Monday, February 28, 2011

Seahawks Re-Sign CB Kennard Cox

The Seahawks have re-signed special teams ace CB Kennard Cox, report multiple sources.

You might remember Cox as That Guy with the Long Hair on Special Teams. He totaled ten tackles and two passes defensed in the 11 games he played, but also blocked a punt against Kansas City and recovered a muffed punt against Arizona.

Cox was originally drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo. He isn't too valuable as a starting cornerback - many will remember Cox primarily as the guy whom Atlanta WR Michael Jenkins beat for a long touchdown, for which he may or may not have been 100% culpable. But Cox is mostly a ST gunner, not a starting CB, and this relatively minor signing could actually say quite a bit about the vision of Seattle's front office.

A Crystal Ball for Defensive Ends?

Football Outsiders has developed a tool that they think can help predict the success or failure of college defensive ends declaring for the NFL. They call it SackSEER, and they built it by measuring the qualities that seem to correlate most with highest sack numbers over the first seven years of professional play.

You can read their own explanation here.

Basically, FO found that there are four factors in a DE prospect that seem closely connected with pro success:

* Vertical leap;

* Short shuttle time;

* Sack Rate as Modified;

* Missed games of NCAA eligibility (for suspension, injury, or any other reason);

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UPDATED: Thoughts on the Combine's QB Interviews

I wrote a while back on my annoyance with idle, unconfirmable rumors against college football prospects, so it should mean something that I'm a little let down by Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett's interview at the Combine on Saturday.

To summarize, he just doesn't appear to have helped himself much with the interview. Naturally, he immediately got peppered with questions about his off-the-field issues (which seem to be zeroing in on drug abuse), and his first response was to laugh it off. Once the questions continued, he began flatly insisting that "NFL teams know what they need to" and, in response to another round of those questions, ended his interview without preamble.

That's going to make Mallett look like he has something to hide. Admittedly, the only way to avoid that look was to come out and talk about the allegations, and there could have been valid reasons not to do so right now. But he and everyone else knew that the focus of this interview would be those off-the-field flags, and the abrupt ending to the interview didn't depict a guy who felt comfortable with himself. He came across to me as simply having lost his cool. (Watch for yourself here and here.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Decoding John Schneider

Seahawks GM John Schneider graciously dropped us a few small bones today as he spoke to reporters at the Combine. In these days of CBA limbo, we're desperate for any scraps that fall from the table, are we not?

I wanted to take what we heard and turn it over a little bit in my mind. Not that I have any idea what Schneider is really thinking, but hey, we're all doing this, right?

On Matt Hasselbeck:

Top Ten Great Mistakes of Tim Ruskell, Part 2

5. The Hiring of Jim Mora

Jim L. Mora, Seattle's head coach for one brief year that wasn't brief enough, was a loose-lipped PR embarrassment before his Seattle tenure, a vacant, reactionary excuse-maker during his tenure, and a facepalm-inducing fop after he's left. He had never created anything but a mediocre defense before Ruskell tapped him to succeed Mike Holmgren as Seahawks head coach. You could rank his hiring anywhere on this list of Ruskell's greatest failures.

I don't know which is worse - that the players quit on Mora before the season was half over, or that he was trying to make grandiose, larger-than-life big-shot gestures before the season even began. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the watch, really? Did you think we'd completely forgotten about the Huskies comments? Before he'd had any chance to (re)build credibility and trust with the Seahawks or their fans, he was already flexing for the Super Bowl pregame shows. Ugh.

From his thousand-yard-stare to his reflex of publicly hanging struggling players out to dry, Mora did one thing right: he taught us how much of the dignified, responsible, patient Mike Holmgren we'd taken for granted all those years. He also gave us a frame for new coach Pete Carroll, who defends his players as a coach should. It's pretty bad when your biggest accomplishment as an NFL head coach is to make both your predecessor and your successor look better than you.

4. The Left Tackle Situation

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roundtable: Six Seattle Prospects to Watch

As the country turns its attention to the NFL Scouting Combine today, 17 Power has grouped together the six first-round draft candidates that are most commonly being mocked to the Seattle Seahawks at #25 in the upcoming draft. These are the guys that seem to make the most sense for the Seahawks on the basis of Best Player Available - the intersection between the most talent available at that spot, and the greatest need for the Seahawks, with neither taking undue precedence over the other.

So we've individually rated all six prospects and come out with an interesting consensus. The players are listed in the order we would draft them if all six were still on the board at #25. Contributing to this nonsense are 17 Power writers Brandon Adams, Scott Williams, and John Campbell, with a guest appearance from Kyle Rota of NFL Draft Reports!

