensus elite pass rusher, and if there had been he certainly wouldn’t have been available where the Seahawks were picking. Furthermore, no one believed then or now that Bruce Irvin is even close to being a finished product. He started football late and was thought to go later because of how raw he actually was. For several reasons I think that drawing substantial conclusions or faulting his play latein the season is unwise. At that point, the dline play had regressed across the board, and it’s no secret that in the longest football season of his playing career, being thrust into the starting role with Clemons out was pretty much the last thing you could have wanted. He was likely exhausted and ill prepared to take on that challenge, yet I don’t think that is inexcusable given the circumstances.

        Terrell Suggs is a very unique player, one whose technique, strength and firststep on the edge make finding a similiar player a very difficult proposition. Iif PC/JS were given the opportunity to select between the two, who would they have taken? One fits the LEO role while one is oversized and a bit slow, like Werner would be. I don’t know if you can make such a comparison as a result.

        Also, I don’t really understand the consternation surrounding Irvin and his future prospects. He was billed as a raw prospect coming out of college, yet won playing time and saw success in his first season. Why then does it seem like people view last year as his ceiling? If anything, Bruce should be currently putting on muscle and building up his body for an even better season and I fully believe he will succeed in increasing his production. I would say that despite his disappointing finish, Irvin has an exciting array of skills to work with and anticipate his technique and physical maturation to both improve.

        • Barry

          Well no. I never mentioned any fault of JS or PC? My post was not to be taken as a assault on JS or PC’s choice to take Irvin or even Irvin himself. It was a point that everyone falls in-love with speed at the combine. A ton of great players have fallen despite dominating in collage. I believe Rob even had a quote from the ’03 draft talking about how the hawks had Anquan Boldin in the first, then he ran a 4.7 and the rest is hist. When talking about players in shorts I was referring to every year more or less.

          I guess my post was the other side, the devils advocate if you want. I believe and this might just be me but that football and a game is ultimately won by the team that through out the whole of the game on the average is won by the aggressor, more physical and skilled side. But If you have speed and its goes along with the rest of those qualities by all means kill them with it.

          Before Suggs 40 he was being mentioned as a top 3 pick. the only reason he didn’t fall past 10 and make it to the Bears at 14 is because Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the biz.

          Sorry I should have been clear but I was using Irvin as a example. And yes I know this was said and that was said, but my friend just like in the political world there is always constant PR fallout damage control being tossed around.

          I also didn’t mention the difference in D scheme or talent in relation to Suggs position vs Irvin’s. But my point was as I stated above, we fall in love with the event that is the combine and even the Senior Bowl to a lesser extent. But my opinion often differ from many. I believe Dion Jordan is a better LB prospect then a down lineman for example.

          I also think production is very much a equation of your competition. Von Miller is a great talent. But going into last season I was saying before a snap was taken that our NFC west is much stronger then the NFC east. Even Az with there flaws had a great coaching staff who knew how to call a great game. Irvin had great success against the Panthers, I wonder if in the AFC west our pass rushers wouldn’t look better against some offenses that outside of Denver didn’t imposes much of a threat. See where I’m going.

          Sorry to go so far off track but I hope I answered your questions mjkleko.

  5. Stuart

    It would seem tough to pass up on Moore or Werner if they fell to us at 25. Both would be starters day 1.

    • Turp

      Moore should fall to the 2nd after his pathetic combine.

    • Kip Earlywine

      I don’t think Moore really fits what we do- unless the Seahawks think he can be a 5-tech. He’s not fast and relies almost exclusively on power. He’s got a lot of similarities to Lawrence Jackson, actually. Both were predominantly bull rushers in college, and very few bull rushing pass rushers see their game translate in the NFL.

  6. Belgaron

    I read somewhere that the assumption was that Tank Carradine benefited from Werner’s presence on the other side to rack up the numbers he did but that upon further review it appeared to be the reverse; perhaps Werner benefited from the double teams that Carradine drew. Ideally, Carradine would fit better at Red Bryant’s 5-tech spot but if the latter is true, that is one of the reasons you might see Pete take a change on Tank rather than taking another half-a-step-slow LEO.

    • Rob Staton

      I watched three FSU games this weekend and I didn’t see Werner benefiting from Carradine all that much. The word I keep thinking about when discussing Tank is ‘cumbersome’. There’s no real explosion off the snap, he looks heavy. He leans nicely around the edge but wins with hands, not speed. There were times where you watched Carradine struggle a bit to get off a block and then Werner comes flying around the edge. I’d rather have Bjoern personally. Carradine for me is a left end in a conventional 4-3.

