Thursday, April 29, 2010

Has "Front office" Pete Carroll made it tougher for "Sideline" Pete Carroll?

Every Seahawks fan is buzzing about the draft this past weekend. Nearly everything seemed to go our way. Being a "human level" that I am, I always find myself looking for a countermeasure to any extreme. If something goes horribly wrong, there is almost always a positive side effect if you step back to see it. The inverse is true for something going amazingly well.

It occurred to me yesterday that the one thing Pete Carroll has going for him as a coach is low expectations. Two terrible seasons had most Hawks fans accepting that we are in rebuilding mode, and the playoffs are not a realistic goal. Low expectations are a new coaches best friend. It gives him a long leash to install his system and every win will feel like a great accomplishment instead of the expected result.

Then, last weekend happened. Pete Carroll, in his front office capacity as ultimate personnel owner, put the heat on his alter ego as coach. Seahawks fan are expecting improvement now. Great young players, combined with solid veteran additions lead folks to start believing again. Do people believe the Hawks will make the playoffs? In most cases, no, but there are now some that do believe. Where people were thinking 4-6 wins might be acceptable/realistic, now they are talking 6-8.

Nobody really knows how good the players we just got really are going to be. Nobody really knows if Leon Washington's leg is going to allow him to return to top form, or if LenDale White can keep off the Patron. What we do know is there are fewer excuses for this team to be as hopeless as they were last year. If the product on the field doesn't look like it's taking shape instead of falling apart (see end of last year), Pete Carroll the coach will be right in the crosshairs, and he will have only himself to blame for raising expectations so quickly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seahawks Front Office: What else did we learn this weekend?

A few meta-learnings about our new front office:

1) Pete Carroll will not just pick guys he is familiar with
This may seem like a small thing, but remember that both Holmgren and Ruskell had a habit of trading with teams they had a former relationship with, and taking players who they were familiar with. I always found this limiting. It limits risk, but also limits potential reward by narrowing your field of view.

2) The genius of this past weekend shines a new light on the Whitehurst deal
We all felt that too much was surrendered for Whitehurst. It felt like a rookie mistake. I was buoyed by the fact that we didn't get suckered into overpaying for Brandon Marshall, and was further emboldened by the weekend's events. If you step back and look at all the moves the Hawks have made, including letting Deon Grant go, trading Daryll Tapp, etc., it's hard not to see a pattern of competence emerging. And if Whitehurst really is worth what they gave up for him, that trade may end up being the best move of them all.

3) Patience
While I may have been anxiously looking for trade-back opportunities to pick up more draft picks, the Hawks waited...and waited...and waited. And then they nailed a value pick each time. There was no appearance of desperation looking for the pass rushing DE we all know we needed. If felt like this was a multi-year plan, and not just some guys hoping to fix everything on a 5-11 team in three days. Finding a Chuck Darby-like veteran that can play a year for us at DE should not be so hard on the remaining free agent market. If the young player isn't there that we need, don't try to invent him.

2010 Seahawks Draft: Final Review and Grades

A few weeks ago, I tried to sum up what the Hawks needed to leave this draft with, and it wasn't short list. Let's take a look:

1 starting caliber offensive tackle [Okung - CHECK PLUS]
1 offensive playmaker (this could WR or RB) [Tate, Leon Washington - CHECK PLUS]
1 starting caliber defensive lineman [EJ Wilson - Tentative CHECK]
1 starting caliber safety [Thomas, Chancellor - CHECK PLUS]
1 starting caliber running back [Washington, White - CHECK PLUS]
1 QB to challenge Mike Teel at #3 [Not addressed]

When I say starting caliber, that is relative to the Seahawks team. They would have to be ready to start for our team. Not a high bar.

