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05.05.2019 10:02
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At the 2018 East-West Shrine Game , Texas’s Poona Ford turned a strong performance into an invitation to the Senior Bowl on the following weekend. Though Ford was mindbogglingly excluded from the Scouting Combine and ultimately went undrafted, the player Ford showed himself to be in Tampa Bay showed up for the Seahawks in 2018. On the opposite sideline during the 2018 Shrine Game, a safety from Oklahoma State named Tre Flowers showed off his tremendous size and length for the East Team. In total, nine players from last year’s game were connected to Seattle between then and training camp—whether it was a pre-draft workout, signing with the team as a UDFA or starting 15 games, like Flowers did as a rookie. Though the college all-star circuit is already under way, the Shrine Game truly kicks off the lead up to the draft. We’ll start off the draft coverage here at Field Gulls with my watch list for the 2019 East-West Shrine Game. Devine Ozigbo, RB (5-foot-10, 219 pounds)Player Summary: Some running backs are just easy to identify as Pete Carroll’s type. Ozigbo is that type. The former Cornhusker runs incredibly hard and finishes with the kind of physicality Carroll craves. Of course, with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny on the roster, there isn’t a huge need for running back. However, last year the Seahawks spent a considerable amount of time scouting pass-catching, satellite backs, such as Ito Smith. Though Ozigbo isn’t that player, he is extremely explosive (Rotoworld’s Josh Norris likened him to Matt Breida, a 94th percentile athlete). Ozigbo would be a like-for-like replacement for Mike Davis, who is a free agent. Davis was shoehorned into the third down role in 2018, and performed admirably. Ozigbo would provide the team with a far more natural pass catcher and athlete in space, while also providing further early down depth.(A note: There are some terrific writers and scouts at Shrine Game practices this week. The section below will be for sharing their observations, practice clips and the like.)What They’re Saying:Shawn Poindexter, WR (6-foot-4, 217 pounds)Player Summary: After two quiet seasons to begin his career at Arizona, Poindexter exploded onto the scene in 2018, hauling in 42 catches for 759 yards and 11 touchdowns. As Poindexter’s 18.1 yards per reception would indicate, he has a penchant for the big play. At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, he’s a long strider who can get vertical with ease. Poindexter has the size and the downfield ability, and, as a former volleyball player, he has the potential to be an excellent threat inside the paint. Russell Wilson and Paul Richardson formed a great partnership, with Richardson’s length, catch radius and downfield ability giving Wilson the same security Sidney Rice once did. Poindexter is in this mold.What They’re Saying: Bunchy Stallings, OG (6-foot-3, 315 pounds)Player Summary: Entering their second offseason under Mike Solari, Seattle’s evaluation of offensive linemen remains a fascinating case study. Under Tom Cable, they had a hyper specific type of athlete and build in mind. Under Solari, that’s changed considerably—highlighted by the selection of the not-at-all-athletic Jamarco Jones. While their new direction should remain under the microscope through their second draft with Solari as offensive line coach, they have an unquestioned need at guard. Both D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy are pending free agents, and both played great football in 2018. There will potentially be multiple holes along the interior, if one or both of Sweezy and Fluker aren’t re-signed. Stallings is in the mold of a Solari guard, with tremendous size and pedigree—having just been named first-team All-SEC.Stallings is a physical, tone-setting presence who plays with a legitimate edge to his game.What They’re Saying:Kyle Phillips, DL (6-foot-3, 272 pounds)Player Summary: Stepping into a starting role during his final two seasons at Tennessee, Phillips become a disruptive player for the Vols Womens Shaquem Griffin Jersey , collecting six sacks and 12 tackles for loss during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Phillips has a sturdy frame at 6-foot-4 and 273 pounds, and the way in which he was deployed at Tennessee will pique the Seahawks’ interest. (Phillips also earned the Piesman Trophy in 2018 for this epic touchdown against Alabama.) On early downs, Phillips was disciplined and strong enough to hold up and maintain on the edge. On passing downs, Phillips reduced inside and provided a twitchy presence rushing from the interior. Seattle loves outside-inside pass rushers and if Phillips tests well in the spring, he’ll be on their radar.What They’re Saying: Justin Hollins, EDGE (6-foot-5, 245 pounds)Player Summary: Another defensive lineman the Seahawks could be interested in due to the variety of rolls he can fill. Though Hollins is likely too light for Seattle to be interested in him in a pure pass rushing role, they could envision him in the same way as Jacob Pugh, a Shrine Game participant in 2018 who was with the Seahawks in training camp. Hollins can rush in sub packages or play off-ball, dropping into zones. The former Duck is coming off a productive season at Oregon with 6.