Friday, April 28, 2017

What will the Seahawks do on Day Two of the NFL Draft?

by Adam Householder, Scouting & Draft Analyst, SeahawksFTW.com

Day Two Preview
The primetime event of the NFL Draft’s first round has come and gone, and it should be no surprise that Seahawks General Manager John Schneider did what he does best by trading out of the first round for the fourth time in the last five years.  Schneider continued to add draft capital by adding a significant haul for essentially moving back from 26th overall to 34th overall.  By making this move, Schneider added an additional 3rd round and 7th round picks from Atlanta, and an additional 4th round pick from Chicago via San Francisco after 49ers GM John Lynch moved back up into the first round to draft LB Reuben Foster.  
This leaves Seattle with five draft picks between draft picks 90-111 overall.  “That’s what was great, we didn’t feel like we lost a player to make the moves.  That kept us incentivized.”  Pete Carroll said of their comfort with trading back in the first round, and then completely out of it after receiving a late offer from San Francisco.  
Rumors throughout league insiders is that this draft class contained a few elite prospects that separated themselves from the next shelf of players, but that the next talent level contained rare depth.  More rumors have circulated today saying that the Seahawks only had a few of players they were willing to invest drafting a first round pick on, and that one of those players was QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Which would have been a classic John Schneider pick.  My hunch is that another one of those players would have been the player that was drafted right ahead of them by the Cleveland Browns at 25th overall - Jabrill Peppers.  
Schneider’s comfort with moving back means that Seattle has a group of players they consider equivalent in their projected value.  And now with the Seahawks holding six draft picks in day two, that suggests to me that Seattle may be busy again in day two, and may use some of that capital to move back up into the second round for a third selection.  
Three picks in the second round… Let’s start dreaming up scenarios…
My belief is that the Seahawks may have a few guys they’ve fallen in love with, like they have in year’s past with Tyler Lockett, Russell Wilson, and Earl Thomas.  But most of the players on their board likely fit a profile of what they’re looking for at a certain position.
The Seahawks will add one offensive lineman with significant potential, if that…
Cam Robinson and Forrest Lamp are possibilities early in the second, as are Isaac Asiata and Zach Banner, but I have them more likely to go in the third.  If one of those four names are not called by the Seahawks, then we may see Schneider neglect the position group until the late mid rounds.  If that’s the case, then that would be a major vote of confidence into Tom Cable and last year’s additions – Ifedi, Odhiambo, and Fant, along with the addition of former second overall pick Luke Joeckel (who I really like on a one year deal).  This group could be undervalued by the public, which may be something silently working in Schneider’s favor as other team’s attempt to project players as targets of the Seattle Seahawks.  – Forrest Lamp, Cam Robinson, Isaac Asiata, Zach Banner
Secondary help is going to be part of this draft group by the Seahawks.  We could see a long lean body type to man the outside corner, an inside nickel-type, a play making safety type, or a player providing multiple desired traits.  This group is deep.  Seattle has had pre-draft contacts with UW’s Budda Baker, Kevin King, and the best of the three, recently injured Sidney Jones.  While I considered King overvalued heading into the draft, I do see incredible value of any of these players in the second or early third rounds.  Another PAC-12 secondary I see the Seahawks having interest in is the trio out of Colorado.  Chidobe Awuzie gets the most hype, but I’m a huge fan of both Ahkello Witherspoon and Tedric Thompson.  In the later rounds, the players I think Seattle will show interest in are Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley, New Hampshire Safety Casey DeAndrade, and Louisville Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons - who reminds me so much of Brandon Browner that it feels too likely to happen.  Tankersley, DeAndrade, and Harvey-Clemons would likely be day three targets.   – Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, Kevin King, Ahkello Witherspoon, Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson, Casey DeAndrade
Last year, Seattle looked into troubled DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche, who they elected to pass on when he was still available and Seattle was on the clock.  That type of player also exists this year, and his name is Malik McDowell out of Michigan State.  McDowell has been rumored as a top five talent, like Nkemdiche last year, but is devalued due to personality/character concerns.  The guy I love for this role is Michigan DE/DT Chris Wormley.  If I had my pick between the two, I’d go with Wormley.  – Chris Wormley, Malik McDowell
Run stuffing prospects Seattle will likely have interest in for the interior of the defensive line are Colorado DT Josh Tupou and Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson, with Tomlinson likely going much earlier than Tupou. – Dalvin Tomlinson, Josh Tupou.
Finally, the pass rushers.  FSU’s DeMarcus Walker has been a popular choice through many mock drafts found online, and I don’t think that’s inaccurate.  My top player for the vacancy at SAM linebacker for the Seahawks was TJ Watt, but I also really like OLB/DE Tim Williams out of Alabama.  – Tim Williams, DeMarcus Walker
But most of all, out of all the players still on the draft board, my favorite player for the Seahawks is UConn Safety Obi Melifonwu.   
Other players I think Seattle really likes, but may not be an immediate position of need, are TE Antony Auclair, and QB Davis Webb out of Cal. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Seahawks Draft Guide



