Saturday notes: Khalen Saunders & Parris Campbell

Khalen Saunders tape review

Saunders was one of the big winners at the Senior Bowl. He had the backflips, the new-born baby at home. He became a story before even taking the field. Then he made a few headlines with his play.

I wanted to go back and have a closer look at his tape and pull out some highlights. He’s an incredibly impressive player with major potential. His splash-plays are fantastic. There are also some moments where there are noticeable technical flaws (hardly surprising) and maybe a nod that he’ll need some time to adjust to the pro speed and intensity. Overall he’s an exciting addition to a deep D-line class.

Let’s start with the positive plays. There aren’t many humans that can do a backflip at 320lbs. It’s not just a social media gimmick. Both on tape and at the Senior Bowl, Saunders did crazy things for a man with his size. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 320lbs defensive linemen rush the edge before with some degree of success. Saunders manages it. He covers ground quickly and wins with strength and speed.

I wanted to focus on his performance against North Dakota State seeing as they’re the best team at his level of pre-NFL football:

Here are the plays that really stood out:

0:53 — Saunders lines up over the left guard. The blocker comes off Saunders because he’s wary of the left tackle being occupied by a blitzing defensive back. The guard takes the EDGE and leaves Saunders unblocked. The running back fills the holes in pass protection and Saunders just shoves him out of the way with utter disdain before hitting the quarterback. You might expect a 320lbs lineman to win that battle especially against a runner who isn’t any good in pass-pro. The impressive thing is the way he just abuses the RB. ‘Get out of the way’. No messing about.

1:01 — This isn’t a splash play but he’s lined up over the center. He gets underneath the blocker and gains leverage with good hand placement and a decent jolt. He holds position. It ends up being a QB-run up the gut but he has nowhere to go because Saunders controls the interior. He finishes by throwing the center to the turf then stands over him to admire his work. This is the kind of play you want to see if you intend to use him as an athletic nose tackle. Can he control blockers up the middle, can he secure the interior run defense? Although not a dominating play vs a double team this was a decent look.

1:11 — Saunders rushes from the edge as a defensive end. He dips inside the left tackle and sprints to the quarterback. It’s a terrible job by the tackle who was probably surprised he was being asked to cover a 320lbs EDGE. Even so, look at the quickness and mobility at that size. He’s so smooth working into the backfield and finishing. How many guys with his size and weight move as well as this?

2:29 — This is a run play where Saunders absorbs contact and then judo throws the interior linemen to the turf before hammering the ball carrier and driving him backwards (and finally into the turf). This is exactly how you want to see a player at this level perform if you’re projecting him to the NFL. It’s a stand-out play. No issue getting off the block after initial contact. Great power to make a mismatch with the blocker. Finishes the play with a bang.

7:28 — Saunders does a great job to disengage from the center and create a clean path to the running back, dropping him for only a short gain.

10:04 — You can’t leave him unblocked. This is great quickness to exploit the blown protection (he covers 10-yards very quickly here) and then hits the quarterback to force a fumble. In the NFL he’s not going to get an invitation to hammer the QB like he did here. He’s going to have to create opportunities. Even so, it was impressive to see his quickness to get into the backfield and eliminate any thinking time before a potential throw.

There are other positive examples in this video too (including a second rush from the EDGE where he again shows quickness and a natural ability to rush the passer). I selected the above mainly for impact.

You will also notice that a lot of the highlighted plays come early in the video. There’s then a five-minute gap where he doesn’t really have much impact. I thought he tired a little after a fast start. I’m not sure if this is a conditioning thing. Is it a review of the level and how he’s probably not getting the same benefits a Clemson defensive linemen would get in terms of support staff, nutrition or facilities? Is he simply being asked to play too many snaps because he’s their best defensive player? It could be a combination of all things. Yet it was noticeable that there was a stretch in the game where he wasn’t quite as effective after a great start.

There are also some slight technical corrections that are needed. You can see his hands are quite wide when he initiates contact. On one snap he was trying to drive an interior lineman off the LOS by hooking the sleeves of his jersey. He doesn’t have great length but at 6-0 in height he should be able to get low and secure leverage. It’s vital he plants his hands inside and presses and doesn’t grab on the outside. There was one snap where the center got the better of him and he ended up on the turf as a consequence.

