Monday, July 28, 2014

Tom Cable May Have A Blind Spot

Let me start by saying Tom Cable is one of my favorite coaches on the Seahawks. He stopped the never-ending turnstile of offensive line coaches and instilled a toughness the Seahawks had not seen on the line since Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson and Robbie Tobeck paved the path to a record-breaking ground game. Cable should be a head coach again, and might be a great option to succeed Pete Carroll down the road. He also may have a coaching blind spot. A blind spot that could derail the Seahawks season if left untended.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 Training Camp News & Notes: July 27th Edition (First Padded Practice)

Offense not ready to function with Britt at right tackle
Justin Britt was overwhelmed again today in pass protection, most often by Cliff Avril. You could almost sense the blood in the water when Avril stepped across from Britt and either sped around him or powered through him. This was not a one-off occurrence. It happened almost every time in 1v1 pass rush drills, and not just against Avril, and then again in team drills. The first team offense could not move the ball because the pass rush was in Wilson's face almost immediately. They did better in run drills, and Britt is stronger in that aspect of his game. Tom Cable has proven he will favor run blockers over pass blockers time and again. He did it last year with Michael Bowie over Alvin Bailey. Still, Britt would have to make huge strides by the end of camp to be a starting caliber tackle early this year.

Gary Gilliam and Alvin Bailey looking strong
The left side of the line looks great. Bailey continues a nearly perfect record over two years of blocking any pass rusher that steps across from in 1v1 drills. He is the most natural pass blocker on the line after Russell Okung. Case in point: Avril stepped up against Bailey as he did against Britt, but Bailey stones Avril to the point that the pass rush specialist was visibly frustrated after the play. Gilliam holds up well in these drills. He is not quite as natural as Bailey, but is athletic and strong. If Bowie stays out much longer, I have to wonder if either Gilliam or Bailey will get a shot at right tackle. Bailey is just holding left tackle until Okung gets back. The organization is not completely sold on Bailey's run blocking, and my guess is the same would be true with Gilliam. Cable stubbornly stuck with Paul McQuistan last year at left tackle. Bailey is a starting caliber lineman that the team should be looking for a way to get on the field.

Max Unger looks like his old self
Unger struggled last season, but appears in great shape and good health. He has been winning most of the battles with Kevin Williams, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel.

Running game ahead of the passing game
All this added up to an offense that looked more ready to run the football than pass it. The offense broke a number of runs in the run drills, and a number of them were to the right side behind J.R. Sweezy and Britt. When the defense lined up Kevin Williams and Mebane inside with Michael Bennett at 5-tech and Avril at LEO, the running game slowed to a crawl. The first team defense dominated the first team offense in team drills largely because of the pass rush.

T Gary Gilliam
Gilliam did well in pass protection today. He mauled Jackson Jeffcoat in 1v1 pass rush drills, and stood up nicely to a bull rush from O'Brien Schofield.

CB Akeem Auguste 
Auguste is doing a consistently good job in coverage, and had a nice strip and recovery today. He flashed some nice open-field movement after the recovery. Seems like a punt returner, but has not been getting reps there.

DE/DT Cassius Marsh
This guy may show up here every day. The team obviously likes what he brings, as they are utilizing him anywhere and everywhere. Early in practice, special teams coach Brian Schneider was giving Marsh guidance on kickoff return blocking assignments. He has already been involved in punt coverage. That is all in addition to playing defensive end and tackle. He appears to be in the mid-260s, and could probably handle a few more pounds without losing much quickness.

FB Kiero Small
Small did not block well in the 1v1 pass rush drills today. If he is not going to be a great pass blocker, his chances of making the team are very small, even if he is a good lead blocker.

LB Brock Coyle
Some guys play better in pads. Coyle appears to be one of those guys. The undrafted free agent linebacker was not bad in the previous two practices, but had more than one thumping hits today.

Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Russell Okung, Kevin Norwood, Michael Bowie, Christine Michael (left after hurting his shoulder in pass rush drills), Jimmy Staten, Taylor Price


1.  Jesse Williams can help if healthy
Getting into the backfield appears to be second nature to Williams. He does not get a ton of snaps through practice, but a high percentage of the snaps he does get results in him getting by his blocker very quickly. Practice ended today with him chasing down Terrelle Pryor for a sack. Yes, you read that right. 

2. A.J. Jefferson is pretty confident he is sticking around
I admit that the addition of Jefferson seemed like a competition thing that could end up very easily in him not making the final roster. Jefferson must see things quite differently because he has been wearing #32, which was Jeron Johnson's number. These changes usually cost money. Paying an established player for his number gives a glimpse into his mindset.

3. Percy Harvin's impact is still underestimated
You win a Super Bowl almost completely without the help of a player, and it becomes easy to overlook him. Even a player as great as Harvin was essentially a superfluous appendage last season. Watching him make great play after great play at superhuman velocity serves as a good reminder of just how good this offense could become. Among Harvin's great plays today was beating the best free safety in football, Earl Thomas, deep for a touchdown. One thing was nice to see was his desire to be out there competing. He was having a problem with his shoelaces all day, and while a staff member was working on it, Harvin was frantically trying to signal his offensive teammates that he'd be there in a sec. Once it was fixed, Harvin sprinted over to the drill. Scoff at the importance of that if you want. I've seen plenty of players less talented than Harvin take their sweet time getting back to a drill.

4. Phil Bates intends to make this team, and his teammates want him to make this team 
The absence of Kevin Norwood has given Phil Bates even more snaps, and he is taking advantage. He made a number of nice catches today, including a few of the highlight variety. Almost more importantly is that Russell Wilson appears to be looking for Bates. He is adored in the receiver room, and has put in the work. It is not clear what Bates excels at, or whether he has the potential to be a meaningful contributor at receiver, but he is playing well early.

There were enough times where Kevin Williams played with the number one line (Bennett, Mebane and Avril) that I am starting to wonder if Tony McDaniel may be in danger of losing his starting job. It is way too early to say, and McDaniel was the guy who trotted out there when team drills started. Still, it bears watching.

Tarvaris Jackson had a nice practice today. He directed the offense successfully down the field in team drills for a field goal. Terrelle Pryor just does not appear accurate enough to be a threat to Jackson.

Paul Richardson does not appear to be gifted in jump ball situations. I have seen a handful of chances so far, and none where he has come down with the football. There are things he does very well, but after getting spoiled with Golden Tate for a few years, it is worth calling out a difference between the two.

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Guest Appearance On Bleacher Report Talking Marshawn Lynch

I have been doing interviews with Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report over the last few months. I'll try to remember to post them here now and then. Here was one from earlier this week about the Marshawn Lynch holdout.


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 Training Camp News & Notes: July 26th Edition (2nd Practice)

Cassius Marsh looks promising
I am tempted to be even more bullish on Marsh after the burst and acceleration I have seen in his first two practices, but I need to see him in a padded practice and then against live competition. This must have been exactly how the front office and coaches felt when Marsh arrived late to OTAs (due to graduation rules) and they tempered their initial enthusiasm by saying he might just have "fresh legs." If what I saw today is an indication of what he will bring to the field on Sundays, Marsh will force his way into the rotation this season.

Norwood and Harvin sit
It is unclear if Percy Harvin has any injury to speak of, but he sat out today. He just spent half a press conference yesterday saying he has not felt this good for years, so my guess is they are putting him on a very conservative practice schedule to reduce wear and tear. Norwood, the star of practice yesterday, also was out. He is a young guy, so that indicates an injury. His absence allowed other receivers to get his snaps and some stood out as a result.