Beyond those things, it would be great to add:
1 starting caliber offensive guard or center [Not addressed]
1 WR with upside [Tate - CHECK]
A 2nd defensive lineman [Kevin Vickerson, Dexter Davis - CHECK PLUS]
Another safety [Chancellor - CHECK]
Another CB [Thurmond - CHECK]

Wow. That is wild. Not only do we exit the draft with players at nearly every position of need, but we exit with players who in most cases have a chance to be quality contributors, and a few that could be Pro Bowl talents. The master stroke of the draft were the three players that were *not* drafted, Washington, White and Vickerson. People seem to think White is the penciled in starter. I still have my money on Forsett. In fact, I think a Forsett/Washington duo is ideal for this system since both can run well outside and inside as well as catch the ball with confidence. Washington is basically Forsett with more speed and a little less strength. Both are guys that average over 5 YPC, but remember Forsett did that behind the Seahawks offensive line, while Washington ran behind a great Jets line.

Yes, we've got yet another line configuration with a few new players (including a rookie), and yes we have a new line coach with likely a slightly different system, and yes we have another new offensive coordinator. But we've also got more talent. It's going to be hard to not improve our running game. That's a victory right there.

Golden Tate should provide some versatility in the WR ranks, but be careful about expecting too much from a rookie WR, even a talented one.

On defense, it became clear how we are building this line. Vickerson and Wilson are both run stuffers who are unlikely to play on 3rd downs. We will compliment them with Chris Clemons, who we got from the Eagles, Nick Reed and possibly Dexter Davis who are unlikely to play on 1st or 2nd downs. Aaron Curry will be the guy who potentially rushes the passer on earlier downs (as well as 3rd downs). Add in a ball hawking FS in Thomas who can cover a slot receiver and Kam Chancellor who could be a devastating blitzer (I call first dibz at nickname: Battering Kam, Kam Bam Thank You Mam, Slam Kam). Then, for good measure, add in another bump-and-run cover corner in Thurmond who will fit in nicely with Josh Wilson and Marcus Trufant.

It may not all come together in year one, but the plan is coming into focus, and that's a victory as well.

Special teams should also get a boost from players like Chancellor, Davis, Tate, Washington, and Thurmond.

The rest of the additions are just gravy that could become quality players or washouts. We didn't need another TE, but it looks like we added a talented one who fell because he smoked pot (god forbid). And then there is Jameson Konz who stands 6'4" and has a 46" (!!!!) vertical leap while running a 4.4 40-yard-dash. I love a pick like this in the 7th round. He should be a great special teamer, and could end up turning into a unique offensive weapon. All reward with very little risk.

The only people not thrilled with the Seahawks events of the past three days are Cardinals, Rams and 49ers fans. You can never tell how good or bad a draft is until a year or more later, but we knew going in that this was a draft that would define the Seahawks fortunes for the next decade, and it certainly appears like things are rapidly heading in the right direction.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Analysis of LenDale White Trade

I see we've swapped 4th round and 6th round picks with the Titans in order to acquire LenDale White and DT Kevin Vickerson. My first reaction when I read the news was excitement. White is a former 2nd round draft choice who has rushed for 1000 yards in a season and scored as many as 15 touchdowns for the Titans. He gives us the battering ram we've been after for short yardage and goal line situations.

Upon further review, though, this is a guy that has never run for more than 3.9 YPC. He doesn't have much burst after getting through the line, with his longest runs generally being around 15-20 yards. And he has little-to-no receiving ability. In other words, it seems like we got a younger TJ Duckett.

Vickerson seems like an interesting throw-in. A youngish DT who is stout against the run. You can never have too many of those.

All in all, I'd give the trade a B, simply because there was not a better player we were going to get at RB by staying where we were in the fourth round. I'm not entirely excited about the players we got.

Friday, April 23, 2010

2010 Seahawks Draft: Reactions After Day 2

It's hard to argue with the quality of talent the Seahawks have added after two days. Each of the three players selected has a chance to be a significant contributor to the Hawks for years to come.