Enjoy - and remember to keep an eye on these guys at the Combine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seahawks Re-Sign CB Roy Lewis, WR Isaiah Stanback

Curtis Crabtree and Danny O'Neill are reporting via Twitter that the Seahawks have re-signed CB Roy Lewis and WR Isaiah Stanback.

Both players are coming off injured reserve.

Roy Lewis was the Seahawks' special-teams captain and a decent replacement for Josh Wilson at the nickelback corner role, with a knack for knocking down some crucial third- and fourth-down pass attempts over the season. He combined for 26 tackles and a sack in the 14 games he played. He was also named the team's Walter/Payton NFL Man of the Year for his off-the-field contributions to the Seattle community. The University of Washington product and former UDFA for the Steelers(!) is 25 and should have plenty left in the tank. Productive signing.

Isaiah Stanback, another former Husky, never got a chance to strut his stuff for Seattle before being IR'd in the preseason. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2007 by the Cowboys and was toyed with by them and the New England Patriots as a backup wide receiver and kick returner. He also played a little QB with the Huskies. Carroll's retainment of this jack-of-all-trades could be significant. Intriguing.

YAY! Seahawks news!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top Ten Great Mistakes of Tim Ruskell, Part 1

I've been fighting a tough flu over the past week, so the heavy-research articles are on hold for the moment (sorry!). But I did decide to put up a list of what I feel are the ten greatest failings of Tim Ruskell. These are the errors that I feel had the most impact in putting the team behind the curve of its own aging and attrition.

This article will cover #10 through #6 - and you might be surprised to find out that the loss of Steve Hutchinson isn't even in the top 5.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brandon Mebane Drawing Interest of Other Teams

No teams have been identified, but several have apparently told's Michael Lombardi that they're hungrily investigating Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
Teams have told me that if the Seahawks allow Brandon Mebane to hit the free-agent market, he will be highly sought after. Young defensive linemen with some rush ability are a rare commodity in free agency.
Mebane is one of the league's under-the-radar talents. He broke out in 2007 largely because of the injury of someone higher on the depth chart (in this case, DT Chuck Darby), which is commonplace in the NFL. Mebane took only a season to establish himself as an excellent nose tackle, capable of collapsing pockets, stopping the run, and even sacking a few quarterbacks with 7.5 sacks in 26 games up until the end of 2008.

Afterwards, the Seahawks decided to switch Mebane to the under tackle position. He has played capably there but not excellently, as the position doesn't take advantage of his unusual tools. His production, and more importantly the production of the entire defensive line, has not been the same since. It's not Mebane's fault, not in my eyes.

How to Improve the Mock Draft

I think the biggest problem with most NFL mock drafts is that they contain little to no knowledge of the teams that are actually doing the drafting.

It's one thing to criticize Mel Kiper or Todd McShay for mis-judging an NFL player or prioritizing the wrong skills or advantages. That's become almost a sport of its own. And please understand - every one of these guys probably knows just how silly it is to write mock drafts before the Combine even happens, much less in September. They get that. If you're irritated by early mocks, you can probably blame editors and number-crunchers who are thinking about page hits, as well as draft junkies who are willing to provide those hits even if it is September.

But really, once you get a layer deep, even the April mocks just don't seem to have any idea about the teams themselves. They're written up without any knowledge of what the team needs and how badly, who the team already has and how good they are, how the team's general manager thinks and what he values, and what picks might best fit the scheme and play style of the team in question.

And without answering those questions, is anyone really qualified to guess who will pick whom?

You've got your "big boards", sure. Those abstract lists that dodge the issue by ranking players by value instead of selection. But is that really what people want to know? My guess is no. They want to know what will happen on draft day, who will pick whom. There's a psychological pull to that - the draft is an exciting mix-and-match game to begin with - and a practical pull: there's no point getting excited for that shiny new quarterback if another team is going to grab him. A lot of "big boards" probably get either mis-read as mock drafts anyway, or taken and turned into mock drafts by clever readers.

Which is why you have to know the teams. Take Seattle in 2009, when their #4 choice was winnowed down to three top options: QB Mark Sanchez, WR Michael Crabtree, and LB Aaron Curry (in order of importance of position).

There were plenty of people who picked Curry for Seattle, but why? Because he was an impact player, because he was generally a top-five pick, and because people had a vague idea that Seattle GM Tim Ruskell had just traded Julian Peterson and left a bleeding hole at OLB. Fair reasons, but superficial. Sanchez and Crabtree were mocked to Seattle by some, but only because of a superficial knowledge that Seattle had no wide receivers and no successor at quarterback. Not a lot of depth or insight to that kind of judgment.

