Monday thoughts: Seahawks #1?

Arizona State's Will Sutton - clearly a big fan of the 'Jackson Five'

Seahawks the #1 or #2 team in the NFL?

Are the Seahawks turning into an upper-echelon contender? An outrageous suggestion like that would’ve provoked widespread scoffing after the Week 12 defeat to Miami. Yet here they are at 8-5 with two home games to go and a remaining road game to be played at a neutral venue.

Suddenly, it’s not such a ridiculous idea.

Here’s what’s working… They have a quarterback who is performing to a high standard. They have a productive running game. The defense maintains a lot of qualities despite a couple of iffy performances recently. The role of Seattle’s special teams is incredibly underrated. All three units came together in yesterday’s 58-0 massacre of the Arizona Cardinals. And if you can play solid, strong football across the board – you have a shot to win in the post-season.

Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders claims the win over Arizona was one of the best ever all-round performances. What’s more, FO uses a system called DVOA (explained here) to rank all of the teams in the league. Seattle was #4 overall prior to week 14. Depending on what happens in MNF tonight, they’ll either be #1 or #2 overall going into week 15. So basically, DVOA could have the Seahawks as the league’s best team by the end of tonight. The leagues best team.

Even if they don’t make it to #1, Schatz argues there’s a “huge gap” between the top four (Denver, New England, San Francisco, and Seattle) and the chasing pack. Sure, other teams have better records (Atlanta, Houston) but they’ve also enjoyed much easier schedules. When you actually sit down and think about it, maybe those are the four best teams in the league?

Kerry Byrne argues a similar point at ‘Cold Hard Football Facts’, listing multiple stats to suggest the Seahawks are a legit post-season contender:

“We’re not just reacting to a single game. Carroll’s Seahawks have proven they can hang with anybody, they boast an NFL-best five Quality Wins, and they’ve already proven they can slow down and beat the game’s best quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. And now they’ve proven they can take a bad team out behind the woodshed and mercilessly deliver a gruesome execution the likes of which you see only once or twice in a lifetime.”

Will anybody be ravaged with fear at the thought of facing Atlanta in the playoffs? Probably not. Will anyone shudder at the prospect of having to go to Houston to make the AFC title game? Unlikely. Would they fear the Seahawks or the 49ers? They better do.

These two teams aren’t brittle. They’re two tough teams ready to hit you in the mouth without apology. On home turf Seattle hasn’t just won every game so far, they’ve broken the will of several teams. Dallas, New York and Arizona all flew home banged-up, bruised and embarrassed. The 49ers have done the same to several teams in the last two years. And it’s fitting that when the two meet on December 23rd, there’s going to be a national audience. No other game gets close that week to the magnitude of the meeting at the CLink. And if the Seahawks get the job done in Toronto and the 49ers fall in New England – it’ll be the most intense game of the NFL season so far. Without doubt.

New England and Denver are slightly different animals, based around two legendary quarterbacks. I suspect one will make the Super Bowl. And I think there’s a fair chance they could meet a NFC West opponent when they get there.

There is a cautionary note though, as I touched on yesterday. It’s great to revel in a 58-0 win against a truly miserable Cardinals outfit. We can sit here and wax lyrical about a Seahawks team suddenly on the verge of relevance after a few years poking around in mediocrity. They have found ways to deflate their own balloon this season, though. A truly legit team wins at least two of the next three games. It goes to Toronto and takes care of business. It doesn’t let an upstart Rams team walk away with anything but a dose of reality in week 17. The 49ers game will be a war and could go either way. Nothing short of 10-6 will be acceptable if you want to keep the kind of plaudits being dished out today. No compromises.

And if they win out to reach 11-5, no team will be more feared in the post-season. They could get the #2 bye in that scenario with tie-breakers over Green Bay and Chicago. Atlanta could choke again. Suddenly the road to New Orleans could go through Seattle. It’s still a bit of a pipe dream for now, but it’s not totally impossible. I’m not sure if that possibility is a good or bad thing for this team. Can a young roster handle the weight of growing expectation? Can they do the little things right and limit the errors? I’ll guess we’ll soon find out.