Okung and Thomas were such obvious choices, it was hard to really gauge the persona of a Schneider/Carroll front office. Golden Tate in the 2nd told us a lot more. There were QBs, DEs, and taller WRs available. They chose a guy who was graded in the first round by many draft experts and was in the top half of the 2nd round by all the others. This looks like a great value pick at a position of need. People are comparing Tate to Hines Ward. High praise.

I watched Tate tear through the Huskies last season and left impressed with his tenacity, if not with his overall skill level. If his hands continue to be reliable and he is willing to take a hit, he can be a strong addition to our attack. And with a name like Golden Tate, doesn't he just have to be good?

At the time of this post, the Seahawks were leading the ESPN national web poll for who had the strongest draft through three rounds. I'm not sure how they left the Lions off that list (Suh and Best are great pickups), but I'll take it over Lamar King and Lawrence Jackson head-scratchers any day.

Ruskell was obsessed with picking the guy nobody else valued. That kind of arrogance will always come back to bite you. There is no shame in picking a player that is coveted by many teams and pundits, and for that, I thank our new front office.

My only criticism thus far is our lack of a 3rd round pick. This is a tough year to go the entire 3rd round without a selection. We're the sixth pick in the 4th round, and should have a shot at someone solid to add.

I'd love to see another lineman like OT Bruce Campbell who tore up the combine, but didn't play well enough in college to warrant a high selection, or DE Everson Griffen who is thought to be a pretty gifted pass rusher. There are also some decent RBs left in Jonathan Dwyer, Joe McKnight and LeGarrette Blount.

Should be fun.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 Seahawks Draft: Immediate Reactions to 1st Round

Russell Okung and Earl Thomas seem like players that will start for the Seahawks for the next 5-10 years and have Pro Bowl potential. If that turns out to be true, this was a successful first round.

That said, my immediate reaction to the first round was disappointment that we didn't trade back and acquire more picks. I really believe we need a third rounder, and would have loved to see another 2nd rounder somehow. Watching the 49ers build a potentially devastating offensive line by selecting a tackle and a guard in the 1st round was tough. That's an example of drafting for depth to create a strength versus drafting breadth to fill holes in multiple parts of the team.

Granted, the Seahawks have so many holes, it's hard not to try and fill them all. To be a great team down the road, we will need a great line. Why not build it now? Great lines take years to develop, so I'm a bit impatient.

Okung is extremely talented, so I'm thrilled to get him. Thomas will struggle to make a major impact at the safety position in his rookie year, but we don't need him to be great yet. It's unlikely any draft bounty would lead to a winning season next year. Let's see if we can get some additional picks and additional talents tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Possible Trade-Down Targets

I remain convinced the Seahawks will attempt to trade down from #14. It wouldn't completely shock me if they trade down from both #6 and #14, but if the right franchise lineman is available at #6, it's unlikely they will pass him up.

Earlier, I made the case for Ryan Mathews as a player I'd love to grab later in the first round. The chances that an Alex Gibbs team takes a RB in the first round are not high. Who else might be in our sights later in the 1st round?

The name that jumped out to me was Taylor Mays. Most mock drafts have him going after the 24th pick.

DT Jared Odrick is another possibility. An active lineman out of Penn State that is considered the #3 DT in the draft and equally strong against the run and the pass. He sounds a little too much like the rest of the DT we have.

QB Jimmy Clausen is not a guy I want on our team, but it would not shock me to see the Hawks trade down and get him after the 20th pick if he is still on the board. Many reports have him plummeting down the draft board.

If the Seahawks can pick up a 3rd round pick by trading down, you do it. If you can pick up a second round pick, you definitely do it. If you can grab a 1st round pick in next year's draft from a team that might compete for that #1 overall selection, you dance a jig.

The Seahawks will not be contenders next year. We need to be looking to be back on our feet by the 2011 season. Every pick we get makes that more likely.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trade Down From #14 and Pick Ryan Mathews

I first fell in love with Ryan Mathews at the NFL combine. I was watching so that I could see CJ Spiller run, but Mathews is the guy that jumped off the screen to me. He was solidly built and ran a blazing 4.45 for his size. His demeanor was calm and cool.

