Thoughts on last night, the draft

The first drop of the night

It was a pretty disappointing defeat in San Francisco, but Seahawks fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the direction this team is going. When you can hang with this version of the 49ers on the road, then something is working. Execute better in the passing game and maybe you win the game? Either way, there’s no reason to feel too depressed about this one.

The big thing people are talking about today is the passing game. Again. When people aren’t second guessing the quarterback position, it’s the receivers. I actually think Russell Wilson did pretty well for the most part yesterday. He had an extremely good first half and the team came out running in the second. He wasn’t really asked to move the ball until San Francisco scored a touchdown to take the lead – and that’s a thankless task against such a strong defense. His pick was ugly, but he’ll learn from that. Statistically he looks worse than the reality.

No such excuse for the receivers though, unfortunately. After a good performance against New England where everyone contributed, this was a let down. Golden Tate had maybe his worst game as a pro – dropping passes, missing chances, whiffing on a key block and looking disinterested afterwords. Braylon Edwards was OK but didn’t really back up a provocative tweet stating the game was ‘personal’ after his recent release from the 49ers. Sidney Rice was both good and bad, while Evan Moore also had an ugly drop. Was Zach Miller on the field? Only Doug Baldwin earned any credit and he didn’t make the second half due to an ankle injury. We can only imagine what could’ve been had he remained on the field.

One of the big issues for me is the definition of roles within the receivers. They’re kind of just a group. Nobody’s a true #1, nobody’s a consistent short target. There’s no productive tight end. It’s just a group of guys who play for the Seahawks. New England has to be the role model for this team unless they’re able to draft that generational talent like Calvin Johnson. The Patriots make life easy for Tom Brady with precise role players. Two big, athletic tight ends who create nightmares for linebackers in coverage. An athletic downfield player who can stretch the field in Brandon Lloyd. The best slot receiver in the NFL who just makes consistent plays and finds ways to get open. There’s a method to the madness here and while it helps having a Hall of Fame quarterback, the Pats’ offense operates like clockwork.

The Seahawks have good players. Sidney Rice can make big plays and stretch the field. Golden Tate is a capable playmaker. Doug Baldwin could end up being a great third down guy and safety valve. But what are their roles in the offense? Baldwin’s seems to be working out, but for the rest it’s not obvious to the humble observer. Rice and Tate are all over the field, one of the most expensive tight ends in the league doesn’t appear to have much responsibility in the passing game as a receiver. Suddenly the teams other ultra-athletic tight end – Anthony McCoy – isn’t getting many looks despite a ton of chemistry with Russell Wilson in pre-season. Braylon Edwards drifts in and out of the line-up. It’s such a mixed bag and as a consequence I’m not sure we’re seeing the best from any of these guys.

You can watch a game and see Wilson seemingly throw the same (or similar) pass to a different guy each time. Is there not a way of simplifying the roles of each? Perhaps turning to more shorter passes rather than relying on big plays downfield to extend drives or score points? Is a greater pass/run balance needed? Is it just a case of getting better and upgrading positions? Or is there a concern that even if you replace a guy like Miller, the tight end position just isn’t being used as an effective pass-catching threat? If you draft a 6-8, 260lbs monster like Levine Toilolo, is he going to spend every game blocking down?

There are some good receivers eligible for the 2013 draft and increasingly it’s looking like the most likely option with the teams latest first round pick. But even then, merely adding another body to the equation won’t solve all the problems. The entire passing game needs to have more of a focus with more defined roles. The off-and-on nature of the passing game (we’ll come to you when needed, for example) almost encourages inconsistency. Throwing in another young rookie into the system next year won’t necessarily solve any problems. But it’s a start.

I used the Patriots as an example above, but the one other team I keep coming back to are the Atlanta Falcons. They too started a rookie quarterback – albeit the #3 overall pick in 2008 rather a third rounder. Matt Ryan inherited Roddy White, but the Falcons front office quickly went out and grabbed Tony Gonzalez as a safety net at tight end. They created a running game with Michael Turner and drafted a left tackle in Sam Baker. In 2011 they felt obliged to get another weapon and traded up to get Julio Jones. That is the very definition of building around a quarterback and it’s probably why Ryan has succeeded in the pro’s.

Russell Wilson has a left tackle and he has a running game. He’s inherited Sidney Rice, who could be as good as if not better than Roddy White. The Zach Miller project hasn’t worked – he’s no Tony Gonzalez and almost certainly won’t be playing for the $11m he’s currently due in 2013. The Seahawks have to find their version of the great Gonzalez or even their version of Julio Jones. Keep building, refine the passing offense and make sure Wilson feels comfortable with guys he can trust to make plays. He needs to know where certain players are going to be on the field, and the receivers need to know what their role is. Improving the passing game has to be the #1 priority in the off-season because right now it’s the only thing holding this team back from being a serious contender.