Jermaine Kearse shows up
Kearse was the breakout player of camp last season, but needs to re-establish himself this year. Paul Richardson, Norwood and others, are a direct threat to his future on the team. He will be a restricted free agent after this season, and needs to prove he is significantly more valuable than the young receivers they have added. After a quiet first practice, Kearse made a series of acrobatic catches in traffic to earn offensive player of the day honors. One catch came against Sherman along the sideline that was classic Kearse. He has a unique ability to catch the ball against tight coverage.

Not a good day for Justin Britt
Britt was running with the first string for the second straight day as Michael Bowie took it easy due to an injury. It was not pretty. Britt got beat with speed and beat with power. He appears to have trouble staying balanced in pass protection. He ended a number of plays on the ground as he would over or under stride, resulting in either him tripping or needing to lunge as a last gasp effort to block his man. Marsh, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril took turns giving the rookie a hard time. Avril, especially, had his way. This was disappointing because the hope was that Britt would be a better pass protector than Bowie. Early indications do not make that look likely. Let's see if the rookie can bounce back.

DT Jimmy Staten
Staten had a rough day. He found himself pushed to the ground in pass rush drills repeatedly. He is not getting a ton of reps, and appears to be way down on the depth chart.

CB Tharold Simon 
Simon was a guy I wanted to spend time watching today. He definitely looks the part, and is very fluid for a tall corner. He did not really stand out, but was in good position whenever the ball came his direction. He was 1v1 with Paul Richardson on a deep jump ball, and knocked the ball down.

DE/DT Cassius Marsh
Marsh looks great on the edge as an end, and flashed today on a twist where he circled behind the DT and up the middle to rush the passer. He was extremely quick and takes very few false steps. The team was running him ragged today as he got plenty of reps with the first team, and looked spent after practice. It was cool to see Michael Bennett pull him aside during practice to coach him up.

Michael Bennett gives rookie Cassius Marsh #91 some tips during practice

DE Jackson Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat looks smallish for an end. He had a nice practice, but looks far less explosive than a guy like Marsh. Ken Norton Jr was seen (and heard) screaming at Jeffcoat to get off blocks during a run drill play. He needs to do more to earn even practice squad consideration.

WR Paul Richardson
It was not a terrific day for Richardson, but he stands out. Early in practice, he completely lost Byron Maxwell off the line and was open deep, only to have Russell throw short instead. Later, he ran another nice route and won to the inside, but dropped a pass that hit him in the hands.

LT Gary Gilliam
Gilliam did well in pass rush drills, even against a guy like Avril. One play stood out. It is typical in these drills for the tackles to kick-step sideways or backwards to give some ground as the pass rusher tries to get around them. Gilliam stepped forward, into Avril and appeared to surprise him by jolting Avril backwards.

Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Russell Okung, Kevin Norwood, Percy Harvin, O'Brien Schofield (appeared limited), Michael Bowie


1.  Pete Carroll and staff continue to innovate at practice
The team ran a new drill today for special teams where punt gunners were given the chance to work together to keep the ball from going into the end zone. A ball would be thrown into the endzone, and one player would have to keep their feet in the field of play and tip the ball back to his partner. It looked fun. Keeping thing fresh helps the players stay engaged. 

2. Darrell Bevell should be listed on the injury report as well
Bevell is walking around in a boot, and I overheard him say it was microfracture surgery. Ouch.

3. The scramble drill is not a myth
Carroll has mentioned that the team practices QB scrambles and receiver rules when it happens. I witnessed it today when Wilson, playing against air, dodged an invisible pass rusher and rolled out, pointing to Phil Bates where to expect the throw. Tarvaris Jackson did this as well.

4. Camaraderie is evident with Wilson and his receivers from last year 
Wilson, Kearse and Baldwin could be seen having a good laugh during one of the drills. Kearse ended up putting Wilson in a headlock. There was an ease to their banter that was not as apparent in past years. They have proven a lot to each other, and been through a lot. Golden Tate, a close friend of Wilson's, is gone, as is veteran Sidney Rice. Baldwin has signed an extension and Kearse broke out as a key part of the team. The dynamic of these three young men could be the foundation of an emerging passing offense. They are confident, hard-working, and out to prove the world wrong. It was a small moment, but something felt different in an important, if yet-to-be-defined way.