by Adam Householder 
Draft & Scouting Analyst, SeahawksFTW.com

Aside from weaknesses in the Seattle secondary, there are other areas of needed improvement, and it’s possible that no position group needs to build upon their performance from last year more than the Seattle offensive line.  The Seahawks have seen their rushing statistics fall from an average of 5.3 yards per rush (2014) to 4.8 yards (2015), to only 3.9 yards per rush this last season (2016).  
According to radio and TV interviews with Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and several other big decision makers throughout the league, offensive line talent in this year’s crop of prospects is not as deep as previous years, which may prove to have a major influence on the entire draft.  Because scouts do not see as many starting caliber talented offensive line prospects, it may force some of the good, but not great, prospects to be overdrafted by teams desperate to fill vacancies left by free agency.  
If this scenario were to play out, I would expect John Schneider to shift his focus to another position group to add to, as Schneider historically drafts the most talented player on his draft board rather than drafting for need.  It may upset some to not see an offensive lineman as Seattle’s first draft selection, but people can rest assured that the player drafted will be a player the coaching staff and front office expect to be an impact player at some point.

Seahawks 2017 Draft Picks

First round: 26th pick overall.
Second round: 26th pick, 58 overall.
Third round: 26th pick, 90 overall.
Third round: 38th pick, 102 overall.
Fourth round: No pick (traded to Patriots).
Fifth round: No pick (forfeited after violating offseason workout rules).
Sixth round: 26th pick, 210 overall.
Seventh round: Eighth pick, 226 overall (via trade with Panthers in 2015; traded original pick conditionally to Raiders in 2016).

The Seahawks have two of the top 60 draft selections (26, 58 overall), but don’t be surprised to see Schneider trade his first pick, as he’s done three of the last four years.  

Potential Trade Scenarios 

Three-way trade:
Cleveland Browns trade 12th overall to Seattle.
New England trades QB Jimmy Garoppolo to Cleveland.
New England trades CB Malcolm Butler to Seattle.
Seattle trades CB Richard Sherman to New England.

Seattle trades their 1st round pick (26 overall) to Cleveland.
Cleveland trades a 2nd and 3rd round pick (33 and 65 overall) to Seattle.

So, what are some other potential names Seahawks fans should start to get acquainted with?

OT Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)
Ramczyk has the size, strength, and athleticism Seattle looks for in an offensive lineman, but due to the lack of depth at the position throughout the draft, it’s likely that Ramczyk gets overdrafted by a team before #26.   
One of the few knocks on Ramczyk is that he has the height and athleticism, but he lacks the arm length (33 ½”) to be a starting caliber NFL tackle, and likely projects more as a guard.  Projecting to a guard may lower Ramczyk’s draft value due to a much lower premium on interior offensive lineman, which may benefit the Seahawks, if they see the value.  Seattle currently has a vacancy at Right Guard after Pete Carroll stated they intend to move last year’s first round pick, Germaine Ifedi, to Right Tackle.

Offensive Tackle/Offensive Guard Cam Robinson (Alabama)
Classic Pete Carroll type of player in Cam Robinson.  Carroll loves great athletic pedigree.  Robinson, a former 5-star high school recruit, ended up having to work his way through some adversity before regaining his potentially elite status.  Robinson has the physical make up to be an impact player at either guard or tackle position, drawing comparisons to another former first round Alabama offensive lineman drafted by Schneider and Carroll – LG James Carpenter.

Robinson’s consistency in pass protection is the major knock against him.  Teams may also show caution and not draft Robinson as high as his play would merit due to recent Alabama player’s dominance at the collegiate level not translating to the pros.  A player like Cam Robinson could be drafted as early as the middle of the first round, or linger to the end of the second round, but I expect to see his name called sooner than later.