Spiller may be electric, but Mathews very well may play more snaps and rush for more yards and TDs.

What I'd love to see the Hawks do is trade down from #14 for a pick around #20 and a 3rd rounder (or additional 2nd if they can do it), and pick Mathews with that first round pick.

Pretty please?

Brandon Marshall on his Way to Seattle

It appears a trade of Brandon Marshall to the Seahawks is imminent. Marshall signed his tender today for a salary he would not play for. The Seahawks are the only team that has even invited Marshall for a visit. Pete Carroll said the Seahawks are "on alert," just waiting for the Broncos to complete the things "they have to do."

The question is what the Seahawks will surrender to get him. John Clayton said on the Brock and Salk show today that he thinks our 2nd rounder plus a 4th rounder would be fair. Brock and Salk believe our 2nd rounder would do it.

I've written here multiple times that I don't want Marshall in Seattle. I think there is a difference between a troubled person who needs help off the field and someone who is a bad teammate. Marshall is both. Bad teammates kill teams. But before I go off on another rant, let me admit that if Marshall comes aboard, I'd be much happier if I was wrong about him than if I was proven right.

All that said, what would I be comfortable giving up for Marshall? I wouldn't be comfortable giving up our 2nd round pick unless we acquire another one, and even if we did get another 2nd round pick, I'd want us to get a third round pick before giving up the additional 2nd. In other words, unless we pick up another 2nd round pick and add a 3rd round pick to our draft, I wouldn't give up more than a 4th round pick.

People may think that's ridiculous, but the Seahawks don't owe the Broncos anything. Marshall potentially the most problematic player to add to a team in the NFL. No other team seems interested. Santonio Holmes went for a 5th round pick, and was a Super Bowl MVP. If the Hawks give up their only 2nd rounder, they will have overpaid for the 2nd time this off-season. We cannot go without a pick in rounds 2 and 3. Can't do it. Certainly not for Brandon Marshall.

What would you give up for Marshall?

LeRoy's worse than you think

News broke yesterday that LeRoy Hill was on the wrong side of the law again. This time hurting others, not just himself. I got to wondering about whether his second transgression in less than two years would trigger suspension, and that's when the sad reality hit me.

It doesn't really matter.

Hill plays linebacker, and was considered so valuable that he was franchised just one year ago. He finished last season with a total of 46 tackles and 1 sack. Linebacker is considered a position of strength? Please. Lofa Tatupu finished with 32 tackles and 1 sack.

Hawks fans point to injuries, but there are *always* injuries. What did they do that was special when they *were* on the field? Nothing that I recall.

David Hawthorne is likely our best linebacker at this point, and will probably not be a starter. Aaron Curry was mediocre at best last season. There is reason to believe he will be used more effectively this year, but I'm not betting the house on that one.

One of the reasons I'm so looking forward to the draft is that I'm ready to start having players who *do* matter. I want to be upset when a player misses time. I want to look forward to their impact every Sunday when they are on the field. Get me someone to cheer for!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hasselbeck for Brandon Marshall???

I've already made it clear that I think acquiring a selfish, cancer like Brandon Marshall is not a wise move at any price. However, since the rumor will not die, I started wondering this morning if a couple of Seahawks moves indicate this move is coming on draft day.

Everyone (other than the Broncos) seem to agree that nobody will give up a 1st round pick for Marshall. When the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, they swapped second round picks with the Chargers which moved them down 20 spots. Rob Rang mentioned the other day that there are ~45 players in this year's draft that have 1st round grades. That means that the first few picks of the 2nd round qualify as 1st round talent. The pick the Hawks traded away to the Chargers is generally valued as a 1st rounder. So, we had a 2nd round pick that was essentially a 1st rounder, and a WR who merits no more than a 2nd rounder in return. Now we have a true 2nd round pick, but...