Games on the schedule this weekend: LSU @ Texas, South Carolina @ Florida, Alabama @ Tennessee, Utah @ Oregon State.


  1. Clayton Russell

    Hey Rob, great work as usual. It is clear to me thus far in the season our receivers are just not getting the job done whether that is a problem with dropped passes or getting open it reflects the overall passing game. If we are to look at every game this year, Russell Wilson has given the Seahawks an opportunity to win. Needless to say, we have 3 losses now due to missed opportunities, dropped passes and in some cases uncreative play calling. I understand we are working with a rookie and with rookies comes high and lows which as a team we are definitely experiencing as fans. The problem with the offense in my opinion is we do not have a true number 1 WR and the Seahawks now realize this and will address this with their 1st round pick. Rice is a solid number two but either due to not being able to shed defenders, lack of time given by the OL he is not getting the looks. Secondly, Baldwin, Edwards, Tate and now Turbin and Evans have all made key drops that could have made game changing impact. In all cases they failed to come down with the ball or blatantly dropped passes. When receivers continue to drop passes in key situations it has to affect the confidence of the QB; and since almost every WR we have has done this who can Wilson rely on as a pass catcher? This again reiterates my projection the Seahawks will address the WR position next April, followed by a RT and probably DL or a LB to eventually replace LeRoy Hill.

    We have some winable games coming up and a week 11 bye to recuperate. I truly believe the Seahawks will finish 3-3 within the division and have the opportunity to complete a 10-6 season. IF we can beat Detroit and Chicago we put ourseleves in a great position to make the playoffs as we will hold tie-breakers over those teams as well as the Packers and Cowboys.

    Great work as usual,


    • Rob Staton

      Great thoughts there Clayton, thank you.

  2. Vin

    Great article, Rob. You’ve stated basically everything I’ve been feeling about the passing game ever since traning camp. It does lack focus. With the way they rotate everybody in and out, how can Wilson, or any QB for that matter, gain any cohesiveness with the group. Wilson needs a Bobby Engram. I also think it would help if the OC would dial up plays that wouldnt take so long to develop, such as the drop that Tate had on 3 & 4. Im sure the opposing defense has something to do with it, but I find everytime that RW drops back in a PA, its almost as if he’s waiting for the WR to get open, make the cut or whatever, instead of throwing the ball and trusting that the WR will get be in the right spot and get his head turned around. It just feels like flag football to me sometimes. I dont care which WRs or TEs they pick, just pick some guys for Wilson to develop that trust with. And call some plays that might allow RW to get into a rhythm. I honestly think those things would take us alot farther than tryng to upgrade the WR position for the upteenth time.

    • Michael

      “it would help if the OC would dial up plays that wouldnt take so long to develop, such as the drop that Tate had on 3 & 4”

      Couldn’t agree more… Despite the result, I think that was Bevell’s best third and short call all year. Kinda funny that any idoit who’s ever played Madden on their xbox knows that’s a higher percentage play than most of what we’ve seen so far…

      I also put most of the blame on Bevell for the red zone struggles this year. It’s feels like once he get’s inside the 20 he forgets that you can still achieve a first down without scoring. That 3rd and 5 play from the 17 where Wilson threw into tight coverage on Braylon Edwards is a perfect example. Just get the freaking 5 yards!! You can run a damn slant route down there too you know!!

    • Rob Staton

      Seattle’s offense is almost anti-rhythm for the passing game. It’s a case of run it down your throat and hope to make the big play. Against New England pretty much every big play came off and we still won by just a single point. Against San Francisco no big play came off and you lose by a touchdown. Surely there’s some kind of happy medium here that allows Seattle to maintain their offensive identity without relying so much on x-factor plays that are more often than not 50-50 shots downfield.

  3. Steve-O

    One thing I don’t see people complaining about is the O-Line. I don’t think we’re going to be challenging the Niners for division title with the rotating dance card that has been our O-Line. Can you see Breno as a starting Super Bowl offensive lineman? Me neither. The Niners have been drafting heavily on the O-Line lately. Look at how they ran over us. Case closed.

    • Rob Staton

      The 49ers have invested three first round picks into their line (Staley, Iupati, Davis). Seattle has invested two (Okung, Carpenter) but also has a second rounder playing center (Unger) and a third rounder currently injured (Moffitt). To quote Mike Shanahan when asked about right tackles, “name me a team that has a good one”. So sure, I can see a Super Bowl team with Breno Giacomini at right tackle. That’s not the issue for the Seahawks right now and we shouldn’t expect to roll out five first round picks on the offensive line. I don’t think any team in the NFL has invested as much draft capital into the OL as Seattle in recent years.