Safety Budda Baker (Washington)
When you watch his tape, it’s hard to dismiss the Earl Thomas comparisons many draft pundits apply when analyzing University of Washington Safety Budda Baker.  Baker was the heartbeat of a Huskies defense that found itself in the national championship last year for the first time since 1991.

The one negative I have on Baker is that he drops too many balls that could otherwise be interceptions.  If he can learn to slow down and let the game come to him a little more, he could be dangerous.  Baker’s range, positional flexibility, and ability to cover on special teams make him an exceptional fit for the team needs of the Seattle Seahawks, who have already shown interest, by scheduling a prospect meeting with him at the NFL Combine.

Cornerback Kevin King (Washington)
Kevin King’s physical profile screams Pete Carroll-type corner.  He’s tall, he’s long, and he’s really fast.  King has Richard Sherman-like size and wingspan, yet King possesses the speed and vertical jump Richard Sherman only dreams of having.  I’m not saying King will ever be a better player than Sherman, but I am saying that King has a higher caliber toolbox when it comes to athleticism.
While I’d love a hometown prospect for the Seahawks, I do not see King being drafted at 26 by Seattle, but possibly so if he’s there in the 2nd (or 3rd…).  He’s a fun prospect, but he was never even the number one corner at UW; King regularly defended the second-best receiver on opposing teams due to his counterpart, Sidney Jones, taking on the challenge of covering opposing number one receivers.  
This would be a player I could see Seattle drafting if they decided to trade back from their original first round pick, but not at 26 overall.

Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Tim Williams (Alabama)
The good thing about the Alabama defense is that there are so many great players, some of them don’t get as much of the spotlight as they would otherwise deserve, like last year’s second round pick by Seattle, former Alabama Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed.  Tim Williams is possibly another one of those hidden gems.

Williams is extremely quick off the snap, and uses leverage well when engaged, but he’s lean and will need to add more bulk to his frame once he gets to the NFL.  If drafted by Seattle, Williams could immediately add play-making ability to a vacancy at the SAM linebacker spot; a void created two years ago after Bruce Irvin left in free agency for Oakland.  Williams would also add high caliber depth at key pass rusher spots behind Cliff Avril and Frank Clark.  

The Seahawks have brought Williams to Seattle for a private workout, showing there’s genuine interest.

Defensive Tackle/Defensive End Malik McDowell (Michigan State)
Perhaps one of the most volatile draft stocks this class has seen, McDowell has been projected by some to be a potential top-ten pick, while others have projected him to fall completely out of the first round.  McDowell entered the 2016 college season looking to cement his draft stock as a top first round pick, but did not complete the task after suffering injuries and not playing with the same intensity that earned him the national exposure and hype from the seasons before.

Drawing on-field comparrisons to San Francisco Defensive End DeForrest Buckner, by Pro Football Focus, there are still questions about McDowell’s motor and work ethic.  The Seahawks will do their due diligence, as they did with Robert Nkemdiche last year, but the Seahawks did pass up on a player with a similar make-up in last year’s draft.

Safety/Cornerback/Linebacker Jabrill Peppers (University of Michigan)
I love this prospect.  I love the versatility, the instincts, the play making ability.  What is not to like?!  Well, the way Peppers was utilized at the University of Michigan may possibly end up working against him.  As a Heisman finalist, college offenses would gameplan just to avoid giving Peppers playmaking opportunities that could affect the game, but those plans rarely worked.  
Because Peppers was utilized in so many different ways, he never had the opportunity to really develop and focus on certain skills.  Meaning that Peppers skill-set and acumen is wide, but isn’t as deep as you’d expect.  
Peppers will need to hone his skills to one position group and master one, rather than be a jack of all trades and master of none.  
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End T.J. Watt (University of Wisconsin)
Watt is an interesting prospect on several levels.  First, he’s the younger brother of NFL superstar and former NFL Defensive MVP J.J. Watt, so that’s obviously going to turn heads.  Watt went to Wisconsin originally as an offensive player (Tight End), but after injuries plagued him and other team needs surfaced, Watt made the transition to defense, and never looked back.  
In pass coverage, Watt has rare perspective after initially playing at the collegiate level as a pass catcher and blocker.  Theoretically, this allows him to more quickly diagnose and impact plays, and his game tape confirms it.  Watt possesses unique physical tools, standing at 6’5” with 33 ½” arms, Watt’s size allows him to engage and leverage his length against pass blockers, which means he could add immediate depth at defensive end while immediately slotting in as the new starting strongside linebacker.