The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to prove they belong. A chance to prove they aren’t a fraud. It’s right there. They just have to take it. Will they do it?

Marcus Lattimore and Johnathan Hankins to declare

Both players will turn pro in 2013. Lattimore is still recovering from a horrendous knee injury and is unlikely to play in 2013. His decision appears to be based around the superior aid he’ll receive from a pro-football medical staff as he works his way back to full health. The big question is, will a team be willing to pay for the long journey it’ll take to get Lattimore back on the field?

Let’s not kid around here, if he plays again it’ll be a major achievement. And even if he can repair that knee, there’s no knowing how much of an impact it’ll have on his performance. Lattimore has superb character and deserves the help, but the NFL is a ruthless business. A lot of people are going to be rooting for him, but he’ll need to hope someone out there really believes in his ability to come back from this. Otherwise he’ll go undrafted and be left in a situation where he can’t prove to anyone he’s back and ready to play again. Either way this was always going to be a tough decision for Lattimore, and it’s one he’ll have given a great deal of thought. Let’s hope this was the right choice.

A lot of people expect Hankins to be an early pick next April, but I’m not convinced. His tape at Ohio State this year was really underwhelming. He has the size (6-3, 335lbs) and as you’d expect, he plays well against the run. But what else does he offer? His effort is so inconsistent it’s untrue. At times you barely notice he’s on the field for long stretches – then suddenly he blows up the line and makes a splash play. When you see Hankins at his best, you wonder why it happens so infrequently. He’s a one-dimensional pass rusher who relies too much on the bull-rush and too often he leans into blockers. His motor runs hot and cold. He’s a really underwhelming prospect in the body of a player you want to really like.

Teams looking for a nose tackle to anchor a 3-4 defense will take a long look at Hankins and Georgia’s Jonathan Jenkins. Personally, I prefer Jenkins. In my last mock draft, I had Hankins dropping to round two. Others – such as Scouts Inc – project he’ll be a top-ten pick. He’s unlikely to make major headlines at the combine like Dontari Poe, which will limit his stock. And as teams really study the tape I think they’ll be equally underwhelmed.

Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State) tape vs Oregon State

Sutton is one to keep an eye on. He’s not a flashy player in terms of physical greatness, but he did manage 10.5 sacks this year. He’s the kind of prospect who goes in that round 3-4 range and in a few years time, you wonder how it happened. He’s undersized for a lot of teams but makes a lot of sense in Seattle’s key-need area of the three-technique. If they want to go in another direction in round one, Sutton provides an¬†alternative later on.

Have a look at the tape below and let me know what you think…


  1. Elijah

    He has a pretty good first step and has what looks like a natural ability to penetrate. At his size though (6-1, 270 lbs.) is he realistically an NFL prospect at DT? He’ll get engulfed

  2. Darnell

    Speaking of Pac 12 dlinemen flying under the radar, Rob, what do you think of Cassius Marsh?

  3. JS

    Looks like he uses his hands fairly well, and certainly can penetrate with a quick first step at times. Doesn’t look real stout in run D. Can’t tell if he’ll be able to put on 15 to 25 more lbs, but I fully support a 3rd or 4th rounder on him if they don’t go DT earlier. His penetration looks like it could really help Clem and Bruce. Rob, I know you say 3 tech is the #1 need, so what do you think of taking a mid round flier on a guy like this and let him, Howard, and Scruggs battle it out and hope someone takes the role. This allows for development and depth elsewhere like LB and WR/TE. Can we even count on Howard challenging or contributing?

  4. Colin

    Well Houston sure doesn’t look like a Super Bowl contender.

    For my money, Denver, ATL and Hou are the three teams I think aren’t as good as many people think.

    • Kip Earlywine

      I think Denver is legit. They are shoulder to shoulder with the elite teams in terms of advanced stats. While it’s true that they’ve played in an easy division, the advanced stats account for that. Peyton Manning is playing as well as he ever has and Denver’s pass rush + secondary outclasses even Seattle’s.