      • Belgaron

        I see what you mean about being the last to react to the snap sometimes but I still contend he could be the heir to Red Bryant as a 4 down guy, good against the run and great rushing the passer. It’s interesting to see guys who can’t nail snap counts as this is a symptom of not playing enough video games.

  7. Madmark

    With this draft i thinking we’ll be seeing alot of players with talent dropping farther in the draft than you would expect. What i mean by this is I’ve seen as many as 10 different WR ranked to be taken in the 2nd round but I just don’t see that 10 will be taken. Example: I like Oday Aboushi ROT, on the big Boards i seen him ranked from 40 to 60 but in mock drafts I’ve seen him draft from the late 2nd rd to the late 4th rd. I will tell you this if he was is still not taken by the 3rd round i wouldn’t even hesitate to grab him no matter how much my team loves Breno. The talent he has, in my opinion, would be to hard to pass up and thats the problem I’m having with mocking this draft.
    The other problem is the spots JS/PC have talked about the most DT and OLB are not as deep as say WR or OL. So when ya see one of those talented players like Werner at 25 do you grab the best player available or grab the most talented need for the team.
    We could resign everyone from last year and theoritically do better than last year with the offensive QB situation settled. By bringing in low FA as insurance,like Barret last year for middle linebacker, we could draft the best player available that could drop into our lap.
    My question for you Rob is with all the WR and TE we brought in last year and let go why wouldn’t we take advantage of the depth of this draft to fill the needs we was looking for last year?

    • Rob Staton

      I think they will draft a WR or TE in the first three rounds. I think it’s a need. But I also suspect they feel like RW is the kind of QB (a bit like Brees) that will bring out the best in his supporting cast. So unless the value is just that good early, they might think they can draft for those positions in the mid or even later rounds. A guy like Mark Harrison at Rutgers for example – big at 6-3, 230lbs but runs a 4.4, might be preferred in round four or five compared to a Keenan Allen or Zach Ertz in round one.

      The teams greatest needs remain on the D-line and I think if they get that right, this Seahawks team has 12-14 win potential. That’s why I think they’ll focus on DT’s and DE’s early. They really have never got that issue solved in three years aside from getting production from Clemons.

      • Madmark

        I really like Mark Harrison and as I sifted throw big boards, mock drafts and even draft insiders has him mark as a FA. I hope we could get him late fifth round pick .

    • Madmark

      I keep looking at Kawan Short and with the energy and atmospere in Seattle and the fact that he’s trim down I keep wondering if he isn’t the best pick at DT. I had Irving last year in the 3rd round and when they took him in the 1st i was blow away. I usually like to see more production from a 1st rounder so I’m still holding off to see how he develops this year.

  8. other ben

    How does he compare to guys like Tapp and Upshaw, which were productive pass-rushers that this FO decided to pass on? Tapp ran a 4.8 40 at 250lbs and Upshaw ran a 4.7 40 at 270lbs. Werner has more height and longer arms than these guys but that 4.8 40 (with a 1.7 10yard split) at 265lbs, he doesn’t quite fit the mold of a LEO. A LEO is going to be playing in space somewhat and will have advantages in his alignment (off the outside shoulder of the weakside OT) that may not be realized by slower pass-rushers. If Werner is a poor fit for the system, he’s not as valuable to this team and I’d have to think that that would reflect in our grade of him (but maybe not in an another system).

  9. Turp

    FA just got a lot more boring…Melton, Michael Johnson, Starks all tagged. Starks 🙁 http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/03/04/dolphins-place-franchise-tag-on-randy-starks/

    • Alex

      Yeah, I think the Free Agency route for interior rusher just went out the window. We basically have to pick a 3 tech in the draft.

      • Turp

        Jared Cook did not get tagged; I’d love to add him for the joker TE spot and give us one less draft need. Not excited with the TE class this year – solid players, but no one spectacular.

        • SunPathPaul

          Abraham was released. Would we want to take a year risk on an aging and injury prone, yet affective, DE like him???

          We knocked him out of the Atlanta game, yet we lost… He and Osi / Freeney are about it…

        • Kip Earlywine

          Read yesterday that Cook will be tagged in the next few days.

          • Kip Earlywine

            Now I read today that it’s unlikely he’ll be tagged. I guess we’ll see what happens.

            • Rob Staton

              Deadline has passed. He cannot be tagged now.