I don't know that even this rookie front office would lose their 2nd round pick in a deep draft with so many areas of need. That brings me to the other rumor, which is trading Hasselbeck to a team like the Vikings for a 2nd rounder (theirs is #62). What would make some sense is to see the Hawks acquire another 2nd round pick that is then sacrificed for Marshall. Essentially, it would be a Hasselbeck for Marshall swap.

You could start to see the logic of these moves, as it would leave the Hawks with a QB that has a stronger arm than Matt, and the mobility to buy some time behind a developing offensive line, that would have a dangerous receiving corps to make defenses think twice about blitzes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 Draft Analysis

I'm mostly silent this time of year on the Seahawks. Lots of sites are recycling the same rumors and questions over and over again, but now that we are days away from a franchise-defining draft, I am ready to weigh in.

The Hawks need franchise players. They need them at any position they can find them, even linebacker. All this talk of "should we draft a safety at #6 because they really aren't as important as lineman," is wasted breath. If we have the choice between two players, and the front office is more sure one will be a Pro Bowl player than the other, you pick him.

Now, having said that, I'd love to have a lineman (offense or defense) be so good that we think he is the certain Pro Bowl fixture. Both lines *are* more important than any other position except QB. One could argue an offensive line is more important than QB since you can win with an average QB behind a great line, but can't win with a great QB behind a bad line.

The two lineman that appear to fit into that extremely high shelf category are Russell Okung and Trent Williams. The talk about both players reminds me very much of the 1997 draft class where Orlando Pace was the more certain Pro Bowler, but Walter Jones was considered more athletic with more upside. Given the way Alex Gibbs runs his lines, Okung is not likely to be a good fit, but will not likely be available either. Williams is the wild card. Some have him going as high as #2, others have him slipping past Seattle. If he is available, I think he is the guy you can't pass up.

After him, I think it's Eric Berry, and beyond that...who knows?

Rob Rang has been eerily accurate in predicting Seahawks drafts in the past. I don't know if the change in front office will make them less predictable, but I trust Rang's analysis more than any other. Check out his stuff here:

Rang has us taking Bulaga (passing on Berry) and getting DE Derrick Morgan at #14. Rang believes we'll pass on Berry because taking him at #6 will slot his salary as much as $2M *higher* than a franchise tagged safety would today. That's right, we'd be paying him more than Ed Reed if Reed was franchised today. I can see where that would factor into the decision. I tend to see that as overthinking though. If Eric Berry ends up being Ed Reed, and Brian Bulaga becomes Sean Locklear, we will be better off with Eric Berry, period.

I don't know much about Morgan, but I haven't read anything that makes me all that excited. Nobody writes that he is the next great pass rusher. He is considered the best DE in the draft. Maybe I'm just scarred by our past 75 defensive end draft choices, but if we take him at #14, he better be an upgrade over what we have. That's a low bar.

We need to exit this draft with:
1 starting caliber offensive tackle
1 offensive playmaker (this could WR or RB)
1 starting caliber defensive lineman
1 starting caliber safety
1 starting caliber running back
1 QB to challenge Mike Teel at #3

When I say starting caliber, that is relative to the Seahawks team. They would have to be ready to start for our team. Again, not a high bar.

Beyond those things, it would be great to add:
1 starting caliber offensive guard or center (unger can play either)
1 WR with upside
A 2nd defensive lineman (we need a tackle and an end)
Another safety
Another CB

I think the possibility still exists that Matt Hasselbeck could be traded for more picks. I think I could be at peace with that move if we get at least a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him. Let's face it, it's unlikely Matt will play here beyond next season. I'd rather see what we have in Whitehurst if he's the inevitable successor. Wow, that's painful to say. Matt's my guy.

This draft needs to be about quality. I would be okay with depth or breadth (or obviously both). Depth would mean we drafted multiple at certain positions like offensive line to make sure we turn a weakness into a strength. Breadth would mean we filled in holes across a larger set of positions. I can't wait to see where we end up. If nothing else, we can be sure Tim Ruskell won't be making the picks, so hope springs eternal.