He’s a freaky athlete but length is not a plus so his technique will need to be on point to keep his frame clean at the next level.

Considering he can do backflips and he covers ground really well, it’s possible Saunders will have a good combine. If that happens it won’t be a shock if he sneaks into round two. At the moment though I think he’s at least a round three prospect with major potential and upside to be a force as a run stopper and pass rusher. Those types of players, at 320lbs, are highly valued.

Is he a Seahawks fit? I think in many ways he is. The way he dominates in a unique way for a big defensive tackle will likely appeal. He only has 32 3/8 inch arms though and they’ve never selected a defensive tackle with sub-33 inch arms based on my own quick research. It’s probably not a deal maker but let’s put it out there.

He might need a year or two to reach his maximum potential (similar to Jarran Reed) but there’s no doubting that even in this loaded D-line class, Saunders matches up well. It’s an appealing thought that you could line up two big, physical DT’s like Saunders and Reed together and still be able to get some pass rush from both. With Poona Ford also part of the rotation (and maybe one other) it’s a group you can keep fresh and productive.

Saunders will be one to keep an eye on at the combine. Look out for his short shuttle time — it’s a test the Seahawks seem to value at defensive tackle.

Further thoughts on Parris Campbell

The more I’ve studied Parris Campbell the more I like. In fact I think he’s seriously underrated within this draft class at a time everyone is talking about other receivers.

I wrote a bit about him here but here’s what he brings — excellent catching technique, developed routes and understanding of how to exploit a defense, sensational speed and explosive athleticism (121.8 SPARQ). He’s well sized at 6-1 and 208lbs as a converted running back.

To me, he looks like Percy Harvin with a little less suddenness but without the character red flags.

I’m starting to wonder why a consensus has emerged that Marquise Brown and D.K. Metcalf are two receivers worthy of top grades but Campbell isn’t. Especially in this modern NFL where misdirection, sweeps and explosive athleticism is so important.

Metcalf has really only shown an ability to get deep. Yes, his size and athleticism is really exciting. He also has a number of frustrating drops and there’s no evidence of him running any kind of variety of routes or using his size as a major weapon. Brown is incredibly dynamic, quick and savvy but he might weigh-in at 170lbs.

Campbell can get deep, settle into zones, win with quickness to separate on slants and crossing routes, you can have him run the ball in certain looks or take a sweep. He’s also well equipped to take a hit with his size.

If the Seahawks trade down into the late first instead of the early second round, I think Campbell would be a fine option for them. Good character, competitive, productive, athletic. He would provide an exciting weapon that’s different to anything else on the roster currently.

And with terrific players like L.J. Collier potentially available in the round three range, they might be willing to use the depth of this D-line class to their advantage and get a weapon early. T.J. Hockenson would also be an excellent option but increasingly it looks like he will go in the top-20.

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  1. DC

    Not to distract from the current post that just popped up, just thoughts on alternatives.

    As happy as I was with the much improved OL play this season it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Seattle go in that direction early. Why? Because RW cannot survive here if the OL were to ever reach the state it was in during the 2016 & 2017 seasons. Exhibit A, Duane Brown will be 34, 35 & 36 as he plays out his contract. If he is healthy and productive then great. Wouldn’t hurt to have someone waiting in the wings. As of this moment we have zero starting caliber guards on the roster. Ya, ya, at least one if not both of our gimpy veteran duo will return. A Germain Ifedi decision will be made next off season. Personally I hope he makes it an easy decision to keep him one year from now. If not there’s another reason to groom an OT. And then there’s Justin Britt. I guess he’s adequate. No reason to rock the boat unless you believe that Pocic would be a near equal quality C at a much discounted rate.
    Based solely on community posts here, some of the names shouted out in no particular order were;

    Andre Dillard, OT, WSU
    Chuma Edoga, OT, USC
    Yodny Cajuste, OT, WVU
    Cody Ford, OT/OG, OU
    Kaleb McGary, OT, UW
    Terronne Prescod, OG, NC ST
    Michael Deiter, OG, Wisconsin
    Chris Lindstrom, OG, BC

    Imho it would be wise to stay well ahead of the OL power curve.