      • PatrickH

        The large number of snaps played against the Patriots, and the short week, took a toll and probably explained the Seahawks’ inability to stop the Niners’ run game. On the other side, the Niners D also allowed 100 yards to Lynch, and probably would have given up a lot of passing yards but for the drops.

        • AlaskaHawk

          Rob- good write up on our receiver needs. Regarding routes – why can’t we copy from New England? Steal from the best and then adapt to fit our team.

          After drafting WR/TE we need a few more linemen. The right side of our line is really not capable of blocking good defenses. The left side is good but there is always that injury worry. Everyone talks about running and how great Marshawn is, but he is not getting a lot of help from this line. As for pass protection Wilson would certainly look better if he wasn’t having to worry about the pocket breaking down.

          Our last two possessions with the niners was pitiful. Out of gas, out of rhythmn, not even a hint of being able to move the ball.

          If we get seven picks next draft, I hope we use at least 5 on offense.

  4. Kenny Sloth

    How about Dallas Thomas from Tennessee?
    What’re your thoughts on him.
    He’s my favorite OT from thus year.

    • Rob Staton

      Like the guy a lot. He’s moved to guard this year which bothers me… if Tennessee don’t see him as a tackle can he play there in the league? Solid G or RT prospect.

      • Kenny Sloth

        See, I saw his switch as a plus. You know how this FO loves versatility. He could easily be on their radar. They like really tall lean OL. He definitely fits the bill. Might not be quite as nasty in run blocking as they want, but he pulls like a fuckin’ mug. And gets out in front on screens and outside zone runs. He looks like a great fit for a ZBS

  5. Michael

    Very good article. I don’t think anyone who watches this team (or runs it for that matter) could tell you who is supposed to be what. Even in the New England game this was the case (albeit with a much more pleasant result). Wilson threw deep routes to every single pass catcher out there. Is every guy on the field an equally viable deep threat? I tend to think not.

    There is a reason you rarely see Welker running 50 yards down the field. He has a clearly defined role in that offense, and it’s tailored to what he does best. Have you ever seen Brady throw a goal line fade route to Welker? Why would he when Gronk exists? Maybe I’m wrong on this but aren’t Sidney Rice’s best attributes his height and jumping ability? Why do all the fade routes (which I’m not terribly crazy about in the first place) seem to be going to the 5’10” Golden Tate instead of the 6’4″ Sidney Rice?

    • Rob Staton

      The sheer lack of targets Rice seems to get in the offense is baffling. Unless he’s getting blanket coverage every game (doubtful) he should be targeted more. Wilson seems to be making one key read on most plays, probably via advice from the coaches in year one. But Rice is very rarely the target.

  6. Michael

    Why does every one, when talking about New England’s TE duo, always refer to them as, “two big athletic tight ends”?

    Not picking on you Rob because everyone seems to say it, but Aaron Hernandez is not big. He’s listed at 6’1″ 245lbs which has got to make him one of the smallest tight ends in all of football. (if you even consider him a true TE…)

    He is certainly athletic though, and one of the more unique players in the game. He is far better after the catch than most TE’s and I think his skill set is an absolute match made in heaven for the Patriots offense. I would go so far as to say that he wouldn’t be nearly as effective on any other team in the league. Yet another example of a clearly defined role in a sucessfull passing game… imagine that?

    • Rob Staton

      Yeah I should probably remove the ‘big’ tag from the post. Gronk is a beast, Hernandez is a role player – and a very effective one. Always was at Florida too.

  7. Stuart

    Michael, EXACTLY! You have my vote to be the OC of the Seahawks. How come Bevell doesnt get that basic philosophy? It’s the reasons that you state that make me crazy watching the play calling.

    Nice write up Rob, thanks.

  8. ab

    I agree with the assessment of better defined role players without the spending of a high draft pick on a Calvin Johnson/Julio Jones type receiver. It’s somewhat interesting that as adaptable as Pete Carroll has been fitting players into defined roles with the defense, they lack the same ingenuity with the offense. Offensively, I think it’s also the lack of a true deep threat, a Mike Wallace type. It seems as though that is the weapon they are missing for this offense. After having a couple years of a stronger-armed QB after Hasselbeck and seeing what Carroll/Bevell run I wonder if they’re still looking for another piece to the puzzle. We don’t have any players that can truly take the top off the defense. We take our deep shots every game, but we’re missing the player with game-breaking speed to take advantage of that idea.

  9. Phil

    Rob – I agree with everything you have said, but here are a few other observations. (1) What’s with all the bubble screens? Whenever I see one called, I cringe because it seems to take an eternity to develop and by the time RW releases the ball, the CB is inches away from a pick six. I can’t recall any success we’ve had with a bubble screen all year. (2) Where is the screen to a RB? Maybe the Seahawks have called one, but I can’t remember seeing one. (3) Where are the short throws to the middle of the field? Sure, we throw slants, but what about the simple 4 or 5 yd. dump off throws over the middle to a TE or a RB?

