Monday, 11 January 2010
An early look at Pete Carroll and the draft
Pete Carroll will officially be revealed as the new Seahawks Head Coach this week. I anticipate that he'll be given the same powers that Mike Shanahan had in Denver/Washington and Andy Reid has in Philadelphia. A new GM will be appointed, probably someone who can keep an eye on the cap, contracts, evaluations and alike. This is Carroll's gig and he'll almost certainly have final say on personnel and more specifically, the 2010 draft.
To really get a grasp of this new regime in terms of projections, we need to see a draft. Everyone understood Tim Ruskell's philosophies, but we aren't 100% sure how Carroll and his staff will go about business. Even after the 2010 event we'll still only have a rough idea and it'll take probably 2-3 years to start throwing terms around like 'he's a Carroll guy'. Taking that into account, what do we know?
Carroll ran a 4-3 defense at USC. It would surprise me if the Seahawks moved away from this formation at least in 2010 anyway. There are a lot of different looks, he often used what's been described as an 'Elephant' on some plays, with a rushing lineman or linebacker stood up off the edge in space - with three lineman alongside. But essentially this is a 4-3 team today and it will be going into the new season.
One thing Carroll did always value was the importance of an effective defensive line. If you're getting pressure up front, this will free up your linebackers to make plays. It stops the other teams quarterback from functioning. It can stagnate a running game. Simply put, the Seahawks defensive line hasn't delivered the last two seasons. Patrick Kerney's future with the team is unclear - he's due a rather large salary this year. Lawrence Jackson - a former Carroll protege - has been inconsistent and is better in run defense than being used as a pass rusher. Darryl Tapp is a restricted free agent, but he is another who has struggled for consistency.
It would not surprise me at all if the Seahawks made the defensive line a top priority in the 2010 draft. It's the greatest area of strength in this years class for starters, but with two picks in the first fourteen - Seattle has a chance to find an impact starter. Let's assume Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are off the board as top five picks. Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) is a prototype 4-3 end with a relentless motor offering a dynamic edge rush. He could be available at #6 and should warrant serious consideration. If Morgan isn't available, the Seahawks could pursue the position at #14. Everson Griffen (DE, USC) is well known to Carroll and would warrant consideration, as might UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF) and Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida) can also be added to the equation.
What about the offense?
Many Seahawks fans continue to hope for an addition at left tackle. It was whilst watching the Green Bay vs Arizona game last night that a thought occurred to me. Arizona don't have a great offensive line, but Green Bay's is positively awful. It's not just my mock drafts that have had both teams taking offensive lineman in April's draft. However, they managed to put 96 points on the board in a playoff game. Why? Because they have good quarterbacks, exceptional receivers and efficient schemes. It's as simple as that.
During his time at USC, Carroll favored similar lineman to Tim Ruskell. Not overly big guys who can work a zone scheme with agility. I think he's unlikely to select a guy like Anthony Davis with the #6 pick. A case could be made for suggesting none of this tackle class warrants a selection as high as that. Although it's early days, I would be surprised if that initial pick belonging to the Seahawks was spent on an offensive tackle.
The theory that you need elite blockers isn't necessarily always true. It helps, but drafting expensive rookies to play on your line isn't always the answer. Keeping a defense honest is just as important as it can also buy your quarterback time in the pocket. Seattle doesn't threaten anyone at the skill positions and teams have been able to attack the offensive line with creative blitz packages and stacking the box. The Seahawks need greater playmakers to earn greater respect and lessen the work load on the lineman. There's no better way to accomplish that than to have dangerous options at receiver (see Fitzgerald, Breaston, Doucet, Jennings, Driver etc).
At #6 there's only one realistic option, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant. Like Michael Crabtree last year, he doesn't own elite deep speed. He does however find ways to get open, he's got long arms and enjoyed strong production for the Cowboys last year (1480 yards in 2008, scoring 19 TD's). He obviously missed nearly all of 2009 thanks to a NCAA suspension, but this shouldn't harm his stock too much based on the seriousness (or lack of) the charge. From what I've seen personally, he's prone to the odd error (not many drops, but the ones he does miss tend to be frustrating) but he's flashed that big play potential too. He's a threat on screens and with the ball in space, but he's also capable of getting downfield.
The alternative at #14 is another USC prospect and someone Carroll appears to have a lot of time for. Damian Williams is a smart, likeable character who enjoyed a 1010 yard, six touchdown season in 2009. He's capable of being used as a deep option, but he's also especially good with the ball in space and was used on a lot of screen passes for the Trojans. He body catches a bit too much, but he tends to make all the completions that he should. Is it a bit early? I could see Williams going in the teens, but then I could also see him dropping into the 20's. Either way, he's a potential fit for the kind of offense Carroll will look to deploy and he'll have first hand experience of the schemes.
Going back to that Packers/Cardinals game, you can see the benefit of experienced QB and talented pass catcher. Arizona are currently the divisions top team - and by some stretch. Green Bay showed last night that the only way to stop them is to match them for offensive production whilst on defense making sure you get pressure on the quarterback. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Seattle and Pete Carroll have that in mind when they spend those two first round picks. Many fans will want the team to target offensive lineman, but the value may not be there, particularly with the sixth overall pick. A defensive end and a receiver in round one? It could happen.
Posted by Rob Staton