    • Rob Staton

      I personally think it’s unlikely they will go down that road with their first pick unless they see a major opportunity. But there are decent options that warrant some consideration.

      I think Chuma Edoga in particular is very interesting. I don’t worry about Brown’s age. I think the Seahawks look at Whitworth and see Brown as their version. There are other positions where more imminent depth/transition is needed. But Edoga was terrific at the Senior Bowl and I’d like to know where the league views his range right now.

      I think with Brown, Fant and Ifedi they’ll see RT as a bigger need for planning ahead because that’s where you might lose both prospective starters in 2020. I’d be a bit surprised if neither player was retained though.

      If they can’t keep both Sweezy and Fluker, guard becomes a need. But I think it’s a nailed on cert they keep both and with those two signings and the addition of Simmons they’ve shown they don’t need high picks to succeed there.

      • WALL UP

        In full agreement with the outcome of acquiring more picks, perhaps it can be done so in incremental stages, that involves (3) teams, GB & BUFF, and the other major player being NYG. The intent is to capitalize on several opportunities, in order to get more value for the picks. Those needing to trade up may have less leverage.

        1. (Trade w/ GB) 21 & 5th Rd (160) for [(30) & 3rd Rd (75) & (195) 6th Rd for Hundley] + 21 pts.

        GB trades up to 21 from 30 in order to acquire Hockenson, despite having the possibility of keeping Graham for the 2019 season. This will give them the option of releasing him for cap purposes. Their 1st pick made was DL Dexter Lawrence, to shore up the run defense which was a major problem for their defense. CINN took OT Greg Little to shore up their OL. GB may try to use one of their later picks for WR Preston Williams (The steal of the Draft), instead of a 1st Rd pick for WR.

        2. (Trade w/ NYG) 30 for [(37) 2nd Rd & (109) 4th Rd & 5th Rd (144)] + 29 pts

        NYG trades up from 37 to 30 for OL help, and picks Andre Dillard. They need to protect Payton until their new QB, Haskins, learns the Pro game from Manning. They choose not to Trade for a QB, but to use the FA money for other resources, while developing their QB for the future.

        3. (Trade w/ BUFF) 37 for (40) 2nd Rd & (148) 5th Rd + 3.5 pts

        BUFF trades up to 37 for David Edwards, who slid out of the 1st Rd. Picking ahead of Detroit & JAC, who were also looking at David Edwards for OL help.

        These picks are taken in consideration of the (32) comp picks that are to be awarded to teams by the NFL. [(8) 3rd Rd, (4) 4th Rd, (2) 5th Rd, (11) 6th Rd, and (7) 7th Rd.] Once they’ve been determined, these may alter the picks that are involved in these trades if they match up in value.
        So, hypothetically these are the picks that result from this:

        2. T(40) Terrill Hanks OLB/WLB/SS (Sr.) 3. T(75) Khalen Saunders DT (Sr.) 3. (84) Austin Bryant DE (Sr.) 4.T(109) Preston Williams WR (rJr.) 4. (124) Jamal Peters CB/S (rSr.) 5.T(144) Chukwuma Edoga OT (Sr.) 5.T(148) B.J. Autry OG (Sr.) 6.T(195) Alec Ingold FB (Sr.)

        Wren and Saunders are versatile to play a variety of positions (5T, 3T, 1T, or NT). Unfortunately you can’t keep both, if you’d like to have Terrill Hanks. Wren will be gone @ 75 and so, Saunders hopefully remains @ 75. The one concerns is his length, but his leverage will help with that. Wagner will grow to appreciate Hanks, as he did of Wright, very quickly. They will make a dynamic dual, while playing together, all (3) downs.

        Mr. Gadget, as team mates call Austin Bryant, could man the LDE position, with Frank on the RDE slot. His length will be instrumental in blocking passing lanes on slants when occasionally dropping in the zone on passing lanes when LB, or S/CB blitzes are called. Jamal Peters could fill in on nickel and dime packages for Kendricks, and eventually man the right side and Flowers on the left, with Griffin in the slot.