And none of it really showed a knowledge of Tim Ruskell at all. Any 2009 draft watcher who knew Ruskell knew beyond a doubt that Curry would be the pick. Curry was a "safe pick", a four-year college player who produced. He had a terrific work ethic and no character flags. He attended a big school. He was a defensive guy, bent more towards run defense than pass defense. He was expensive, but Ruskell didn't mind overpaying players. And perhaps most tellingly, Curry was the guy Ruskell had stayed the quietest about in the months leading up to the draft.

Boom - Ruskell pick.

That's what I want from mock drafts: GM profiling, in-depth team knowledge, and real behind-the-scenes intel. Nothing these "insiders" say makes me believe they actually have inside sources, except to say that they have inside sources. If you want to get a finger on the pulse of the draft, they can tell you what's going on behind the mock-borrowing and guesswork that others do, I recommend Rob Rang of, Tony Pauline of Draft, and Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog. Staton has the extra advantage of being particularly tuned in to the Seahawks. It is way easier, in fairness, to mock for one team than for all 32.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jonathan Baldwin Expected to Blaze at Combine

Wes Bunting tweeted this morning:
Hearing from sources that despite being 6-5, 230-pounds WR Jon Baldwin is expected to run in the high 4.3 range, WOW!
More "source" talk, sure. But if this happens, it's the kind of development that could shake the entire first round. One of the biggest knocks on Baldwin is that he lacks elite speed. I don't put a lot of stock in 40 times, as a receiver's game hinges far more on quickness and agility in their route-running rather than straight-line speed. But you know that teams won't ignore a 4.3 time on a 6-foot-5, 224-pound receiver. That kind of combination is just ungodly - Calvin Johnson jumps to mind.

Indeed, with the awesome tools framed against some concerns about route-running, Baldwin is starting to sound a bit like Megatron coming out of college, with consistency concerns knocking him down a few pegs. Bunting does say that Baldwin "lumbers a lot" downfield, and indeed he looks a little slow in and out of his breaks. If Baldwin develops better routes, however, and if he achieves that 4.3, he becomes more than just one of those receivers who gets by thanks to mismatches against smaller defenders. He becomes a potential #1 - possibly lifting himself out of reach of Seattle at #25.

We'll see. Wide receiver remains a need for the Seahawks, keeping this guy in the mix as a potential target for John Schneider.

Why Mike Williams Isn't a #1 Receiver -- Yet

Mike Williams escapes his past
I don't need to tell you the story of Mike Williams. You've already heard about the USC sensation's selection by Detroit with the #10 pick of the 2005 draft after being forcibly benched for a year. You've heard about his early struggles - the crucial drops with the game on the line, the self-focused attitude, the trades, the ridiculous weight problems, the cuts. You've seen with your own eyes the career revival, the improbable comeback, the pro-worthy big games as Seattle rewarded his rediscovered work ethic with a three-year contract. And you've read with your own eyes his newfound humility and gratitude for his second chance, his mature perspective on football, and his locker room leadership and team mentality.

Well, I guess I just did tell you the story. That's okay. It's worth repeating. Say it with me, because we're all thinking it - how awesome is it that out of the whole league, it's our Seahawks that get to watch this guy?

I love me some BMW. I found myself oddly optimistic about him during minicamps, even as others snidely dismissed him as a feel-good story who wouldn't amount to anything on the field. He just strikes me as an honorable guy who's been changed right down to the bone by his experiences and has a lot to teach others - though he'd probably say he has more to learn than to teach.

But is it still too early to give him the title that we all want to, the moniker that will portray his comeback as a truly momentous event in modern football - a "#1 wide receiver"? I went digging for some numbers that describe a #1 receiver, and I was surprised and educated by what I found.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Interrupt our Regularly Scheduled NFL Labor Chaos to Bring You...

...THE RUN!!!

Somebody's got to keep the Internet sane.

Why You Never Ever Trade with Bill Belichick

And with the 98th pick the Seahawks select...

...the worst player in the draft. Taco Wallace. David Greene. Rudi. Much like every car I ever bought used, this pick is guaranteed to cause regret. If a 4th rounder can ever be a bust, this pick will be the new definition. If a 4th rounder can set your team back for years to come, this one will. This guy will knock up the coaches daughter, sell HGH to the rest of the team and get pinched, and fall on Russell Okung's newly recovered ankle on the first play of training camp. The best thing for the Seahawks to do with this pick is tie rocks to it and bury it at sea.

I exaggerate too much. Yet the idea that you are bound to lose in any deal with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is hardly without foundation - and that is exactly what Seattle did to obtain that 98th.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Risk vs. Reward: Breaking Down the Olsen TD

Remember that regular season game where Seattle went for it on 4th-and-1 with a fade pass to WR Golden Tate? The pass failed, and fans criticized the coaches for calling a low-percentage play - i.e. less likely to succeed than many other plays Seattle could have tried.