Baldwin looks like a guy who is ready to take the next step. He was always there when Wilson needed him last year. He now looks like a guy who could be the first read, and deserve to be. He roasted another cornerback or two today for deep passes, and is flashing more breakaway speed than what I remember from past years.

I spent much of practice trying to figure out the defensive line rotations, but it was almost impossible. Players were rotating in and out so often, and mixing and matching, that only a coach could be sure who was coming in for situation and who was coming in as first/second/third string. There were some interesting combinations. One was Avril, Marsh at tackle, Jesse Williams and Michael Bennett. Another was Marsh at end, Greg Scruggs, D'Anthony Smith, and Benson Mayowa. Scruggs had a good day. He continues to switch between tackle and end. Mayowa has yet to stand out. On one play, Scruggs got inside pressure as a tackle and bumped into Terrelle Pryor who threw short and directly into Mayowa's hands. Mayowa couldn't hold on and did three forward rolls in frustration.

Bennett and Jordan Hill got a fair amount of nickel snaps as the tackles, and Hill had at least a few nice penetrations.

The fun for the day was a play the offense practiced early in the morning, and then unleashed successfully on the defense in team drills later. It involved Wilson faking a handoff and then pitching the ball to Phil Bates on an end around, only to have Wilson leak outside and catch a pass along the sideline from Bates. Fans loved it. The defense hates it. Red jersey players like quarterbacks cannot be touched, making it a bit unfair. 
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Friday, July 25, 2014

2014 Training Camp News & Notes: July 25th Edition (Opening Practice)

A very healthy bunch
The team enters camp in pretty good shape. Most of the players sitting out are recovering from off-season surgeries, and appear close to being ready. The team feels younger somehow. It may have to do with players like Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan moving on while young guys like Michael Bowie, Justin Britt, Greg Scruggs, Benson Mayowa and others are being asked to step forward. The fresh legs of players like Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood and Christine Michael also help.

Wide receivers for days
This unit was famously called out for lack of explosiveness last year. They could be nuclear this season. Doug Baldwin looked great beating Earl Thomas deep for an early touchdown. Paul Richardson is as fast as reported, but also has some run-after-catch jitterbug in him that was good to see. Percy Harvin is a blur, and is being built into the offense from practice one. But the guy who stole the show was Kevin Norwood. He may allow me to resurrect my #81 jersey (formerly of Koren Robinson fame). He is big, runs decisive routes, and plucks the ball out of the air. He made a couple of eye-opening grabs outside his frame while in full stride. My very first thought when seeing him was that he looked a little like Anquan Boldin. It's one practice, but I've learned to trust my eyes after identifying guys like Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner and others on first look. That doesn't even get us to Jermaine Kearse, who was mostly invisible today. This is a young and talented group.

Offensive line looks rejuvenated
James Carpenter does indeed look in far better shape than previous years. See for yourself.

He still needs to prove he can stay healthy. That starts with participating in every practice. One down. J.R. Sweezy, on the flip side, looks thicker. I remember how strikingly slim he was for a lineman his rookie year. That is no longer the case. He had some trouble blocking Kevin Williams, but more on that later. Justin Britt and Michael Bowie, Gary Gilliam and Alvin Bailey have the looks of a damn fine tackle quartet. I did not get to see pass rush drills as much today, but will see how they all hold up in the coming practices. This group may have the chance to take the biggest step forward in 2014.