And for my top pick at 26th overall, if the Seahawks do not trade back is...

Safety Obi Melifonwu (University of Connecticut)

Not often does a safety come out of the draft with the combination of size and speed that Melifonwu possesses.  Melifonwu’s professional comparison is, without surprise, Seattle Safety Kam Chancellor.  Both players possess rare size (6 feet 3 inches), but Melifonwu might already exceed Chancellor in his pass coverage ability, as Melifonwu is also being considered a potential cornerback prospect.  
Melifonwu offers incredibly intriguing size and athleticism, but he also provides utility and flexibility by adding depth behind all three of Seattle’s key Legion of Boom members – Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman, while also immediately starting opposite Richard Sherman as the number two corner.  
When you’re looking at a rare combination of size, speed, athleticism, utility, and flexibility, I’d say that’s about as unique as it gets.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Rely on the Draft

The Richard Sherman trade rumors continue to swirl, thanks to John Schneider fanning the flames on local sports radio.

While I hold true to my belief that there isn't any legitimate bad blood between Sherman and the organization, I do believe that this story was perpetuated by Seahawks brass in order to 'teach a lesson' or 'show the players who's the boss'.

If that is indeed the case, I really hope Pete & John don't fuck up the team chemistry just to prove a point.

Still, a strong contingency of fans appear to be content with Sherman's departure.  I have yet to hear a single, logical trade scenario-- proposed by teams or fans -- that makes any sense to benefiting the Seahawks.  I suppose the belief is that Seattle will score some high-round draft picks that we're certain will turn into the next Richard Sherman.

But should we still be putting so much faith in the Seahawks draft abilities?

There's no denying that in their first 3 seasons at the helm, Pete Carroll and John Schneider struck gold in the draft.  Let's take a look at those 3 draft classes.

2010

Talk about hitting the ground running.  In their first draft together, P & J scored on several picks. They found a solid, starting Left Tackle to build around and a future Hall of Fame candidate in Earl Thomas just in the first round alone.  Golden Tate took a while to get going, but he was integral in Seattle's first Super Bowl victory.  He continues to do great work in Detroit.  Kam Chancellor was a steal in the 5th round and continues to be the centerpiece of the defense.  Even Anthony McCoy had his moments.

2011


Another stellar draft class as the team continued to find it's identity.  James Carpenter was a bit of a reach in the first round, but he continues to be a serviceable lineman in the NFL today.  3 solid defensive picks in the middle rounds came out as home runs-- KJ Wright, Sherman and Brandon Maxwell. Late 7th round selection, Malcolm Smith, was a Super Bowl MVP.  Hard to say this class was anything short of outstanding.

2012



Three drafts in a row where the team did phenomenally.  It's no longer a matter of just getting lucky-- these guys seem to really know what they're doing. This might well be Seattle's best draft in franchise history-- and they were given a failing grade almost unanimously by sports writers everywhere. Looking back, the first three selections, were undeniably great.  Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson are two of the best players in the league today.  Bruce Irvin is only with the Raiders today because we couldn't afford to keep him.  Turbin, Howard, Toomer and Sweezy all recently signed new contracts with other teams.  Jeremy Lane is projected to be this team's starting nickel corner.  If there is another draft class where one team acquired this much talent-- I haven't seen it.



Since then, I would argue that the team hasn't been nearly as 'lucky' as they have in past seasons.

2013




Compared to the previous three drafts-- this one was a colossal failure.  Although Spencer Ware, Ty Powell and Michael Bowie caught on with other teams to varying levels of success,  most of the players from this class did not.  Luke Willson is the obvious exception, as he was just signed to an extension by the Seahawks.  Jordan Hill was serviceable for Seattle, but ultimately did not carve out a role.  Christine Michael looks to continue to disappoint fans in Green Bay next season.


2014


Better than the previous year, the 2014 draft was still disappointing.  Richardson has flashed moments of brilliance but has failed to stay healthy.  Justin Britt shifted around the offensive line before finding a home at center. Cassius Marsh, Eric Pinkins and KPL have been decent role players, but this draft hasn't panned out as well as hoped.