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 14.5 tackles for loss. His size will hurt him, but if he can test well during the pre-draft process, it would make him a highly intriguing and versatile prospect. Helping his cause is the way he carries 245 pounds—he is by no means a scrawny prospect. What They’re Saying:Michael Jackson, CB (6-foot, 207 pounds, 32 3/8” arms)Player Summary: At the risk of sounding like Dwight K. Schrute describing himself, let me list off Jackson’s best traits: Length. Physicality. Press corner. Strong tackler. Jackhammer. Through and through, Jackson is the type of cornerback Carroll and Seattle craves. There’s reason to wonder how well Jackson will test prior to the draft, but if he can clear the Seahawks’ thresholds, he could be the latest prospect thrown into the mix. Though his ball skills need refining, with no interceptions and just six pass breakups in his final season at Miami, Jackson is a tantalizing prospect. What They’re Saying:A couple names not highlighted above, but worth mentioning: Wide receivers Terry Godwin (Georgia) and Jon Duhart (Old Dominion) have both met with Seattle after practice this week, per Trevor Sikkema of Pewter Report. Though it doesn’t quite have the glamour of the Senior Bowl, the Shrine Game is always an entertaining game, and a good opportunity to get familiar with prospects who will find themselves selected in the area of the draft where the Seahawks thrive. Back in a time where being a coach for the Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll used to mean something, Ken Norton, Jr. was hired away by Jack Del Rio to be the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2015. Norton had spent 11 years with Carroll, including the previous five for the Seahawks as linebackers coach under Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn, with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.When Quinn left after Seattle’s second straight season of winning the conference, Carroll hired Kris Richard to take over as defensive coordinator, while Norton went to the Raiders. The two assistants saw their paths take different directions from that point forward, but now as things have come full circle, Norton suddenly looks to be “ahead” of his longtime colleague with USC and the Seahawks.But really isn’t just about timing and talent?Oakland went 3-13 and finished 32nd in points allowed in 2014, which is why they fired Dennis Allen (and replacement Tony Sparano), and hired Del Rio. That’s where Norton came in and he helped the Raiders improve to 22nd in points allowed, with 16 more sacks than they had the year before, and a notably better pass defense. All because of Norton, right?Probably a lot more to do with second-year linebacker Khalil Mack actually, who went from three sacks to 15. And as we’ve seen, Mack doesn’t need a certain coach in order to be productive. Not that the Raiders had a super talented defense (Charles Woodson, Aldon Smith, Malcolm Smith, David Amerson Womens Will Dissly Jersey , Dan Williams, Mario Edwards), but they also weren’t super good. They were just a little better.Then they weren’t.Then in September of 2016, Del Rio reportedly took playcalling away from Norton following a terrible start to the season by the defense; they gave up over 1,000 yards over the first two games. They stopped giving up 500 yards per game, but the Oakland defense was still among the worst in the NFL, even after adding Bruce Irvin and Reggie Nelson, probably because many other starters were still very bad. The Raiders finished dead last in net yards per pass attempt allowed. They did go 12-4, but lost badly in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe it’s a different story if not for Derek Carr’s broken leg, but the defense still stood no shot of helping them through that gauntlet.After a 4-6 start last season, Oakland fired Norton, severing ties completely. They had forced just five turnovers in 10 games. He hit the open market as a coach who wasn’t good enough to even improve the Oakland Raiders defense. Not a good place to be in.Luckily enough, Carroll didn’t care about any of his Oakland issues. He knew Norton for over a decade and he knew that he had the talent for a good defense. Isn’t that really the majority of what you need?Richard had the Seahawks back at their number one ranking for scoring defense in 2015, getting through a bad wild card game in Minnesota before losing on the road to the Carolina Panthers; they gave up 31 first half points to the Panthers but a significant problem that day was incompetence by the offense and then Seattle shut Carolina down in the second half. The Seahawks were third in points allowed in 2016, including first in yards per carry allowed. Quarterbacks had a rating of just 85 against Seattle, with only 16 touchdown passes.The Seahawks held the Detroit Lions to six in a wild card win, but again lost badly on the road in the divisional round.Things finally took a downward turn in 2017, with Seattle finishing 13th in points allowed and surrendering 30+ five times. However, there was a significant change that year: No Cliff Avril for 12 games, no Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor for seven, Earl Thomas missed two games and was recovering from a broken leg, K.J. Wright was out for the defense’s worst game in years.It was a lack of talent.Carroll decided to shake things up — this is more the cause for Richard’s firing than anything, I believe — and found his old friend on the coaching free agent market. Now where are the Seahawks, Richard, and Norton?Well, somewhat quietly Norton has certainly raised his stock, hasn’t he? Seattle is ninth in points allowed, seventh in yards allowed, fourth in net yards per pass attempt allowed, and has a top-10 ranking in DVOA again. What’s the difference between the 2018 Seahawks and all of his Raiders defenses that weren’t as good? Well, Oakland had Mack, and Seattle has had an actual defense.That obviously changes now with the injury to Thomas. And if the Seahawks’ pass defense gets worse week-to-week, we’ll know why. If Norton’s resume goes from “coached a top-10 defense” to “helped sink a top-10 defense,” it’ll be because he didn’t have as much talent to end the year as he did to start it. Norton may be a great coach — whatever that even means — but coaches are only as good as the talent that they can put on the field. Bill Belichick is famous for overturning players-not-named-Brady all the time, but less talked about is the decade he’s spent with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung as his safeties. If the players work, they work. If they don’t, you’re out of a job.Richard is drawing praise for his work with the Dallas Cowboys secondary as an assistant there now, including the Pro Bowl-caliber season for Byron Jones at cornerback. Certainly Richard’s knowledge has something to do with that, but it would be for nothing if Jones wasn’t one an extremely special athlete with the capacity to play at this level. And eventually, Richard will get another chance as a defensive coordinator too, perhaps leading to a head coaching opportunity.His best way back there will be to continue to follow the talent.


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