Kevin Williams still has it
This guy was disrupting the interior whenever he stepped onto the field. Tony McDaniel may have trouble holding onto his starting job, and not because he has slipped. Williams and McDaniel are sure to rotate frequently, and he has the look of a major upgrade to the line.
Seahawks starting line may include #94, Kevin Williams
Strongside linebacker depth tested
One position where the team was not healthy was strongside linebacker. Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, and Korey Toomer were all out with injury. That left Mike Morgan as the starting SAM linebacker. Smith looked very close to returning, and participated in warm-ups. Toomer came out pretty late and looked pretty down. Irvin was designated as a pre-season PUP player, which means he could end up on the PUP list down the road. Time will tell how this plays out. If Smith is back soon, it would not shock me if K.J. Wright swaps to SAM and Smith plays WILL, which is where both players are strongest.

WR Kevin Norwood
Norwood made every play he could during practice. Great start to camp for the rookie.

WR Chris Mathews 
Mathews is the 6'5" CFL star who missed most of OTAs with injuries. It was exciting to see him available to play, and it appeared as if the quarterbacks had been asked to see what he had. He didn't have much. They threw him a lot of balls, and he caught none that I saw. What's worse is that he often looked disinterested in competing for the contested ball. This is a very tall man, and guys like Philip Adams were winning position on jump balls with him. He did not appear to have the ability to adjust to passes that were off-target, and seemed to be going half-speed. I'd never write a player off after one practice, but this guy better turns things around quickly if he wants to last past the first week of practice.

DE/DT Cassius Marsh
Marsh swapped inside and out, but caught my eye the most on the edge. He chased down the quarterback from behind a couple of times, and was quicker off the corner than I expected. I did not see as much activity on the inside, but need to watch him more. It's worth noting that he was practicing with the first team punt coverage unit.

WR Kevin Smith
The former Husky was recently signed, and had a nice day. He made a couple of long catches, and took advantage of his chances. It's amazing that seeing the #17 on a player still reminds me of Mike Williams; a guy who played one year. He was a fun one.

WR Paul Richardson
Fast and productive. Did not see as many throws his way, but looked good when he got them.

DT Kevin Williams
Difference-maker on the inside.

Marshawn Lynch, Garrett Scott, Erik Pinkins, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer, Russell Okung (partial participant)


1.  Michael Bennett looks to be the starting 5-technique and Cliff Avril the starting LEO
That was the pairing with the first unit today. This was much as expected.

2. Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams could see the field at the same time
McDaniel got some time at defensive end, allowing someone like Williams to play inside and go for a beefier run-stuffing group.

3. Greg Scruggs was the backup 5-tech and O'Brien Schofield was the backup LEO
Schofield had a nice practice.

4. Right tackle competition is for real
This might seem obvious, but it was a surprise to see Britt get all the first-team reps in the first practice. Bowie is the guy who came in with the best odds to land the job. This could be a situation like the three-headed quarterback competition two years ago where a different player takes first team reps each day, but the ordered those reps by spot on the depth chart. That would mean Britt is first on the depth chart. If Bowie gets first team reps tomorrow, this is less of a story. If Britt gets them again, it is very much a story.

5. Terrance Parks will get time at safety
Parks is listed as a cornerback, but played safety exclusively from what I saw.

Russell Wilson looked sharp. His timing was impressive given it was the first practice. There was a comeback route to Smith that was particularly well synchronized. The passing game with Wilson was in pretty good form all around. Terrelle Pryor is inaccurate, but even he connected on a few. Tarvaris Jackson never seems to shine in practice, and had a few throws in the dirt. He will likely shine when the lights come on in pre-season like last year.

Robert Turbin continues to get first-team reps. I saw nothing new with him that makes me think he is a future feature back. Christine Michael, on the other hand, looks like lightning. But I've beat that horse enough.

Richard Sherman looked like he was playing at half-speed and was still unbeatable. He is nearing the nexus of preparation, experience and physical peak. Colin Kaepernick would be no wiser to throw at him this year than he was last. And yes, Sherman tipped multiple passes today.