2015



The top of this draft class has been developing really well.  Lockett and Clark are both on the verge of being next-level type players.  After that, you may as well throw darts at the draft board.

2016



Obviously, far too early to assess last years draft class, but there certainly isn't anyone who jumps off the list.  Jaran Reed contributed the most from this class, but we'll see if he can develop into the Brandon Mebane replacement we were looking for. We're hoping Ifedi can develop into the starting right tackle we need after spending last season at Right Guard.  Prosise could be a legit playmaker, but we'll have to see if he can stay on the field.

--------------------------------------

My point is that Seattle got REALLY lucky in the first few drafts of the P&J campaign.  It's not that they've done poorly since-- they've just fallen back to the median, as should be expected.

Now that you've taken a bird's eye view of the team's recent draft history-- are you still gung ho about trading Richard Sherman because you don't like his attitude?

We know that Seattle is extremely thin at cornerback.  Ditching Sherman would leave the cupboard bare.  How confident are you that Seattle can draft a cornerback that can come in and be even half as proficient as Sherman has been?

Keep in mind-- it's been 5 years since Seattle has drafted a starting cornerback that has produced for them. And that's not for lack of trying.  They've selected 5 other DB's since Jeremy Lane and none of them have contributed significantly.

Look. Seattle's championship window is still open. It won't be open forever.  If you offload Sherman in his prime, you're taking a tremendous step back.  Contracts are coming up for renewal in the next few seasons that could break up the band.  It doesn't make sense to dismantle something that works just in hopes that you might find something better.  One misstep with this and Seattle could potentially close their championship window on themselves.

I honestly don't think anything will come of this in spite of the media hype.  Pete Carroll has made it his mission to manage an assortment of different personalities together and get results.  He's done it time and time again.  For a Richard Sherman trade to go down, Pete would have to admit that he can't manage one specific player's attitude to the point that it affects the team and he's willing to lose because of it.

If you do trade Sherman, it's going to cost you a few wins.  I just can't see Pete to the point of throwing his hands up and saying 'let's rebuild'.




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

On Richard Sherman

Every year, sometime not long after the Lombardi trophy is hoisted, I start to tune out all the football chatter that had gotten me through the past 6 months. I make the transition away from ESPN radio and toward the Howard Stern show.  I largely ignore Sportscenter in favor of binge watching my favorite sitcoms.

I don't start dipping my toe back into those waters until the Draft has concluded and I start to get the itch for real football.  Everything in between the conclusion of the Super Bowl and the start of training camps is pure speculation and gossip-- and that stuff is nothing short of infuriating to me.

This is one of my first posts since the season wrapped up and I would just assume not be writing it.  However, all this Richard Sherman talk has me so incensed I cannot keep my mouth shut any longer.

John Schneider, the General Manager of the Seahawks, was asked if the team would be interested in trading it's start cornerback.  Schneider responded diplomatically saying:

"We listen to like everything you would think. We're in a lot of stuff. We try to pride ourselves on that. I think I've told you guys before we walk away from 98 percent of the deals that we're involved with or talking about."

Somehow, that was blown tremendously out of context and reinterpreted to mean that the Seahawks were desperate to be rid of the 4-time Pro Bowl cornerback.

The nonsense was further perpetuated by Sherman's equally civil response, saying that he understands that football is a business. Specifically, he stated “I wouldn’t want to leave this city and my guys, but I understand it’s a business and organizational philosophies change.”

The headline that accompanied that statement drew the ridiculous conclusion that "Sherman is open to being traded".

 Local radio host Jim Moore wrote a smugly-titled piece "Sherman would look good in Brown" where he acknowledges the fact the entire concept of his story is grasping at straws, even quoting the great John Clayton as calling the story "A media creation".

Whether or not Moore is willing to admit it, he has some disdain for Sherman.  Moore was the media member Sherman famously sparred with during a press conference. While Moore claims to hold no ill will, its evident in his writing that is not the case.

Moore isn't the only Seahawks fan that has had enough of Sherman's 'act'.  Social media is rampant with so-called Seahawks fans that took some sort of umbrage with the outspoken corner.  Some folks are upset with his sideline blowup against Darrell Bevell, others don't like that he denied the altercation with Moore ever happened and some people just don't like the fact he has his own strongly held opinions.

To those people, I'd like to say "Pull your head out of your collective asses."

