Friday, April 27, 2012

Bruce Irvin: One man's opinion.

Of all the prospects I watched film on, Bruce Irvin was not one of them. I had heard his name, but as a late first, second round pick. For the second straight year, the Seahawks picked a nearly consensus second round pick, in the first round. Once again, they were criticized for it. James Carpenter, despite not having a mini camp or much of a training camp, after coming in out of shape due to his lack of OTA's, and then right before the start of the season getting moved to left guard for the opener, actually turned in a damn good season by the end of it. After that, and Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin and John Moffit, I've learned to trust this regime a little bit. So when Bruce Irvin's name was announced, I didn't look around bewildered, I just shrugged, and vowed to watch some film on the kid.

I heard he was fast, so naturally i had images of him flying wildly up field, gap control be damned to get the quarterback. Yes, he flies up field, he's got incredible speed, but he's not out of control. He has a good handle on his own athleticism, and one of the most impressive tools he has is that he can literally stop on a dime and change direction. It makes the offensive tackles look hilariously pathetic, then again, I watched WV against Clemson, Maryland and Pittsburgh, so I'm not sure I needed Bruce Irvin to show me that.

He used his hands reasonably well for a speed rusher, he doesn't have a lot of moves, but he has very quick hands and is surprising strong. Teams would often turn a guard out towards him to help the tackle out and prevent him from cutting back toward the qb from the edge(looked like one of his favorite moves), and he actually got a decent push against the double teams. He positions his hands well, and is absolutely ridiculously relentless. He's assignment correct 90% of the time and he tackles well. He plays bigger than 250 pounds, which he has to.

Naturally, since he's a little light, I worry about him against the run, he uses leverage well, but I worry that against some of the more physical rushing teams like San Francisco, they may lean on him a little bit. The problem with the Seahawks scheme is that LEO position can get sealed off in the run game if the defensive tackle next to him gets washed down and the linebacker doesn't fill the hole. Atlanta has murdered the Seahawks the last two years with that running scheme.

Irvin can move around a lot, I saw WV line him up as a defensive end, a linebacker and a defensive tackle. The Seahawks can move him around a lot and his speed can cause nightmares.

I think the Hawks can get one more year out of Clemons, which means, unlike the Seahawks last couple first round picks, Irvin won't have to start immediately. Which is good, because pass rushers, Jevon Kearse the exception, rarely excel their rookie year.

I like the pick, and I trust the pick. He's the kind of guy they like, fast, relentless, smart, and can tackle well. He's another playmaker added to a very good defense.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More draft thoughts

I looked at three guys the last couple days. Two of them made me question why the hell they are considering potential first round picks in the first place, and the other, well, confirmed what I really thought about him.

First, Luke Kuechly, LB from Boston College. I've seen him projected as a potential top ten pick. I don't get it. I like him as a football player, and could be a key contributor to a football team, but he's not a top ten pick. He's very smart, and he's fast. But he seems a little small, a little light in the pants, and, what surprised me the most, is that he hits high. There were many plays where he would fly into a gap, filling it perfectly and I'd expect a huge collision to take place, instead, there would be an ordinary arm tackle. He doesn't bend, he doesn't get low and hit and drive guys. He hits them high, he's too small to do that at the NFL level, running backs will run right through him.  He's good in pass coverage and would be a good fit in nickel packages, but I really don't see what all the buzz is about. He struggles at shedding bigger blockers. I saw a Florida State LT drive him from inside the hash all the way out of bounds.

Second, Brock Osweiler, qb, ASU. The two main conferences I watch are the Pac 12 and the SEC. I've seen a lot of Osweiler, so, I was confused when the season ended and I heard the Seahawks were interested in taking him in the second round. He's big and he's athletic for a big guy. But he doesn't have the arm you'd expect, he slings the ball rather than throws it. He has major problems with his accuracy and his mechanics break down under pressure. The offense he was in was a simple one read offense so I don't know how well he moves through his progressions. I think the most telling thing I saw about him was that he had trouble fitting the ball into tight coverage. In the NFL, receivers are rarely wide open, this is not a good trait.

