Neil’s NFL Daily: July 27, 2013

Neil checks in from Seattle with a report on some of the Seahawks' notable offseason additions and the one spot on their roster that may give them trouble.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: July 27, 2013

Friday, July 26 – Seahawks Camp (Renton)

I think the residents of Seattle should club together to pay for me to move out here; every time I come the weather is truly fantastic and in those conditions I’m not sure there’s a better place to be on the planet.

The key difference between the Broncos’ practice yesterday and the one today was tempo. It was night and day with Pete Carroll running round like a dervish, driving the enthusiasm levels ever upwards, ably supported by Russell Wilson doing every drill at a pace to set the standard for those to follow.

This is a good team but there are holes; it’s clear the team wants to upgrade their offensive line and understand how best to fill the potential holes in their defensive front four. Let’s consider those areas and talk a little bit more about Wilson and what we can expect from him.


Changing of the Guards?

When you spend a first round draft pick on a guard built more like a nose tackle, you want that player to start for a long time and blow defenders off the ball. What you don’t want, but is exactly what the Seahawks got from James Carpenter last year, is just over 350 snaps and a worse run blocking performance than in pass protection; particularly when that wasn’t very good either. The good news (uninspiring as it may be) is his work dropping back was improved over 2011 when his 39 QB disruptions allowed in just over half a season saw him benched after Week 10.

However there’s been an investment made and it looks like the Seahawks are determined to find if there is going to be a return by giving him plenty of opportunities to unseat Paul McQuistan at left guard. In principle that shouldn’t be an issue because McQuistan hasn’t graded better than +0.6 but Carpenter has shown little so far.

With competition also at right guard between J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt (they rotated first team snaps yesterday) the Seahawks’ biggest issue are the two players on either side of Max Unger. On the basis that the Seahawks will continue to want to run the ball, that’s one of the worst places to have a weakness so the situation is clearly worth watching.


On the line

In free agency, the Seahawks satiated their appetite for pass rushers with not one but two top-level free agent ends. Michael Bennett has made a career of feasting on second-tier offensive linemen while Cliff Avril, two years removed from being one of the most productive rushers in football (although still relatively effective) joined in April. At the time it appeared a little greedy but perhaps the Seahawks had already read the warning signs regarding Bruce Irvin. The way he was destroyed in the running game when forced to start tarnished his under-the-radar displays while rushing the passer. He was our sixth-ranked 4-3 end in terms of pass rush productivity but the way Trent Williams humiliated him on occasion in the Wild Card game suggested this isn’t good enough for Seattle. That was substantiated by the news they are now looking at him as a linebacker and compounded by his suspension.

Now add in Chris Clemons’ injury that may see him miss the opening week (or weeks) and avarice has morphed into prudence.

With Bennett and Red Bryant the options on the left (dependent on package) and Cliff Avril on the right, the potential complexities of blending the four rushers has metamorphosed into a rather simple solution.


The Winfield Effect

I’m not going to suggest I was mapping every package – far from it – but I only saw Malcolm Smith on the field once with the first unit. In the vast majority of cases it was Antoine Winfield replacing him in the nickel package and certainly gave me the feeling that will be the order of the day during the season.

You don’t go out and get one of the best slot guys around, and the best player against the run at his position in recent times, to ride the bench in a passing league and every indication I got was that was not going to happen.

[NB: When Richard Sherman left the field Byron Maxwell was the replacement but I was informed that because of the left/right way the Seahawks use their corners if Brandon Browner had left it would have been Walter Thurmond on the field]

NB: I’ve amended the Seattle depth chart accordingly, added in the position battles in purple and the update is below: 


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Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Mr. Lewis

    It’s funny because I actually thought to myself that it would be a great idea to move Bruce Irvin to linebacker in the base defenses, he’d kind of be like Julian Peterson 10 years ago where his length and athletiscm would cause havoc in coverage, he’d be a mismatch vs TE’s & RB’s on the blitz as a extra pass rusher, & would create more unblocked pressure from the fastest guy in their front seven, and he might even be an asset while not playing over offensive tackles and setting the edge vs TE’s in the run game. But that 4 game suspension really would handicap that plan to build a scheme around him.

    Before reading this post I was also thinking the Seahawks would be better off to play an absurd amount of nickel over their base defense because Antoine Winfield is so much better than Malcolm Smith, and it would give them even more flexibility coverage wise. But it’ll be tough because we know Winfield could cause havoc shedding WR’s blocks and making plays in the run game but it remains to be seen if he could shed TE blocks in the box and taking on FB’s lead blocks vs power run teams.

    I really hope James Carpenter comes around, it really bothers me that Pete Carrol has hit home runs on so many mid to late round picks (KJ Wright, Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Robert Turbin) and completely strikeout on a first round pick in Carpenter. I liked John Moffitt coming out of Wisconsin and JR Sweezy is terrible as a former D-Lineman. But if they could get just slightly above average guard play this year they should be a dynamic offense.

  • brett987654321

    The Seahawks sure run the ball well despite deficient guard play. Coach Cable seems to love JR Sweezy and word is that he is likely to win the starting spot over Moffit.
    Bruce Irvin will not take be asked to take on too many linebacker responsibilities. He will still be used mostly as a third down rush specialist but will do more from a standing position and they will move him around a little more. Cliff Avril’s play will be key to weathering the storm until Clemons and Irvin get back on the field. If the Seahawks manage to win some games without those guys it will be a sign they are the real deal.

    • griffin

      Think of him as a spinner much like clay matthews. If he can do well against the run he’d be a lot like Julian peterson. Apparently he was giving Christine Michael a hell of a time in camp the past few days.

  • [email protected]

    I dont think i’d read too much into them moving Bruce Irvin from DE to LB. I think its mostly a semantics change. Remember Von Miller and Aldon Smith are LB’s. They want him to rush the passer.

    • Griffin

      Carroll himself said that he thinks of the WLB and the Leo being interchangeable in certain packages especially in nickel as one LB comes off and Trufant was subbed in last year. I remember Clemons dropping back into coverage quite a bit.

  • Griffin

    Still love that PFF can’t read past their own numbers regarding Earl. Yes, he had a bad year tackling. But his coverage was insane and made many plays outside of his zone because he has the break on the ball and instincts to get to a pass before even some of a player’s original defenders got there (see the short middle and Browner’s side if he got burned and hell even when kam blew a coverage)

  • Jack

    It’s James Carpenter, not John Carpenter.

    • Anicra

      Just call him “The Thing!”