      • John

        Von Miller is unreal… My brothers a Denver fan so I always catch there games and just holy shit he’s insane. I think Denver’s safeties are weak but their corners have been a pleasant surprise. Porter is probably gone next year.

  5. Kip Earlywine

    I’m always looking for the next Geno Atkins or Brandon Mebane, a guy that is every bit as good or perhaps better than the 1st round DT group, but ends up a forgotten man on draft day because of some minor question mark. I think Sutton has the look of that kind of player. He has a nice mix of pass rush technique and raw power, he displays nastiness and he’s produced. He’s nothing great against the run but he’s not a liability either. He has the power and athleticism to be a good run stopper with development.

    I’d feel nervous about waiting til the 3rd to get him. I think he might just be the best DT I’ve looked at this year so far.

    • JS

      I miss your work Kip. Always a treat, and I look forward to some write ups. I want the next Geno Atkins, or the current one.

    • Rock

      With the success Schneider has had uncovering gems in the later rounds it is understandable. We all want to have the incite of John Schneider. It does make draft forecasting more interesting to look beyond the first round mock draft favorites. We have pulled some great players from the later rounds.

  6. Kip Earlywine

    I think it’s worth stating the obvious as well: Will Sutton plays for a Pac-12 team, and Pete has shown a tendency to favor players with Pac-12 roots. Seattle has drafted 5 players out of the Pac-12 in the last 3 years (though none last year). Mike Williams, Lendale White, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Brandon Browner (et al) were not drafted but were acquired by Carroll and played for Pac-12 schools.

    Given that ASU has been a pretty big rival of USC in recent years, I’d be surprised if Carroll wasn’t already familiar with Sutton.

    • Fletcher

      Also remember that Pete seemed to want Mychal Kendricks in the 2nd before the Eagles snatched him, another player with PAC-12 roots. Though I doubt he’s complaining about Wagner.

  7. Stuart

    I know that you dont want to ever trade within your division but…check out this scenario…it may not even be possible the way Flynn’s salary is structured for next year…what do you think?

    Seattle trades Matt Flynn and our 1st round pick to Arizona
    Arizona trades WR Michael Floyd and their second round pick to Seattle

    • MJ

      Why would we do that? That’s a lose-lose for us.

    • Ely

      Maybe for Darnell Docket. No way for Michael Floyd. Actually that would be too steep a price for Dockett. I do think Flynn has significant trade value but you were right on one point. You don’t want to trade within the division. Especially a starting QB.

    • John

      Would never happen in the division. Unless we had zero faith in Flynn or the price was super high. You don’t make your rivals better. I doubt the Cards would be that cool with us too after running up the score.

      • Michael

        No way I do that for Floyd. I would probably do it for Docket, but since it is never going to happen I’m not gonna spend too much time thinking about it. Not sure why the Cardinals would do this one either. I think they are much more likely to simply draft a QB in the 1st or 2nd round. I think Arizona has to be Matt Barkley’s floor (even though they might trade down first). It would be interesting to watch Pete face off with his boy twice a year.

  8. Stuart

    Not saying I would do the trade but it popped into my mind and wanted to put it out there. That particular trade depends on your perspective. The WR Floyd went #13 in R-1 last year. Arizona will pick in the top 5 by the time this season is over. This means their pick in R-2 will be in a prime location.

    Why would that trade be a lose-lose for us?

    What about a trade of Flynn for Darnell Dockett? I like having an excellent back-up but we didnt have to give up anything to get Flynn. I would be OK with getting a starting player out of a Flynn trade, wouldnt you?

    • Michael

      I would absolutely make that trade, but why would Arizona?