Lastly, I watched David DeCastro, guard from Stanford. He's a monster. He's athletic, and powerful. He consistently follows his assignment, pulls and traps perfectly and with power. The only flaw I saw was he could get bull rushed by bigger defensive tackles in pass blocking. However, if he loses leverage he recovers very quickly and rarely holds. I like him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seahawks Draft Thoughts: Why I don't like Quintin Coples

Alright, I'll bite, I'll go into detail why I don't think the Seahawks should, or will draft Quintin Coples in the first round. I guess I understand why so many fans want Coples, he's big, he's athletic and he dominated at the Senior Bowl. All of these things mean absolutely nothing. I watched three cut ups from UNC games against NC State, Miami, and Missouri and, naturally I noticed some things.

He wants to get to the quarterback, this, is of upmost importance to him. Gap control be damned, if he reads pass, or he's decided he wants to get to the quarterback, he will run himself clear out of a play to try and get to the quarterback. When he really wants to, he can be a smart player. Missouri ran a speed option his way multiple times and he reacted well most of the time. He, like the rest of that UNC defense, plays selfish. They have the swagger of a much better defense than they actually.

 He really does have a great first step, granted, looking at the tackles he went up against, only Miami's LT looked like an NFL tackle and he moved like his feet were chained together.  I think the fact that he has such a great first step has led to a lack of development in pass rush moves. He can beat most ACC tackles around the edge, so that is all he resorts to. He has limited inside moves and virtually no bull rush from what I saw. He's ridiculously quick, and could develop a good rush move arsenal if he actually wanted to.

There was a major difference between his effort on running plays vs passing plays and whether the game was close or not.  In the NFL, he can't take plays off. 

Another thing I noticed, he doesn't like to get in piles. If he is pursuing a running back he will let up if it looks like a collision will happen. Seems like a guy who doesn't want to get hurt and damage his draft stock. I saw this multiple times in every game I looked at.  He plays soft, Missouri's TE trapped him on a running play and drove him five yards out of his gap. Not acceptable. 

If this guy had the effort to match the talent, he would be a top 10 pick. People compare him to Von Miller, skill set wise, they are similar as far as raw, speed driven pass rushers. But Von Miller kills himself out there. Coples doesn't. I get the infatuation, he has amazing talent. But that doesn't make a great player in the NFL.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Seattle doubts Pete Carroll.

There is no such thing as a perfect football coach, or any coach for that matter. For our purposes here, we will focus just on football. Vince Lombardi wasn't a perfect coach, in fact, he was utterly useless during an actual game. Lombardi was great at preparation during the week, and back when coaches were only moderate control freaks, he let his quarterback call all of his own plays.  Lombardi also gave up creativity for precision with a 12 play playbook that was rarely entirely used. You take the good with the bad. The Packers ran the sweep better than any team in NFL history, if you stopped the sweep, the Packers had little else to beat you with.

With that in mind, I shift my gaze at Pete Carroll. I wasn't a fan of the fact the Seahawks hired him.  All I could think of was the fact that he'd been fired twice in the NFL and his USC teams played with an astounding degree of sloppiness against teams they didn't respect and the fact that USC had awful clock management in Carroll's time there. As a Seahawks fan, I'd already seen a successful college coach(Dennis Erickson), flounder in mediocrity upon arriving to the NFL. Erickson ran a program at Miami very similar to USC's, and was about to be hit with sanctions right before he left, much like USC was.(The sanctions USC suffered will get their due diligence in another blog).

Then I read Pete Carroll's book. You may scoff at the notion that a book can completely change a perception of someone. But it added illumination and reasoning to what people saw of Pete Carroll, the hyper-kinetic "raw raw" coach. Carroll stresses the desire to do things better than you've ever done them before. A mantra of constant improvement. He formed this philosophy after the New England Patriots fired him and he's been ridiculously successful ever since. Has he become the perfect coach? No, does he still have clock management issues? Yes. Do the Seahawks commit a lot of penalties? Yes, but they are improving in that regard. Do I like what he's doing? Yes.

In the two years he's been the Seahawks coach, he has completely rebuilt the team while still remaining competitive. That is something the Rams have been trying and failing to do since 2007. He's laid a significant foundation for what I think will become one of the best defenses in the league. He's rebuilt the offensive line into a powerful, nasty, physical unit if it can stay healthy, and he has added depth. The Seahawks are bigger,stronger, faster, younger and better than they were when he and John Schneider took over.