Keep that sort of risk-mentality in mind as we examine the 58-yard TD pass to Chicago TE Greg Olsen from the playoff game against Seattle.

Olsen beat SS Lawyer Milloy downfield and caught the pass behind him, so most people blame Milloy. But in trying to dig deeper into the logic of the play, I exchanged emails with Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest and came away with a different impression.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Looking Back on 2010, Part 5: Surprising September

Continuing a series of posts re-capturing the moods, debates, and plot twists of Pete Carroll's first year in Seattle. Links to previous installments available at the end of the page.

The regular season was here at long last.

A bizarre, news-packed, up-and-down offseason had led to an almost unrecognizable Seattle Seahawks team. The Seahawks had been transformed - or more accurately, half-transformed and then left there - and was headed into the regular season with almost nothing in the way of continuity or familiarity with each other. Most did not interpret this as a positive sign.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Effect of the Draft on a CBA

Fan angst will ramp up as the CBA deadline looms, as will player uncertainty. I remain convinced that all of this is absolutely necessary from the owners' perspectives; their demands are big and across the board for a reason. I don't fear a long-term lockout, but a lockout of some length is mandatory if the two sides are going to see just how entrenched the other really is.

So, what if the draft comes and goes and no CBA has been reached? I personally see that as unlikely, because just as the March 3rd lockout date puts players and free agents in particular over the proverbial barrel, the draft date puts front offices over a barrel all their own. Other than the few big-name free agents every year who get top dollar, most free agent signings or re-signings are of the role player variety, thus eliminating or postponing a team need that HAS to be addressed in the draft. Since teams will be without the ability to re-sign even their own free agents, all 32 teams would go into the draft with more needs than picks. Postponing free agent signings until after the draft would leave agents and players with too much leverage over front offices desperate to fill roster talent deficiencies they were unable to fill during the draft.

So think of it this way: A lockout lasting until roughly Combine time or thereabouts is good for the owners, as that time period will evaluate the real cohesiveness of the players union.

A lockout lasting until after the draft would leave free agents with substantially more monetary leverage when a labor agreement is actually reached. Not to mention that the NFL likely does not want the prime time draft to be dominated by talk of the lockout and the inevitable millionaire vs. billionaire talk, and the always audible average joe complaints about spoiled athletes not being grateful for what they have got, etc, etc, etc.

One other factor: The excitement following the draft is often used to drive season ticket sales in places where fan interest has been flagging due to poor results. No labor agreement will effectively kill those ticket sales.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tracing the Ryan Mallett Anti-Hype

The segment below is taken from a PFT article describing why QB Ryan Mallett is bound to fall out of the first round on draft day.

One month ago, we passed along a report from NFL Network’s Albert Breer stating that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett’s draft stock would be adversely affected by “off-field issues.”

Though we’ve yet to uncover any damning specifics aside from Mallett’s seemingly harmless 2009 arrest for public intoxication, Breer’s report appears to be backed up by Adam Caplan of

Caplan wrote on Twitter Tuesday night that Mallett is “almost certain” to drop out of the first round of April’s draft, even going so far as to say it “wouldn’t shock (Caplan) to see Mallett fall to the third (round).”  Similar to Breer, Caplan cites “baggage, and not the kind you carry” as the main reason for Mallett’s projected draft-day slip.

Read that first sentence and notice its psychological impact. One would look at that and naturally think, "Hmmm, for all this buzz to be going on, there must have been something big behind that original Breer report. That 'off-field issues' snatch must be part of a more comprehensive, descriptive piece. I'll click on it and see what's generating all this buzz."

So you click on it and find...another PFT article referencing the same original report. The article admits that Breer doesn't go into detail about Mallett, but you're still thinking, "OK but come on, there must be more to it than the words 'off-field' and 'issues'." So after a brief grunt of annoyance and strange flashes of the movie "Inception", you click down another level and finally arrive at the original source expecting to see at least some elaboration, some insight into this great big hullabaloo. It can't be all coming from just one two-word phrase...right?

Here's what you find in the original piece:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Player Types: The Pete Carroll Dictionary

No, I can't tell you who the Seahawks will be drafting, not specifically. But I can tell you what they will be like. Or, more correctly, I will let Pete tell you exactly what HE is looking for at every position.

All Carroll quotes are direct, and taken from the transcript of a coaching seminar on the 4-3 under defense that he has used for quite some time now.

First, the LEO, or Elephant position defensive end:

"The open side Defensive End has to be one of your best football players. Size does not matter as much. We want an athletic player who can move around."