On Marshawn Lynch and his holdout, I would rate this as a 3 out of 10 on the meaningful story scale. He wants more money, but is losing money by holding out. He will losing millions if he walks away, which certainly does not sound like a good way to make more money. My expectation for how this resolves is that he sits out nearly all of camp, the team cuts some veterans (Heath Farwell?) and replace them with younger and cheaper options. The money they save can be applied to Lynch. They give a little. He gives a little. Even if he was in camp, he would not be playing much at all. The key here is to keep it as professional as possible in the media so that the two sides don't develop hard feelings that will sour the relationship.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Players Who Could Change The Seahawks Season

Ending a season by winning a Super Bowl is hard to beat. There is something special, though, about the start of every football season. New faces join the team. Players get older. Some get better. Some get worse. New names emerge from obscurity, and familiar names sometimes fade into the sunset. As terrific as the Seahawks were in 2013, there are some players who were either unavailable, unused or simply not on the team who could have a significant impact on the coming season. Here are five such players to keep an eye on.

DOWNLOAD: Hawk Blogger 2014 Seahawks Training Camp Guide & Handout

It is almost that time. A new football season is about to begin. The Seahawks have sold out every public training camp. That means a lot of new faces will see players vying for a roster spot for the first time. I have spent more than a normal amount of time at these sessions in the past, and wanted to offer a few items to help make your visit even better.

Having a roster handout like this will help you know who all these unfamiliar players are. You will want to have this. Trust me! I've added my own notes on every player. This is especially useful for people who are bringing a loved one who is not as big of a fan as they are, so they can get an idea who is who.

- Bring sunscreen
They supply sometimes, but don't be caught without it!

- Don't sit down
It's a waste of time to sit down. The drills and action moves around. You should move with it. 

- Remember, this is general seating/standing
You do not have the right to the view in front of you. If someone is choosing to stand, move so you can see. 

- Wait for the three horns
The practices go longer than you think. It is not over until it's over.

- Use the bathroom on the way in
They are not convenient to get back to, and you'll miss the action!

Have fun, all. Happy Seahawks 2014! 
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The Path Back To The Top: Six Decades Of Super Bowl Trends

This is the latest in an ongoing series examining key factors that lead to repeated Super Bowl success. Some articles will focus on specific teams. Others will examine a particular facet or trend of note.

Some things have changed over the nearly fifty years of Super Bowls. Some things have stayed the same. Take a look at how the winners of the ultimate prize have performed each decade since the 1960s.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Path Back To The Top: 48 Year Averages For Super Bowl Winners

This is the latest in an ongoing series examining key factors that lead to repeated Super Bowl success. Some articles will focus on specific teams. Others will examine a particular facet or trend of note.

History Of Winning

Super Bowls have been played for the last forty-eight years. The types of champions have ranged from the teeth-breaking Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders to the sleek sports car offenses of Kurt Warner's St. Louis Rams and Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts. Despite coming in so many shapes and sizes, there are certain truths we can learn by examining the collection of winners in their entirety. To that end, I have compiled the key statistics of every Super Bowl winner, and will share some striking findings. There is so much to cover, we will have to take it in bite-sized pieces. We will start by seeing what the composite of a Super Bowl winner is (i.e., averaging the regular season numbers of every winning team), and how the 2013 Seahawks fit, or broke from, the norm.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Path Back To The Top: The Myth Of 4,000 Yards QBs

This is the latest in an ongoing series examining key factors that lead to repeated Super Bowl success. Some articles will focus on specific teams. Others will examine a particular facet or trend of note.

Some people want Wilson to prove he can throw for more yards

Passing Muster

Seahawks fans have heard it before. Some even are guilty of it themselves. Russell Wilson has won a Super Bowl, and is entering his third season, so the team should lean on him more and pass more often. Others will point to various quarterback rankings that are announced and hold it against Wilson that he has not proven he is capable of a 4,000 yard season. Super Bowl history indicates all that talk is counter to what matters most: winning a championship.