    • MJ

      I think it’s lose-lose because

      a) I don’t think Floyd is going to do anything significant in the NFL. He struggled separating in college. Won’t be easier in the NFL. He’s struggled to see the field this season on a really bad team and from all accounts, he was lazy in the off-season (Fitz called him out).

      b) We would be losing a 1st round pick that could address DT in a great year for this position. 1st round gives us so much flexibility to go BPA, trade and garner more picks, etc.

      c) I don’t think Flynn is anything but average, but I don’t like the idea of sending a QB with extra motivation to a division rival.

      ***Mainly, I think Floyd is massively overrated. I would like to see another WR in the top 3 rounds this year, but I want it to be a big play threat. We are full of WRs who don’t have great speed and struggle to separate. I thought the Cards game really showed that our WRs struggled to get open when the play didn’t break down. I would like more natural separation ability in our WR Corps.

      • Michael

        One word: Wheaton.

        • MJ

          Or Hopkins…but agree. We need someone like that. Not another glorified possession WR.

  9. kenny

    i have been looking at later round DT’s that will make good impressions lately. what are your thoughts on jordan hill from penn state in the second or third? has been in the backfield a decent amount and appears to use his hands well, although i am no expert on this at all. and for receiver i have been very fascinated with aaron mellette out of elon. how do you grade him? i think he would beamazing in the third or fourth. he is a guy i wouldn’t scoff at in the first or second. the only reason that he has the 5-6 round grade is he is from the fcs. however he looks more complete than brian quick imo and has way more production. what do you think?

  10. Matt Erickson

    Yes! Will Sutton! I’ve been waiting for this post, Rob. I love this guy as a 3-tech for Seattle. My first choice would be Sheldon Richardson, as he’s clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the DT’s, but I doubt he’ll fall to the Hawks. I think Sutton is the clear #2 3-tech in the draft, and like Kip, I’d be reticent to push my luck hoping he falls to the 3rd round.

    He is a bit undersized, but I honestly don’t think he played at 270. He looks bigger than that to me. More in the 285 range. By my estimation, the ideal 3-tech for Pete’s defense is at least 6’2″ and between 285 and 300. Sutton is a little short, but if he’s in that 285 range as I expect, he could even add 10 pounds or so and be perfect. Geno Atkins, for example, is 6’1″/295, I believe. Darnell Dockett is 285, but he’s 6’4″. He is actually who Sutton reminds me of a lot.

    I love his violent hands and relentless motor. He has a great swim move he uses to blow past offensive lineman. I think my biggest critique in most of the videos I saw was the number of times he flashed into the backfield, then whiffed on the running back. But since Seattle’s 3-tech isn’t tasked first and foremost with containing the run, just blowing up his gap and forcing the back into Mebane’s or Wagner’s gap would be a job well done. And putting a guy with his ability to penetrate next to Mebane occupying double-teams would have a dramatic effect on Clemons’ and Irvin’s production.

    • Attyla the Hawk

      He reminds me of Arthur Brown. He plays a lot heavier than his listed weight. Power, technique and leverage are all excellent. He doesn’t play high and even on double teams, he’s actually able to force stalemates without giving ground.

      I don’t have concerns about his weight. It’s not affecting his ability.

  11. Nate Dogg

    Sutton was a guy I liked quite a bit on first viewing, quite a bit less on the second. Pass rush wise, there isn’t much not to like. He uses his hands well, sets up blockers, has good anticipation and burst off the line. Has decent edge speed for a tackle, although he looks out of his element. Does seem to have much of a second gear or straight line speed, he’s not going to be chasing many QBs down outside of the pocket.

    As for run blocking, I don’t see him ever cracking Seattle’s base defense. The size and strength issues are obvious. Not terrible, but definitely below average. And that’s about as good as it gets for his run defense. He looks like a below average tackler at best, he struggles to shed blockers while maintaining his gap, and his effort/interest in playing the run looks extremely low (more interested in shooting the gap and pressuring the QB than maintaining gap responsibilities or outside contain).

  12. Peter

    Rob/Kip, curious if you have heard anything about Nicholas Edwards WR out of Eastern Wash? He has the size 6’5″/6’6″, Speed and hands (career 2622yds,213 catches, 32 TDs) and character Pete and John covet. There is a great write up in thenewstribune on dec 8th about him. He could be a late round or undrafted free agent steal for the hawks.