First of all, if you call yourself a serious Seahawks fan, you can't possibly begin to tell me that there hasn't been a single instance where, in your own living room, you erupted in fury over Bevell's actions (or inaction).   Maybe Sherman's outburst was best saved for the locker room for the sake of professionalism, but outside of that exception-- not only do I agree with Sherman, but I applauding him for caring so much about winning that he let his emotions get the better of him.

Too many professional athletes, especially those who have earned the big payday and multiple endorsements, start to place their career longevity ahead of doing whatever it takes to win.

As for the outrage stemming from his denial of the altercation with Moore-- who gives a shit?  What does this have to do with the Seahawks winning games? Absolutely nothing.  It's irrelevant, offseason gossip.  If that garbage is important to you, I suggest you trade your sports package for Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

All the jackasses that think players should keep their opinions to themselves and simply 'Shut up and do your job" are to ignorant to reason with. These meatheads think that their ticket/jersey/cable subscription somehow entitles them to have a place in the boardroom of the team's front office.  Guess what, dipshit?  It doesn't.  These players are human beings that are entitled to their own beliefs and opinions.  It just so happens that they get asked their opinions because fans are so blood thirsty for content, it had created an insatiable need for football-related news.

But for the sake of argument, lets throw all of that out for a moment.  Lets assume that the Seahawks are legitimately open to trading Sherman.

Sherm is currently under contract through the 2018 season, at the end of which he will only be 30 years old.  He's been among the best, if not the best at his position since he came into the league and has shown minimal signs of regression. 

They say that last year was a slightly down year for him, but there are so many extenuating circumstances that could have attributed to that.  Seattle's lack of a run game kept their defense on the field too much last year.  Wagner, Wright, Chancellor, Thomas and Lane all battled with injuries and missed time at different points in the year.

The Seahawks collectively took a step backwards last season and it was in no way any fault of Richard Sherman's.

So, we have established that Sherm has two seasons left on his contract and still plays at a elite level.  That would certainly make him a valuable trade piece for any team, but there's one issue that I feel is being vastly overlooked in this hypothetical scenario. 

The cornerback group is arguably the weakest, most vulnerable position group on this team.

Take Sherman out of the group, because that's exactly what trading him would do.  Now you have
Jeremy Lane, who had an up and down year coming off injury.  DeShawn Shead might not even be available until midseason as he recovers from injury.  Neiko Thorpe and Deandre Elliot were great special teams contributors last season, but would you feel comfortable sliding either of them into the starting lineup?

To remedy the vacancy left by Sherman, you would have to either trade for a corner, which seems pointlessly redundant, or draft one.  I would love to see the Seahawks add some defensive back help through the draft, but I'm extremely uncomfortable banking on a rookie to come in and start with a fraction of Sherman's effectiveness.

What would you want in exchange for Sherman?  Draft picks?  Offensive Linemen?  An offensive weapon?  I think Seattle could satisfy any of those needs just as easily without giving up one of the franchise's best players.

Despite his lucrative contract and multiple endorsements, Sherman remains passionately focused on winning.
I'm going to tell you the same thing rational people have been communicating in the wake of our disastrous presidential election-- don't perpetuate false news.  Read what is being discussed and judge for yourself if the evidence provided in the article supports the claim in the title.  Question what you read, especially this time of the NFL season. 

It simply doesn't make a lick of sense for Seattle to trade Richard Sherman.  You don't improve a team by taking away talent.  Even if Seahawks brass were growing tired of Sherman's 'antics', I would hope that they could find a way to work around that since it is obvious that both sides share the common goal of winning and bringing more Championships to the Seattle Seahawks.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another NFL Season in the books

Another season passed, another Patriots championship.

Certainly everyone outside of the New England area has had their fill of seeing Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy.  There's no doubting his greatness at this point-- he is the most complete quarterback to ever play the game.

He's not the most accurate, he doesn't have the strongest arm, he's not the most mobile nor is he the smartest.  He's really, really good in all of those areas, but I wouldn't put him #1 in any of those categories. He is, however, the most competitive.

He also happens to have spent his entire professional career under the tutelage of the greatest coaching mind in the history of organized sports. As much as it pains me to admit it-- Bill Belichick is the real G.O.A.T.

There are good coaches that can make an average team good.  There are good coaches that make a good team great.  Then there is Belichick, who can make a good coach with a good team second guess their own gameplan and make mistakes.