This appears to be a fungible position to an extent. I am sure that if a truly special player who met this standard AND was both a special pass rusher and excellent run stopper was available, he would be selected early in the draft, but that seems unlikely this season. Key words to remember for the Leo position (stand up defensive end) are "one of your best football players" and " athletic player who can move around."

Second, the nose tackle:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Isn't Chris Clemons Helping?

Admit it, you've been wondering about this. In 2010, Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock notched twenty regular-season sacks between them and three more in the postseason, yet Seattle's overall pass defense remained flat-out abysmal. There's a disconnect there somewhere, and it's been the elephant in the room for a while now.

John Morgan of Fieldgulls broached the issue Friday in a piece that questions the value of Clemons and of the Leo position that Clemons plays. (The Leo, or stand-up defensive end, needs to be able to play from several positions and has gotten some criticism for being vulnerable against the run - offering pass defense at the expense of run defense.)

Well, for a defense already built by former GM Tim Ruskell to defend the run at the expense of allowing the pass, I normally wouldn't complain about this. What this team needs is pass rush. But despite the production from Clemons and Brock, Seattle's pass defense was ranked 27th in YPG allowed, 29th in TD's allowed (33), 31st in 20+ yard completions allowed (60), and only 25th in interceptions, as well as 29th in DVOA pass defense.

Somehow, despite Seattle's best production at defensive end since 2007, the overall pass defense isn't improving. Where does Clemons fit into that?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Little Something for Those Not Watching

If you're not watching the Super Bowl today for whatever reason, at least get a kick out of what the animal kingdom thinks of the game! Curtis Cartier of Seattle Weekly documents the attempts of several average joes to get a Super Bowl prediction out of their pets. Some of the experiments are even pseudo-scientific. It put a grin on my face, at least.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NFL Network: Seattle in first-round QB hunt

NFL Network's Albert Breer comments on Seattle's quarterback intentions: (emphasis mine)

   With Charlie Whitehurst difficult to count on as a "quarterback of the future," and Matt Hasselbeck's contract up, Seattle has planned for months to seriously consider pulling the trigger on a new signal-caller in the first round. ... There are likely three quarterbacks going in the top half of the first round: Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton and Washington's Jake Locker. Now, to get any of those three would require a serious move up and a heavy cost to Seattle, and that means there would have to be serious conviction on the part of the staff. Maybe Carroll has that with the hometown kid Locker...But otherwise, all this might mean the team would be left with the option of Ryan Mallett at the bottom of the first round, and the Seahawks already are well aware of the kind of risk he presents from a character perspective.

   One way for the Seahawks to address their quarterbacking question could be to make another run at Kevin Kolb. ... Remember, the Browns and Seahawks made inquiries last offseason about Kolb but were rebuffed as it became clear the Eagles preference was to deal Donovan McNabb. Cleveland, of course, has insight because of GM Tom Heckert's Philadelphia roots, while Seattle was another West Coast offense team that figured Kolb's transition could be a smooth one.

My take: This strikes me as nothing more than makes-sense speculation. A few disagreements I have:

  • Kevin Kolb is indeed a hot commodity - in the sense that a hot stove top can scorch your hand. He's an untested QB and his very limited action in 2010 hasn't changed that. Something else that hasn't changed is his price tag of two first-rounders - a price Seattle walked away from last year when they actually had those picks available. Why would they go back to the well now?
  • I have a creeping hunch that a surprising run on quarterbacks will occur early in the first round. As in all four top prospects (Gabbert, Newton, Locker, Mallett) gone in the top half of the draft, perhaps sooner. The draft is top-heavy with QB-hungry teams and has seen a number of free-agent QB experiments sputter and die this year (e.g. Donovan McNabb, Jake Delhomme, Jason Campbell, Brett Favre, Troy Smith, Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Trent Edwards), possibly making the free agent route a little unseemly. Struggling teams need new franchise faces to rejuvenate the fans. Rookie QB's are always a hot commodity. Plenty of GM's and coaches think they have what it takes to turn first-round projects into stars. Combine these factors, and you have the makings of an early run.
  • If Mallett falls to #25, is that really such a hard choice for Seattle? Footwork schmootwork...the only real reason Mallett's stock is falling is those un-confirmable character flags. The guy knows quite well what he has to show in the next few months to maximize his stock. Give the kid a chance. His on-the-field abilities are starting to make him look like the most NFL ready signal-caller in this draft, other than the out-of-reach Gabbert.

You WILL Root for the Packers

In which I inform you of why you will root for the Packers.