        B.J. Autry has very good feet for his size, @ almost 3 fifty! He is hard to budge, but light on his feet, with 35.25in arms. He’ll get down to 335-340lbs, and could push for the LG positions. Imagine B.J., and D.J., in short yardage up the middle!

        I think Pocic’s best position is @ center, backing up Britt. Ifedi’s 5th year option may be an issue. Jones can also compete @ both tackle spots, along with Nkansah @ RT. Simmons could back up Fluker. It should be a competitive group for Solari. George Fant may not stay as well. I’d like Edoga if he doesn’t, for RT. He also displayed good feet as well, and has good length, with almost 35in arms. It should be a competitive group for Solari.

        Alec Ingold reminds me a lot of Mike Rob, with both playing the QB position than becoming FB. That intelligence is a great commodity to balance with the ferocity that he’s shown.

        What about Preston Williams? I think I’ve said enough about Mr. Williams, as you know. He’s place at this slot ahead of GB.

      • millhouse-serbia

        I am almost 100% sure that somewhere(i think twitter) i read how coaches from USC didnt have so much nice thing to say about edoga’s commitment to training etc…

        Rob is everything ok with patreon…payment usually was 2nd in month and i didnt have anything yesterday?

        • Rob Staton

          Apparently Patreon has been having issues this month. Think it is sorted now but is taking longer to process than normal.

  2. drewdawg11

    I think another weapon on offense would be great, but then I think I about our inconsistent run defense. This guy may or may not help that aspect of the defense, but he could definitely be a potential pass rusher from the interior. I’m wondering what will happen with Doug this offseason. Is he going under the knife for that troublesome knee? We missed him at 100% for sure. If he starts to age/decline, does he become a cap casualty next season? They paid Lockett.

    • GerryG

      The health or possible retirement concerns (in the near future are legit) on Doug are warranted, but he will not be a cap casualty. They don’t have the talent to let him go.

      I’m all about Paris Campbell, we do certainly need to plan ahead for post-89 football.

      If we could get Saunders and Campbell with some young exciting speed at LB and some vet DE help the off season looks good.

    • Rob Staton

      They won’t move Doug.

      He might not be for long in terms of a career but they won’t be parting ways this year unless he suddenly retires.

  3. Zxvo3

    I have been blown away by L.J. Collier. He uses his length, power, and hand placement to his advantage on a lot of his snaps. Rob and others, you should check out this tape of him against Texas Tech.

    2:10- Gets pressure on the QB by pushing the LT into his lap
    2:37- Gets past the LT ands nearly gets the sack but gets held by the LT
    4:25- Dominates the LT by using speed to power and gets the sack
    6:04- Tosses the LT to the ground while almost getting the sack
    6:37- Breaks through the offensive line but can’t get the stop
    7:32- Pushes the LT into the QB’s lap and gets the sack

    • Rob Staton

      I’ve watched all of Collier’s tape that is on Youtube. I think he’s a fantastic prospect. Very exciting. Someone I’ll be watching closely at the combine.

      • clbradley17

        This guy is a beast! Watched this one against Texas Tech Zxvo3-thanks, and another one against Texas, and he was constantly double-teamed and had a RB waiting on him too. They were definitely scheming for him most of TCU’s front 7.
        At 2 min., 3 min. and 4:14 he gets to the QB either with a big sack or hit, the last time just as he’s throwing for a TD, and he is frequently in on run stops throughout, but they were double-teaming him a Lot.

        Here’s another one against Cal in the Cheez-it Bowl 5 weeks ago, and he looks great in that game too, although the game was an all D, no O 10-7 OT mess of a win for TCU.

        His speed, strength, and variety of moves is why Senior Bowl OL practice player of the week Chuma Edoga named him as the toughest defensive player he faced all week when asked by reporters/podcasters at the Senior Bowl.

  4. charlietheunicorn

    The chess piece or offense coordinator toy… Percy Harvin.
    If the player can match up with Percy on the field and lacks the off the field drama…. you have to think long and hard about drafting him. I think the OC now in place will be more willing to utilize such a weapon.. and RW being in the second year of the offense, talk about explosive potential.