  10. Jake

    Yes please to Bjoern Werner – the guy is an absolute terror in the backfield. I believe J.J. Watt is actually a very good comparison because more than stats, he disrupts damn near every play you go toward his side. Werner played bigger in 2011 and was just as effective as a pass-rusher. He followed bad advice from those that told him to slim down to become more explosive as an edge rusher. In 2011 he was about 275. At that weight he was just as explosive as he was in 2012. He also lined up inside and provided push and pressure up the middle routinely. As a specialist pass-rusher (the Jason Jones role) he would be a huge upgrade over Scruggs, while having value as a run-down LEO (assuming Clem is PUP’d) with little to no drop off as a pass-rusher (from Irvin) and versitile depth inside and outside. He does not answer the riddle of “every down 3-tech”, but he might be the most valuable player at 25 regardless because of what he “can do”.

    If Werner is off the board (and D-Line is the focus):
    I may be in the minority, but I feel that Kawann Short is every bit the player that Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd are. That said, I actually think Short is more explosive inside and more equiped to push the pocket when blocked.

    Short might be the better fit, but Werner would get a lot of snaps as depth or possibly starting LEO (this assumes Clemons is PUP’d).

    • Alex

      They both have an explosive first step and a strong upper body, but Watt has better hand usage, better pass rushing repertoire, and greater ball awareness. Essentially, Watt is what Werner’s full potential is. Whether he fulfills that potential brings in a variety of other factors including motivation, environment, position coach, teammate, etc.

  11. SunPathPaul

    Out of these more cost effective FA DE’s, which do you see as a possible fit for Seattle Rob?

    6. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts
    7. Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants
    8. John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons
    9. Connor Barwin, Houston Texans
    10. Israel Idonije, Chicago Bears

    Would Idonije fit our 4-3 under? or Barwin? We haven’t talked much about these as an option…
    Would you bite on any of these?

    • SunPathPaul

      …and what babout the bundle package of Michael Bennett and his TE brother Martellus Bennett. They want to play on the same team. Would we like Michael and Martellus?? a DE and TE would sure open up the draft if they fit…

      Are the Bennett brothers worth consideration??

      • Rob Staton

        Martellus looks great, plays average. Not sure how Michael fits into this defense.

    • Rob Staton

      I would bite on Umenyiora at the right price for sure. It depends what he’s being offered. I like Connor Barwin but I haven’t studied him enough to say he’s a LEO or not. He wasn’t asked to do too much pass rushing in Houston. Not crazy about the other options.

      • Kip Earlywine

        I would love Umenyiora, but I’m not expecting it. I think Pete wants to find the successor to Chris Clemons right now (Bruce Irvin doesn’t count- he’s not a LEO and Seattle needs at least two ace pass rushers long term anyway). Seattle will almost certainly draft a DE, and if they signed Umenyiora too, I’m not sure how they’d find spots for all those players.

        • pqlqi

          I think you are 100% wrong that Irvin is not a LEO. Yes, he is still raw (as expected), but he has every physical tool needed. Last year, playing at only 245, we saw that his best pass rush move was a power bull rush. Irvin’s ineffectiveness at pass rush was more due to the fact that there was always a wide open pocket for the QB to step up into than Irvin’s inability to get around a tackle.

          What exactly did Irvin do “poorly” at last year? Why do you think he’s not a LEO? Is he not a stellar run defender? He’s not supposed to be. But he is adequate, much like Clemons is adequate (although Clemons is a bit better, with his 9 years of experience in the league and 15 extra lbs).

          This is what PC says about the LEO (in only one of several articles which reiterate the same philosophy) at trojanfootballanalysis:
          “The flex side defensive end is playing on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle in a 5 technique. He does not have to be a large player and can be more of a pass rushing end. The only thing he can not do is get hooked or reached by the defender and moved out of position. He can play pass first and still be effective. However he does have to maintain gap responsibility for the defense to work. The key to the defense is not getting hooked. If the solid side defensive end is aligned in the strong side C gap he simply can not get hooked. He has to control that gap as does each position on the defensive line.”

          Against the run, Irvin pretty much never beat his blocker to make a play in the backfield, but he almost always (>95%) kept outside contain to runs on his side – which is his major responsibility – he never got hooked. You can’t blame terrible tackling by our LBs in the Atl and Wash games on Irvin, and by far the majority of the big runs in those games went to the strong side or inside. None of the big runs by Turner went outside of Irvin.