One of the teams that the Steelers knocked out of the playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl was the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens lost and deserved to lose. They had their moments, but were eliminated by a pile of missed opportunities. A fumbled snap by Joe Flacco. A holding penalty on a punt return touchdown. Giving up a 58-yard bomb on 3rd-and-19. A goal-line hold by a defensive lineman. And, of course, the now-famous drop by T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

The entire game was one big clump of missed opportunities by both teams, really. It's just that the Steelers' mistakes came in the first half and the Ravens' came in the second. Ballgame.

After Housh's drop, I threw up my hands and admitted to myself that the Steelers had made fewer mistakes and had played better when it mattered. They deserved to advance.

And then I thought of all the people who had said the same thing about my Seahawks five years past, and I wondered to myself...Is this how some other fans saw Super Bowl XL?

Looking Back on 2010, Part 4: Competition

Continuing a series of posts re-capturing the moods, debates, and plot twists of Pete Carroll's first year in Seattle. You can find Part 3 here.

The 12th Man's winter was short and soon ended by the "spring" of training camp. As always, we were debilitated from the endless circular discussions and desperate to see some resolution and answers to the ongoing storylines. Where was the QB situation headed? Who would emerge at wide receiver? Was Pete Carroll's vaunted "competition" really going to make something out of a scrum pool of camp-body defensive ends? We were tired of talking about it. We had to know.

The annual worry over signing our draft picks arrived as surely as spring flowers do, only to be silenced within a week once they all signed unremarkably - as surely as spring flowers do. Also signing was Chester Pitts, another well-reputed, scheme-fitting O-lineman recovering from an injury. Pitts was another attempt to compensate for the Sims trade and had more football ahead of him than Ben Hamilton, but was Carroll starting to push his luck with all the injury gambling? It was immediately clear that Pitts would be a while in returning to full form.

Toward the end of June, Seattle had named Scot McCloughan a senior personnel executive. Many merely peg him as "the guy who brought us Kentwan Balmer" a couple of weeks later. Balmer, a first-round almost-bust who publicly grumped his way off the 49ers, has had little impact in Seattle, therefore casting apathy upon McCloughan for some reason. But McCloughan was a respected figure in San Francisco whose role in Seattle's personnel decisions and scouting may be underrated, and probably has yet to have its biggest impact. San Francisco is certainly not lacking talent because of him. Keep him on your radar.

Training camp finally launched, sending swarms of informed reporters and uninformed unlookers upon the VMAC to watch Kelly Jennings' usual strong camp. I was looking forward to the gossip and breakdowns as much as anyone, but cynical nonetheless. Why do these affairs always seem to be little more than bullet lists of WR catches, as if that sums up the work being done? There's always so little about the linemen, the running backs, the mechanics. Or perhaps...observers are just kind of ignoring the things that aren't looking so good.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Top 3 Mistakes of 2010

First off, I should state for the record that I am not a pessimist by nature. I do not naturally focus on mistakes, problems, or the potential for disaster. I'm generally optimistic, looking at the positives (while not necessarily expecting them) and hoping for the best. And the Seahawks' 2010 season provided plenty of moments of validation for an optimistic Seahawks fan. After all, there were so many questions... Could Pete Carroll motivate NFL players the same way he did college players? Who was this John Schneider guy and what can we reasonably expect from a rookie GM? What on earth are we doing with Mike Williams, a guy who was a phenomenal bust and who ate himself out of the league 2 years ago?

As it turned out, Carroll's players loved playing for him and played hard, Schneider showed a nose for talent and a remarkable ability to work well with Carroll (which is a nice change for a Seahawks fan... a GM and HC that work together), and Williams turned out to be our best receiver. And there were plenty of other positives to note: Russell Okung's solid play when healthy, the acquisitions of Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Stokley, the career resurrections of Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, and Red Bryant, the development of Ben Obomanu, Earl Thomas' promising rookie season, the amazing victory over the Saints in the Wild Card round of the postseason, etc.

But not everything was sunshine and puppies this year for the Seahawks. There was a lack of quality depth at nearly every position, which resulted in some ugly Seahawk football when starters went down (for example, Seattle's run defense falling apart when Red Bryant went on IR). 11 different offensive line combinations were tried over the course of the season. The playmaking promise of 2nd round pick Golden Tate never materialized. And perhaps the most frustrating thing about the 2010 Seahawks for fans was that the losses were never close - counting the loss in the Divisional Round of the playoffs to the Bears, the Seahawks lost 10 games by an average of 20 points per game.

Even with all of those issues just mentioned, I think there are three things that top the list of gaffes for the 2010 Seahawks:

New Site Features

I've been tweaking the site every day since its creation (every other hour, really), and here are some of the additions:

Seahawks Player Tracker (top) - This page will soon be listing every player transaction the Seahawks perform. This could be a busy page, for as I wrote here, these next three weeks could be all Seattle has to modify its roster. Check back soon!