    (It is still amazing to think that will Percy, Lynch and a plethora of other high maintenance players on the team, Seattle won a SB…… that is a hell of a coaching job right there)

  5. calgaryhawk

    Rob, are there any kickers that you feel are worthy of drafting in this years class and would management be tempted?

    • Rob Staton

      I haven’t seen any worth drafting

      • clbradley17

        A few good ones here if we acquire a 7th or as a UDFA, but would rather have Gould or Gostowski. Gould was 33 of 34 in 2018 and 39 of 41 in 2017 for the 49ers.

  6. HappyGuy

    I think kick returner is a real need. How do you think the Hawks will address this in this offseason? I don’t think Lockett should be used as much on special teams when he has become so valuable to the offense. Or do you think my concerns are unjustified?

  7. Aaron

    Adam Schefter just posted a new article about the Russell Wilson contract situation, link below…


  8. Nick

    Rob, LJ Collier is a best. It really does seem like there is great value to be had at DT/DE in rounds 2-4. Remember how two years ago the front half of the draft class was just loaded in DBs? And Seattle waited until after that initial run was made? I wonder if they think the same about DE this year—that they’re going to have to trade back and therefore will most likely miss out on the “top” talents.

    Another clue that could show us this was their plan all along is the Rasheem Green pick. While yes, they needed to address Mike B’s absence, Green was touted as a potential first-round pick if he stayed another year. I’m not sold on him yet, but they could be expecting a lot from Green over the next few years.

    Side note: has anyone watched Cortez Broughton? He’s a DT from Cincinnati and his get off is insane. I’m going to guess his 10 yard split puts him squarely in the Seahawks’ radar. Also, he appears to be a stand up bloke from what little I’ve read.

  9. JimQ

    After watching game tapes of both Khalen Saunders and Greg Gaines, they seem to play similar positions, are of similar size and athleticism and even wear the same number, #99. Gaines will occasionally shift out to DE on some passing downs, there was little evidence that Saunders ever did the same. They both seem very stout with good interior line push, both could shed blocks better with better technique. After watching both on film (Saunders only has a couple of game tapes, Gaines, many) I’m of the opinion that Greg Gaines is the superior player based on those tapes & with the level of competition factored in. Most ranking sites have Gaines positioned ahead of Saunders at this early point in the draft. That is not to say Saunders wouldn’t be a viable pick, but only if Gaines is off the board at that selection-IMO.

    Parris Campbell would be a great pick too, but he is likely a Rd-1 or 2 pick and I’d prefer to see the DL addressed before WR as I think it is a more important team need. Additionally, I think there are some viable WR options from day 2 & 3 of the draft. I’d personally like to see the Seahawks take a late round flier on a tall, fast, but raw athlete like WR/RB-Jalen Hurd, who will likely be thought of with much higher regard after his combine/pro day testing #’s are available.

    • Rob Staton

      I’ve watched a lot of Gaines and I like him.

      However, there are significant differences between him and Saunders and I think these showed up at the Senior Bowl. Saunders bullied linemen, won with great quickness and speed. You say Gaines had success at DE on passing downs but I don’t recall that personally. But I’ve seen 320lbs Khalen Saunders rush the edge and look like an absolute freak doing it. In Mobile Gaines would initiate contact but struggled to disengage, either via bench press or with any kind of move. Sometimes his strength won the day but on others he got absorbed. Saunders won with swim/rip and by shooting gaps. I really like Gaines but to me there’s a sizeable gap between the two.

  10. GoHawksDani

    Do you think he’s better than Deebo? Why?
    I can’t forget Deebo. Such a unique build and talent. Not Lockett-flashy type, but has great route running skills and built like an RB. Seems to have solid hands.
    Maybe a bit smaller than Campbell (some sites write 6-0 some 5-11) and a bit heavier (210-215).
    Just can’t shake the route he ran vs Isaiah Johnson in the pro bowl practice. Yeah, Johnson not a pro CB but he’s not the worst either. And Deebo beat him so hard it hurt even watching 😀 that was some Baldwin-like moves 🙂

    • Rob Staton

      I don’t know. They are different players. Campbell is a better athlete by some stretch. Both good players. Don’t feel the need to assert who is better really.

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