So why is everyone still skeptical? Why do I turn on the sports radio stations in Seattle during football seasons and constantly here digs at Pete Carroll and tons of negativity? Why, after two games of the season last season did Hugh Millen suggest Seahawks fans march to Renton at the Seahawks headquarters and demand an explanation for the max protection schemes the Seahawks used against the 49ers and Steelers elite defenses with two rookie offensive linemen who had no OTA's and virtually no training camp reps? Why did Ian Furness unceasingly bitch and moan about the lack of "leadership" the Seahawks didn't have and would never have again because they cut his beloved Lofa Tatupu?

Key questions, and a long answer. Pete Carroll isn't a "traditional" football coach. He isn't a large, intimidating presence. He doesn't scream at players on the sideline. He's not Mike Holmgren. For the record, everyone loved Mike Holmgren. He was successful, and good with the media. As in, he tricked the media into thinking he was actually telling them something insightful because he used his grandfatherly tone and smiled a lot. Pete Carroll says nothing by saying a lot of nothing. The opposite of Bill Belichick.  Belichick got fired from Cleveland because he made enemies with the media, and they turned the public against him. Same thing has been attempted by some of the Seattle media because he's late for press conferences and doesn't butter them up like Holmgren did. And he replaced one of the local good old boys Jim Mora.

Furthermore, Pete Carroll coached at USC. The rest of the old Pac-10 conference hates USC because USC has dominated from when it was the Pac-8, to 2008, with the 90's being the only time that wasn't the case. Pete Carroll murdered the Cougars and Huskies every year, only losing to the Washington schools three times, and once after he really got going in 2003. It smacks of bitterness about getting slaughtered every year by the renegade program down south.  I know for a fact that it kills some old Husky alums that they have a USC guy coaching UW as well. To me, its ridiculous, but its there.

In sum, people still have it in their mind that Pete Carroll is a flake, that he's a coward because he fled a sinking ship at USC(BS, but whatever). People hate on him because his approach is non traditional. People doubt him because they still are licking their wounds from years of USC beating UW and WSU by 30-50 points yearly. I don't doubt, he isn't perfect, he has his flaws, just like any successful coach. But I am fairly confident that this guy is going to win the Seahawks the Super Bowl. And I intend to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My N.B.A. Conundrum

I love basketball. It's unquestionable the sport I've played the most in my life. There is a rhythm and flow to the sport that is completely unique and beautiful to itself. As kid growing up in Seattle in the 90's, I loved the Sonics. I listened to every game at night on the radio(this was before most teams had T.V. deals), and whenever the Sonics were on pay per view(TNT), I'd beg my parents to purchase the game, to no avail. I loved going to Sonics games, whether it was at the old Seattle Center Coliseum, the Tacoma Dome or Key Arena.  When the Seahawks were woeful and threatening to move to Los Angeles, and the Mariners were bitching and moaning because they wanted their own stadium or they'd move to Tampa Bay, there was always the Sonics. Consistent and successful, always.
So naturally, the Sonics leaving was an upsetting, infuriating, and sad time period, and it still pisses me off just as much as it did when the whole farce actually happened. I've never respected David Stern or the NBA, whether it's their marketing approach and idiotic business model, or their extremely suspect egotistical officials. But I love the sport played at its highest level. I'm not one of the people that scorn the N.B.A. and call the players "spoiled millionaires". I don't rant about the selfishness of the players, or the lack of defense. I have always enjoyed watching, reading, listening and discussing professional basketball and can with ease bring a counterargument to anyone criticizing the actual product on the floor.

However, the crooked way the Sonics were ripped out of this city has left a bad taste in my mouth that I don't know will ever go away. If the Mariners lose out on their ridiculous attempt to block the arena being built in SoDo, and the Sonics actually returned, I don't know how much I can support that team. Would it be great to have professional basketball back? Yes. Would it be great to heckle Lebron James in person? Absolutely.  But will it ever be the same? I honestly don't think so. When I'm sitting in the new arena, I will feel a little dirty. The money I spent on tickets is going to the very people that ripped the team out of Seattle in the first place. We aren't getting a new team, we're getting a team from a city that went through the same thing the Seattle did. Will I be able to chalk that up as a "nature of the business" and move on? Probably not.