          Also, PC on what coaches should expect from players (DBs here, but this is clearly his philosophy about all players on the field):
          “No matter what coverage you are playing you have to convince your players to win their leverage side. If the coach tells a player to play outside leverage and complains when a receiver catches a ball to his inside, the coach is wrong. When we give them a leverage side, we are telling them to just do that aspect right at least.”
          The same goes for DL gap responsibility and OL blocking. When PC tells Irvin “no matter what, mind your C gap,” Irvin does exactly what PC is coaching. It would be far worse if Irvin tries to make the tackle on the inside run (where the LBs are filling lanes) and abandons the offtackle gap giving up huge cutback holes for the defense.

          Irvin IS the answer at Leo. Remember this is a guy who played safety in high school and started there in JuCo, spent 3-4 years out of football between the ages 18 and 22, and only had 2 years of coaching on DL before coming here. About half of that coaching was playing as a 2 gap end on a 3-3-5. So really his coaching as a pass rush specialist comes down to one year in college and one year in the pros.

          Irvin now has a year of tape under his belt to watch his good plays and bad. Irvin now has a full offseason with an NFL nutrition and training staff. Irvin will be getting 100% of the snaps at starting Leo through the preseason, and from game 1 in the regular season. Irvin had 434 snaps to Clemons 868 last season, so by game 8 of the regular season, we should see Irvin DOUBLE his NFL experience. Irvin had 8.5 sacks in limited play last season, and was easily a few inches away from at least another 6. With just tiny marginal improvements in pass rush technique and a bit more interior push (even just a healthy Jones returning), he becomes a low teens sacks player, and if he actually figures out how to finish the bull rush with a really explosive chuck at the end of it, he will be in the conversation as one of the best edge rushers in the NFL.

          Irvin is the future at Leo. You absolutely have to find a backup and a second pass rusher, but Irvin’s replacement isn’t available in free agency, and probably isn’t available in this years draft class.

          • Kip Earlywine

            It’s simple. He has to sell out to rush the QB. He has to sell out to stop the run. Even when he sells out to stop the run, he’s not very good. A true LEO like Clemons needs to be able to play the pass and run without having to sell out for either. Watch Irvin closely in the Atlanta game (full game is on youtube). You’ll quickly see what I mean about selling out.

            It’s not that he doesn’t have the speed or pass rush ability. He is a natural born specialist. It’s possible that excellent coaching could help him develop. I’m just saying that right now, he’s not a 3-down player. And IMO, he’s very far away. Don’t forget that he’s 26 next season either. I think Seattle will try to mold Irvin into a player that doesn’t have to sell out anymore, but even if they fail, that’s okay, because Seattle has a role on the team for a situational rusher like Irvin.

            • Kip Earlywine

              Derek Stephens on his blog and Scott from 17power have echoed similar sentiments. Basically, Irvin is miles away from being a 3 down player. I watched Irvin with a close eye in every game and he was frequently part of my post game reports (which were posted on a different site).

              One of the things I noticed was that occasionally Seattle would put Irvin in a true 3-down role (that was outside the last few minutes of a half), and every time they did, Irvin would basically just disappear. The only exception being perhaps the end of the Washington playoff game- although Cousins is a QB who holds the ball, and Irvin loves those types of QBs since he’s such a relentless “hustle sacks” kind of player.

              In terms of Irvin being capable of being a LEO, sure, it’s possible. He showed good strength in college, although I do wonder where that strength went in 2012. He’s also 26 next season and just 245 pounds. When Seattle put Irvin in a LEO role in the Atlanta game, it was a huge test. I fully expected him to disappear from having to sell out two ways, and unfortunately that’s exactly what happened. Irvin’s inability to be a LEO is a fairly big reason Seattle’s season ended in Atlanta. Pete knows that, and made comments which seemed to strongly infer his displeasure after the game. Pete won’t risk another season by asking Irvin to be something he isn’t, or at least isn’t yet. So I’m expecting Seattle to go for a more well rounded player this time.

              I loved Irvin in college, I was one of his earlier supporters and he was one of my favorites in that whole draft along with Russell Wilson, as I said before and during the draft. That said, Irvin has always been a guy that has to edge rush to be his best. That’s pretty much were the selling out comes from. Clemons can beat you in so many different ways, Irvin can only really beat you in one way right now, and that one way (extreme edge rush) isn’t very compatible with playing both the run and the pass.

              One of the reasons I like Lemonier is because he can beat you multiple ways for the sack, and can also play both the run and the pass without sacrificing pass rush. Maybe Irvin develops, but I’d rather just draft Lemonier with a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I say just keep Irvin as a specialist and see if you can coach him up into being a 3-down player, but if you can’t, no big deal. Part of the beauty of the LEO spot is that it isn’t terribly hard to find these guys.

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