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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