Of course, I could say all this and it would last until I walk into the arena, sit down, and am watching professional basketball in person again. That's what the NBA is counting on at least.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Seahawks draft thoughts; LB and DT

With the inevitable departure of David Hawthorne and who really knows what's happening with Leroy Hill, the Seahawks are going to revamp the linebacking corps. K.J. Wright had a solid rookie season and may move into the middle to replace Hawthorne.  And, as always, the Seahawks are most likely looking to add depth on the defensive line. 

A linebackers success is directly related to the success of the defensive line in front of him. A porous defensive line can make even the greatest of linebacking corps look ordinary. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs look positively pedestrian when the Bears front four is banged up or lacking in depth any given year. The defensive line doesn't eat up blockers, and offensive linemen are given a free path to the linebackers.

First guy I've looked at is Mychal Kendricks, a inside linebacker from Cal.  Cal had probably the best back seven on defense in the Pac 12, but a defensive front that was too small and not stout enough to run a 3-4 hurt them against power running teams. You could argue that Kendricks wasn't the best linebacker on the team, that being D.J. Holt, but Holt will be playing his entire NFL career in a 3-4, Kendricks will be in the 4-3. Kendricks is fast, smart, plays extremely hard and is an incredible tackler. On the downside, he's very small and can get blown clear out of plays. Pete Carroll has put an emphasis on size when he rebuilt the Seahawks laughably small defense, which makes me think that Kendricks is not the fit the Seahawks are looking for. Regardless, I loved watching his tape, because he is a 240 pound guy who plays like he's 260 and hits like his 280. Stanford, which has one of the biggest, strongest and best offensive lines in football, blew him up, a lot, in the run game though.

A couple defensive linemen to think about because YouTube just took a crap on me. Michael Brockers from LSU and Devin Still from Penn State. Devin Still is a monster. He's big and strong and really took a leap forward his senior year. He's still a little raw and needs to work on all the little things guys like him need to work on. Here's a good breakdown on Still:

In regards, to Brockers, who looks like a mid first rounder. I wasn't nearly as impressed. He is your standard LSU defensive linemen, great effort, big, fast, but benefits from a defense that resembles a tornado.  I watched him against Ole Miss, not a great team by any stretch, and nearly every time he was double teamed he was either blown off the ball, or pancaked. He resembled Colin Cole in 2009, rather than hold his own, he elected to sink and try and slide away from the blockers, and every time he tried to stick in his gap, he'd get crushed. And this was Ole Miss. Yikes.

More prospects tomorrow, maybe offensive linemen and my longstanding love affair with David Decastro.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seahawks draft thoughts

Every year in the draft, I fall in love with a few players. Some years the players actually work out, some years, they really, hideously do not, (Aaron Curry, Fred Smoot, JaMarcus...oh nevermind that). 

This year everyone is in infatuated with the two quarterbacks who will get picked 1-2. Luck is regarded as a can't miss, once in a generation quarterback. He will struggle his first year, that doesn't mean he'll bust, but Peyton Manning is still the best qb I've ever seen entering the NFL Draft. Griffin III is a wild card, but the Redskins are a good fit scheme wise, too bad the team completely sucks.

A couple things, I will never advocate drafting a defensive player from North Carolina. Who is it this year the Kipers and Mcshay's of the world are getting their jollies to? Quintin Coples? Poor effort, undisciplined, cut and paste to any of Butch Davis's crew from UNC.

Me, my attention is focused on the Seahawks, and Courtney Upshaw. Chris Clemons is like any veteran that you acquire through FA or a trade, you get two, maybe three years out of him tops. This would be year three of Chris Clemons and last year he was already showing signs of slowing down. Is Upshaw the ideal size? No. He's a little short, but so is James Harrison. He can float between a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE, which is exactly the role Pete Carrol has designated for the LEO position. While Clemons is tall, lean, and long, the Seahawks have been gashed many times on cutback runs because he gets sealed off. Upshaw holds his own a little bit better against the run Most of all, he's smart. He rarely is out of position, his fundamentals are excellent and he doesn't get out of his gaps.  He doesn't have a wide array of pass rush moves, but he's quick enough to get around the edge, and strong enough to get leverage and get good push. And he's relentless. 

The Seahawks are building a great defense. I think Upshaw would be another nice piece.

Next, I'll find a few linebackers I'm drooling over and share my infatuation.