Mistakes that Tom Brady and his teammates will capitalize on.

We all watched the Falcons choke away a tremendous lead in the Super Bowl on Sunday.  They flat out outplayed the Patriots through 3 quarters before inexplicably imploding, sending the game into the first overtime period in Super Bowl history, and rolling over as Tom Brady marched his offense right into the endzone for the game winning score.

Both teams were pretty evenly matched, but Atlanta boasted the better running game.  You would think that the team that could control the clock on the ground would have the advantage-- and that was indeed the case for the vast majority of the game.

But down the stretch, it looked as though Kyle Shanahan started trying to outsmart the Patriots, rather than play to their strengths.  It wasn't long before their foolish playcalling created opportunities for Tom Brady to do Tom Brady-things.

Dan Quinn must have felt a tremendous sense of Déjà vu after the final whistle blew. After all, he was on the sidelines as the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks when they tried to outsmart the Patriots in Super Bowl 49.

It's not that Belichick, Brady or the Patriots are especially smart.  They simply do not stray from the 'Patriot Way'.

In Super Bowl 49, Seattle had the superior team.  I think the Patriots would've told you that in a private moment.  The Patriots know what they want to do and they're going to do it.  They'll tweak the gameplan here and there as needed, but they never venture far from what they had planned all along.

Admittedly, I haven't watched the Patriots terribly closely throughout their dynasty, but I've paid especially close attention the past few years.  The one recurring theme I've noticed over that period is that they do not waiver.

That is not to say that they don't make adjustments.

You absolutely have to make small adjustments throughout every game.  Too many NFL coaches and coordinators are too proud and bullheaded to admit when the strategy they rehearsed all week isn't cutting it in the game.  We've seen innumerable examples from our offensive coordinator, most notably the goalline pass that dashed our Super Bowl hopes against New England.

Next year should be interesting.  We've got a few new faces as first time coaches.  Kyle Shanahan will be joining the NFC West as the new 49ers coach and the Rams have a new coach who is 4 years younger than I am.  I would like to see the Seahawks take a page out of Belichick's book and play to whatever strengths surround Russell Wilson.

You can't bank on having draft classes that yield 5 starters and 3 perennial Pro Bowlers every year.  Additionally, you can't pay everyone a big-time contract.  You have to put together the most talent you can fit under the cap to surround your core players and play to their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

I know that sounds oversimplified, but its astonishing how rare you see it in action.

I'll leave you with the perfect example of that sentiment not being executed.  The Seahawks best player (Marshawn Lynch) retires.  The were unable to replace his production through the draft or free agency, so they were dependent upon Thomas Rawls recovering from injury and taking over that workload.

When injury setbacks prohibited that, you would think that the Seahawks would adjust their philosophy from being 'run first' to 'make use of your $100-million quarterback, Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin'. It seemed plain as day to alter the offensive gameplan to be more pass heavy, given the incredible production we saw from Wilson and Baldwin down the stretch of the previous season.


But that never happened.

Instead, they continued to beat the dead horse we know to be Christine Michael.  When Rawls was finally healthy, too much was expected of him. Seattle had spent all of their offensive resources on their quarterback and pass catchers, yet maintained that they were a running football team throughout.

This season was mindbogglingly frustrating because of that.  If Seattle had adapted a New England's offensive strategy-- spread out multiple receivers and pick the defense  apart with quick, short passes-- it would've taken a huge load off of the offensive line and backfield and more than likely would've helped secure home field advantage for the Seahawks.

As well as the Falcons had played through the playoffs and right up until the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, its hard to say whether home field advantage would've been enough-- but it would've been a hell of a lot more entertaining to watch .

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Another Missed Opportunity - Seahawks 20 @ Falcons 36

The Seahawks season is officially over.

This is the second consecutive season where the Seahawks failed to reach the NFC Championship game. Once again, the Seahawks lacked the depth that was their calling card in their Super Bowl championship run and it killed them yet again in the playoffs.

The Falcons were indeed the better team yesterday.  Their top rated offense lived up to its billing and the defense played like their season depended on it-- because it did.

The Seahawks defense did not play poorly.  I won't throw any blame on them for this loss.

The difference was that the Falcon's offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, drew up a game plan that played to their offense's strengths and minimized the strengths of the Seahawks defense.

Had Darrell Bevell employed this logic earlier in the season, yesterday's game might have been held in Seattle.