Search Field (right) - Will search through every site I've linked to. An excellent research tool, as I try to connect to respectable sites with good information floating around. Speaking of:

Updated Links (left) - 
  • forum - Some seriously deep and well-researched information gets thrown around in this respect-based community. One of the members contributed the terrific banner you now see on the front page. Drop by and enjoy some great folks!
  • Seahawks Draft Blog - Independent, tape-based draft opinions from the inimitable Rob Staton. Guy does his homework and has great insight into the minds of NFL teams.
  • NFL Draft Reports - Scouting reports by Kyle Rota and Vince Mulcahy. Rota is a precocious judge of NFL talent and Mulcahy an experienced vet. A must-bookmark for knowing your draft prospects.
  • Fieldgulls - Research, perspective, and discussion galore. If you want some independent opinions, devil's advocate John Morgan will supply.
  • Seahawk Addicts - Good, solid updates and commentary on Seahawks developments, and a long-standing community.
  • Hawk Blogger - Quality and substance in Seahawks opinions.
  • Dave Krieg's Strike Beard - This guy epitomizes the underdog movement that is Seahawks fandom. Check him out and feel less weird.
  • 12 The Hard Way - New blogger Candice Caldwell, a spirited gal who knows her Seahawks and knows her town. Stop by for interesting new angles on the 12th Man.

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SATURDAY MORNING: The Looking Back series returns with Part 4.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Guessing Seattle's Offseason Strategy

February 7th is the date that NFL teams will be able to cut players under contract. March 3rd is the date free agency would normally begin, but it's pre-empted this year by the lapse of the league's Collective Bargaining Arrangement. No business can be conducted after that date - signing free agents, trading players, or any kind of negotiations.

In other words, teams have only three weeks to tweak their roster this year unless the NFL gets a new CBA in place - which, depending on whom you listen to, could be tomorrow or sometime in 2012.

This deadline has teams scrambling to sign players to futures contracts, stocking up on spare parts like my family loading the basement with canned green beans before Y2K. Futures contracts are given to players for 2011 who weren't on a team in 2010 and usually involve the kind of fringe talent that Seattle saw a lot of in 2010.

How will the situation affect the Seahawks' strategies of finding players? Will Seattle keep up its usual frenzy of wheeling-and-dealing in the three weeks that NFL business can still be conducted? Or will they stay relatively quiet in order to make the most out of the draft? There could be a way for us to predict their strategy by looking back on last year and getting a feel for GM John Schneider's modus operandi.

UPDATED: NFL Confirms Franchise Tag Available for 2011

UPDATE: The NFL Players' Association is disputing that franchise tags are available, based on the fact that the CBA that defines a franchise tag does not cover the 2011 season.

NFL teams have been informed by the league that the franchise tag will be available for use this year.

While this was not a surprise to NFL front office, the Seahawks have a number of prominent free agents to consider tagging. It's difficult to see any of these candidates as worth the money, but at this point, league-wide contract standards are so inflated that the only way to avoid overpaying for someone is to franchise K Olindo Mare (the most likely choice) or not use the tag at all.

Notable Seattle free agents include Mare, QB Matt Hasselbeck (whose would have a prohibitively insane franchise contract), DT Brandon Mebane, RB Leon Washington, and C Chris Spencer.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Looking Back on 2010, Part 3: The Long Hard Offseason

Continuing a series of posts re-capturing the moods, debates, and plot twists of Pete Carroll's first year in Seattle. You can find Part 2 here.

For fans of most teams, June marks the settling-in of the long NFL winter. The draft has come and gone, and offseason homerism is in full swing, but there's only so far the draft high can carry you. We're often grateful for minicamps or unexpected trades during this time, because otherwise, there isn't a lot to talk about until July's training camp.

But not for Seattle fans. Instead of a long, dry football winter, the 12th Man saw a regular La Nina of personnel transactions over the summer. One thing you can say about Pete Carroll: he keeps his fans invested in the team in all seasons.

The draft, hailed by most as a smashing affair, had Seahawks fans buzzing even as Carroll continued tweaking and Frankensteining the roster. Veteran SS Lawyer Milloy was kept on board. 2009 flier QB Mike Teel was released. RB Lendale White, the cheaply signed short-yardage back whose biggest fault with the Titans was being stuck behind Chris Johnson, caused a stir by getting cut for his attitude and his failure to devote himself fully to the team. The idea of "buying in" to Carroll's program, a phrase often lampooned by fans beforehand, now had a legitimate weight to it. Carroll was solidifying his presence. (Fans hoping for a reprieve from RB Julius Jones were sighing.)