    I’m a supporter of RW, but I think his lack of height makes it difficult for him to throw short passes over his offensive linemen and rushing defenders. So, on short yardage downs, the center of the field is being taken away from us. If I had the time, I’d research what New Orleans does with Brees on 3rd and 4 or 5 yd. situations.

    • Rob Staton

      I’ve not studied Brees either but he’s very unique. His footwork is borderline insane, he jumps around on the spot, always keeps his feet moving. It’s like a more extreme version of Peyton Manning in the pocket. But it somehow enables him to avoid pressure, step up and find an easy passing lane. Wilson is more athletic than Brees, but his footwork is much heavier and completely different. I’m not sure the lack of short game is on the height, rather the style of the offense. Really Seattle us using the pass when they need to or for big strikes. It remains a bit of an afterthought. That’s not really helping. A lot of teams make the 5-yard pass the bread and butter of their offense. In Seattle it’s a 5-yard run. They look for PA and bootleg opportunities… and by nature they are usually downfield throws.

  10. Jeff

    Bevell is the first problem.

    If you go back and read comments about him and the offense at Minnesota on SB,you find that the comments were quite similar,even with Brett,Rice,Harvin,Peterson,and all the rest to work with.

    Also note that he seems to panic at key moments on the sideline. Very bad example to set.

    After Edwards scored his TD against NE, he went up to almost apologize to Bevell,who looked unforgiving.(See end of highlight video on the Seahwks website.) Looks like he’d rather fail following the plan,than see someone succeed with improvisation.

    He wasn’t successful at Minnesota. He had been a QB coach at Green Bay. Rumour (via SB fans) was that he was hired to help attract Brett,not because anyone thought that he was an especially good coach. Before that,his claim to fame was as a Wisconsin QB in the 90s.

    He therefore was a Schneider hire,not a Carroll hire. The old GB network.

  11. Colin

    Bevell didn’t lose the game guys. Dropped passes did. I have not been a fan of Bevell, but he had the Niners number on several occasions.

    Seattle just has to get their shit together and start playing well rounded games, ON THE ROAD.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Maybe it is both lack of good play design and dropped balls. There is nothing scary about our offense. We just hope the defense will keep the score low and that somehow we will learn to score in the red zone.

  12. Justin M

    If we can get a legitamite #1 wr we shoudl be fine, Rice will make a great #2 Baldwin and Tate will be slot/ third down guys. I have no idea about Zack Miller, have not seen enough of him on passing downs to see if he just needs to play more or if we should draft a Te. With that said if we could pick up a #1 wr (size and all), than we can draft a playmaker like Robert Woods. But I do not see him as a #1 which is what we are missing IMO. Also, Robert Woods drops passes which worries me considering all the dropped passes this year. A sure handed guy would make me more happy.

    • Michael

      all the dropped passes this year?

      Before the Thursday night game we were in the bottom (or top i guess) third of the league in dropped passes per attempt. Sure it’s a surprise for the regression to the mean to all show up on the one night, but I don’t think this team necessarily has a drop problem…

  13. Cameron

    I feel like the problem with our passing offense is that it’s a bit of a one trick pony. Right now it’s predicated on running the ball effectively and then PA bomb. That’s great when the run game is going and you’re playing a mediocre pass defense. San Fran seemed to be aware of this and had a great plan for shutting it down. They blitzed RW more than any other team I’ve seen play this year. We need to be able to adjust on the fly and recognize when teams have shut down our bread and butter. I’d like to see more quick hitters, slants, curls, etc when teams are blitzing rather than long developing routes.

  14. EFly88

    I think the lack of a short passing game is a byproduct of the run heavy offense. Let’s say that Lynch is cruising in the first quarter and that requires the opposing team’s defense to stick 8 men in the box.

    This is the goal of our offense as it opens up the deep PA plays. However, since there are now 8 defenders in the box it makes short passing very difficult. Quick 3 step slants are going to get smashed. A quick slant will lead your WR right into the OLB or SS depending on how their defense is aligned.

    The open areas against 8 men in the box are the sidelines and the Hawks have targeted them appropriately. An offense can’t have everything. However, I would like to see more sit routes in the middle of the field on long developing plays, ideally to zach miller.

  15. dave crockett

    WRs have role confusion?

    Not surprising. Most have overlapping athletic traits and/skill sets.

    That’s not inherently a bad thing. We have mostly big/athletic guys who make plays on the ball in the air. Rice is the most obvious, but this is also what Tate and Edwards bring to the table. The only really different receiver is Baldwin. Unfortunately, we have a fair number of Sidney Rice-lite guys on the roster but no Baldwin-lite. The offense just grinds to a halt when Baldwin is missing.

    I’d like to see them bring back Deon Butler for the stretch run.

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