Michael Bennett went off on a reporter after the game for this very reason.  When it was suggested that the defensive line wasn't getting pressure on the potential MVP Matt Ryan, Bennett reminded them that Ryan was simply getting the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible-- something Bevell should have considered as the Seahawks struggled with their offensive line all season long.

When things aren't going your way, you really only have two choices.  You can make excuses or you can make adjustments.  The Falcons played without their Pro Bowl cornerback, Desmond Trufant, but not a single mention was made of him on the broadcast.  Conversely, every time the Falcons made any sort of offensive progress, the broadcasters were always quick to note Earl Thomas' absence.

I sincerely believed that Seattle had the ability to beat Atlanta.  After that, I think they would've matched up much better against Green Bay at home or Dallas on the road.  I expected a rematch of Super Bowl 49 with a Seahawks team hungry for revenge and a regular season win at Foxborough under their belts.

But the reality is that former Carroll disciple Dan Quinn has put together a a well-rounded and highly talented team.  Another reality that might not be as easy to swallow is that the Seahawks past success has made them a bit too arrogant.

With the exception of George Fant starting at left tackle, who has been a pleasant surprise,  the Seahawks had the offensive line that they intended on using all season.  They did not play well for most of this season and they showed minimal improvement throughout the season.  This specific area of neglect had a huge role in the Seahawks missing the Super Bowl.

You can't replace a guy like Earl Thomas.  It's foolish to even suggest that you could. But you need to have sufficient depth in each position group to survive the attrition of the NFL season.  The Seahawks simply asked too much of half of their starters on both sides of the ball.

I thought for certain that Seattle would shut down Atlanta's run game and force Ryan to beat them with the deep ball. Seattle started the game great and it sure looked like they were in place to put the game away, but a series of bonehead plays soon forced them to play from behind and eventually collapse.

If not for the arrogance of the Falcons players during the game, I would be pulling for this team in the playoffs.  Dan Quinn is a great guy and a terrific coach.  The Seahawks have a lot to consider in the coming months, but that is for another post.

This was a difficult and unusual season that had it's share of great moments and crushing disappointment.  Seattle is in a fortunate position where they do not need to do much to remain the front runners for the NFC West next season, but there is a lot of work to do if they hope to win Super Bowl 52.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bring on the Dirty Birds-- Seahawks 26 Lions 6

Seattle handled their business with Detroit and now look ahead to Atlanta.  They not only came away with the victory, but they also built up some serious momentum going into the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. Two games now stand between the Seahawks and another shot at a Super Bowl title.

Unlike previous seasons where we saw Seattle's offensive production intensify in the month of December, it appears as though they waited until January to get things sorted out this season.  The offensive line was outstanding as they paved the way for Thomas Rawls to set the franchise's single-game playoff rushing record.

Paul Richardson put on a receiving clinic against the Lions.  The former Colorado Buffalo made three
separate receptions that could have rivaled some of Odell Beckham's top plays.  Doug Baldwin added a few great snags of his own, including a touchdown reception he stole right out from under Jermaine Kearse.  After the game, Baldwin said he felt terrible about robbing his teammate of a piece of the glory.

Seattle will need to build upon this solid performance this weekend when they take on MVP front-runner, Matt Ryan and his Falcons.
The Seahawks had the best defensive performance of any team in the Wildcard round and they will be heavily leaned upon if Seattle has any hope of advancing.

Former Seahawks defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, has assembled an impressive team as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  His offense can move the ball through the air effortlessly and their two-headed run game has been among the league's finest.  Defensively, they're middle of the road.

Former UW standout, Desmond Trufant, is out for the season which is a significant blow to Atlanta's secondary. If Rawls plays half as well as he did against Detroit, Russell Wilson should have no problem picking apart the Falcons defense.

Keep in mind, while the Seahawks 2013 season ended on a last minute field goal by the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs-- that's the past.  This year, mind you it was in Seattle, the Seahawks defeated the Falcons without Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Thomas Rawls.

Not to mention, Russell Wilson was arguably at his most-injured point in the season.

This will be a tough game for both teams.  Seattle has the experience and the momentum, but Atlanta is well rested and plenty capable.   The key for the Seahawks will be shutting down the Falcons offense and controlling the clock. If Seattle can keep the Falcons under 20 points and collectively put up 100 rushing yards, they will advance to the Conference Championship.