Minicamps arrived, distilling the chaos into recognizable storylines:

Senior Bowl Quarterback Notes

Christian Ponder: NFL brain. Training bra arm. The deep ball he threw to Hankerson was caught, yes, but still exposed his arm as weak. His deep outs were equally weak. There is no questioning his intelligence, but the 18 yard deep out is an NFL staple, and he simply doesn't have it in his bag. His brains make him intriguing, but his arm says backup.

Jake Locker is still an athlete playing quarterback. He has moments, like his rollout left, where he squares his hips and makes a PERFECT pass, and you know only a few NFL quarterbacks can do that. But his seam routes on the hash are WR death throws. High and wide exposes a lot of ribs. I thought Mayock did a great job of exposing his baseball stride in the pocket. More hips, less legs, Jake. Can that be taught? Absolutely. The fumbling issue is a concern, part of his unsettled pocket presence could be due to poor ball protection. His time in Washington certainly didn't teach him that the pocket is a place to feel secure. I still think he goes in the top ten.

Greg McElroy, I just don't know about. He looks OK at everything, and great at nothing. His arm is not much better than Ponder's, though.

Andy Dalton didn't show much. Practice showed a better arm than Ponder and McElroy; his smarts are beyond question. After he got just absolutely SMOKED on what should have been an offsides penalty at minimum, I don't think it would be fair to evaluate what you saw anyway. And therein lies the rub with Dalton. Can he thicken up a bit so he can take an NFL pounding for 16 (or 18) games?

Colin Kaepernick. Maybe even more than Locker, he is an athlete playing at quarterback. The arm motion can only be described as Tebow lite. He does telegraph throws with his windup. He doesn't have Locker's deep stride issue in the pocket, however. I question his ability to make a 2nd or 3rd read, and his instinct to tuck and run is strong. He LIKES being a running quarterback.

His sideline interview during the game was enlightening. Media savvy players know that the Senior Bowl is an interview for a job, but don't emphasize that aspect, rather talking about "team". Kaepernick made no bones about measuring himself against the other 5 quarterbacks on the field that he thought were getting talked about more than him. Not sure how I feel about that.

Has straight line speed. He will wow them at the combine, he might even make Locker and Newton look slow. He will be selected later than Newton, but I'm not so sure Newton isn't the bigger project. Both are projects, however.

Ricky Stanzi has tools that fit the NFL, but almost appears afraid to make a mistake. He reeks of checkdown Charlie. Good pocket presence, makes two reads, throws all the passes with adequate zip, but somehow always leaves you wanting more. I think he reads short to deep, not deep to short. He looks like a clipboard will fit his hands for quite a few years into the future.

Caveat on these notes: North quarterbacks suffered from a poor pocket all day. South quarterbacks enjoyed a pristine pocket on most plays. Which is why using stats to break down this game is damn near useless.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Little Story about Potential and Patience

One of the favorite tales to tell at the Super Bowl this week is Aaron Rodgers' rise to fame. His story has it all: College success, a precipitous drop in the draft, years of anonymity behind Mr. Madden's love child A.K.A. Brett Favre, the behind-the-scenes soap opera that played out with Mr. Favre and Ted Thompson with Rodgers stuck in the middle trying to say the right things, and Rodgers' meteoric success when he finally got his chance.

Now, the rest of the story. My apologies, Paul Harvey.

Aaron Rodgers fell in the draft because he had lots of potential, but during the draft process didn't show extremely well. His 6'2" stature didn't help, and he had very real mechanical issues in his delivery. His personality was off-putting to some. The 49ers, who had been watching his career from across the bay, reportedly passed on him because Mike Nolan thought the two of them would not get along.

It gets even more interesting.

Looking Back on 2010, Part 2: Daft Drafting

Continuing a series of posts re-capturing the moods, debates, and plot twists of Pete Carroll's first year in Seattle. You can find Part 1 here.

On draft day of 2010, Seattle fans turned on their televisions without any real idea of what to expect.

New head coach Pete Carroll had dashed onto the scene and made it clear at once that Seattle was moving into a new mentality, and that nobody's job was safe. He had followed his words with action by mowing a blazing personnel path through the tall dead grass that made up the Seattle Seahawks. Nate Burleson, Seneca Wallace, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant, and Rob Sims were all gone. None of these were significantly responsible for Seattle's decline, but neither had they done much to stem that decline. Fans saw the radical changes in different ways - some called it moving forward and being willing to take risks, others saw a confidence in Carroll's plan, others called it "change for the sake of change" and observed that Seattle had obtained only mediocre free agents in return.