    • Rob Staton

      I have no access to tape for Eastern Washington unless they get to the final of the playoffs. So as long as they win their next game – I’ll check Edwards out. Thanks for the tip off.

  13. Barry

    Love Sutton’s low gravity and quickness. I doubt he’s just 270 (and thats good) but see very little good technique with his arms. At first I was worried it was no upper body strength but at 9:53 you see him use his hands nicely. Love this cat past mid round 2.

  14. Barry

    Also I cant remember the last time I watched someone and thought that is a Marvin Harrison clone, speaking of Wheaton

  15. Snoop Dogg

    Hello Rob,

    I’ve noticed that since Russell Wilson generally avoids throwing to the middle, our recievers have not gotten near as blasted as what Tavaris Jackson or Matt Flynn have caused in limited exposure. This translates to better longevity for normally unhealthy players like Sidney Rice. Could this factor into the draft in the future for someone like Tavon Austin who teams in the NFL will likely be worrying about potential injuries?

    • Rob Staton

      Possibly. Especially if RW is extending plays and you can get Austin open in space. I suspect there’s a team out there that’ll fall for Austin big time simply due to the speed and playmaking quality. Could it be Seattle? Maybe. And with the play action and bootleg stuff they do, there’ll be plenty of chances to get deep and utilise that speed.

      • GH

        I really like the idea of Tavon Austin on the hawks. I know he’s a bit of a duplication of Tate. But he would be really tremendous in the zone read option and other plays where you’re already getting the defense confused and mis directed. You have the defense overcompensating even more to account for his speed, if you line up up in the backfield. When you think about it, the zone read option hasn’t really been run with any speed backs in the NFL- Denver did it with an ancient McGahee, Hawks with Marshawn, Redskins with Morris, and Carolina with Stewart. None of those guys are what you’d call speedsters. I think having a legit 4.4/ 4.3 guy with superb agility and is short and hard to see back there would magnify the tendency for defenses to get out of position.

        Not to mention the excellent play action/deep ball opportunities RW and this offense presents, in addition to the scrambling/broken play opportunities.

        Add in an aging Leon Washington (ugh, hurts to say it but it’s true), and Tavon makes a lot of sense even though he’s not what Pete has seemingly been looking for (tall WRs).

        I still lean towards RT or DT, but the idea of Tavon Austin is awfully tantalizing. I wish they would have drafted Chris Rainey last year. I think he’ll develop into everything Tavon is.

  16. Stuart

    Regarding the what if scenario trade with Arizona, I had no idea that Michael Floyd has fallen off the cliff. He didnt play much in the game againt us. What have we learned from his disapearence during his rookie season that can help the Seahawks from making a mistake with a WR in R-1? He was so well thought of too before the draft…His lack of work ethic probably needs to be the biggest red flag huh? The more I think about a WR in R-1, the more Markus Wheaton grows on me.

    • GH

      What are the odds of Dion Jordan lasting until the Hawks pick, and how might he fit into this defense? he seems to have some positional flexibility along with some rare athleticism and length that Carrol seems to like.

      • Rob Staton

        It’s unlikely if he puts in a tremendous performance at the combine. And raw, athletic pass rushers are going earlier every year. Does he fit the Seahawks? Not really. I guess he could play the LEO depending on what he clocks in the 10-yard split. It’s a position dictated by frame and speed, Jordan has both. I’m just not convinced Seattle goes Leo-Leo with back-to-back first round picks.

        • GH

          Thanks. I’m also not sure how he would fit. Appreciate your insights.

          He is an intriguing athlete, however. Played linebacker some. Seems like a player teams would like to move around the field.

  17. Michael

    Just ask OSU if this guy is a factor… at the 3:34 mark you will see them leave both ends and the other DT single blocked while the C, LG and RB all block Sutton. If he’s there late in round 2, I would have no problem picking him up.

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