Week 1 Wrap Up: Things Not On The Stat Sheet

by Kevin Nesgoda

Before Sunday’s match up with the Patriots, I wanted to talk about ten interesting things you might not have seen. If you have watched some form of recap or analysis of the week one game, that’s perfect because I will not be covering most of the major highlights. If you haven’t seen a recap, click here.

Hopefully, I will showcase some fundamental Seahawks football, and I’ll be covering Defense, Jamal Adams, Metcalf, O-Line, and L.J Collier. I know this one is quite long, so some of the interesting bits are in bold.

First of all, our Nose tackle, #97 Poona Ford, who has been with the team multiple years, does a great job of stacking on the center nicely, getting a nice bit of leverage. After being chipped by the right guard on an Ace Block (help out the center and then move onto the 2nd level), Poona can shed to fill the front side interior. Though he stumbles, he shows the RB there isn’t a clear lane right down the hashes.

This leads Todd Gurley to read the next slot, which is not to go entirely horizontal but attack the offensive line’s inside corner. This area was supposed to be clear as the tight end was ‘washing’ the entire defensive line away from the run, sealing off the end man, and then pushing across the field and creating a lane behind him for the run.

Instead, the hotly anticipated Jamal Adams blew up this block, clogging the very lane the TE was clearing, forcing Gurley to go even further horizontally, to try to get to the side-line and turn the corner. This should’ve been open due to another TE (Hayden Hurst) throwing a ‘Split’ Block across the entire formation to block the ‘force’ defender (#51) and allow access to the defense’s edge. However, Bruce Irvin deftly avoids this block, displays good discipline to not dive into the pile, instead of controlling the edge and wrapping up an almost stopped Gurley after the lanes collapse.

These three players demonstrated perfect run defense. Fill the gaps, clog the lanes, spill the player to the outside, set the edge, and make the tackle. Cliché coaches like to call this Fill, Spill, and Kill.

You’ve undoubtedly heard Jamal Adams being called a ‘Do it all safety.’ Well, here’s a clip I found that shows exactly that. It starts with a fake hand-off. Adams, moving to be that ‘Force’ player on the outside that Irvin was in the last example, intending to make a tackle for little/no gain for ‘force’ the player back towards the teeth of the defense.

After seeing this as a fake, he backpedals to his quarter zone in front of the Cover 3 Deep defenders while flipping his hips and keeping his eyes on the QB to see what he is looking for. Noticing the look and the throwing motion, he’s already racing towards the back as the ball leaves Matt Ryan’s hand.

He slows himself perfectly as he approaches, making sure not to over-pursue and miss a tackle, wrapping up and ending this play for no gain. This play demonstrates three things of note.

  1. Excellent awareness of the field. Knowing the position behind him, he doesn’t attack for a loss but levels himself to maximize tackling chances.

  2. Confirms his security as a box defender. He can protect the run, while also not jeopardizing the pass. Atlanta is running a Dino Concept to clear out the cornerback as Julio runs across and attacks the 25-30 yard area, which should be empty. Adams is drawn up with the fake, but yet he is back in plenty of time to threaten an interception if thrown.

  3. His calm under pressure. He looks across and sees Jones coming through, and knowing the area behind him is empty, Jamal knows he is responsible for stopping that throw being considered. At the same time he does this, he doesn’t over-pursue and turn his back on the play, leaving Gurley to pick up easy yardage.

Here is another play from the defense involving Lano Hill, but unfortunately not quite so flattering. Against Bunch formation, the Seahawks run a Dime package, bringing in Marquise Blair and Lano Hill. After hearing such good things about Blair, I was excited to see Blair in action for this game, and in this play, he does a reasonably good job, but my point is that I do not think he should be where he is.

Noticeably Absent from these line-ups were Tre Flowers, the previous #2 Corner, who split reps for the spot with Quinton Dunbar. For 5+ DB packages like Nickel and Dime, which were used more frequently than in previous years, they used the safety Marquise Blair at slot CB (as you can see by the blue circle) and put the 3rd string SS Lano Hill back deep, keeping Tre Flowers on the bench. Pete Carroll told the media that he wasn’t sure who the #2 safety was coming into this game, so we may well see different personnel later in the season when that decision is entirely made.

As for each of their performances on this play, I found Lano Hill to have covered well. However, there is a liability in spacing and tackling, much like Dunbar, who slipped as he was breaking onto the route. Ultimately both were attempting to go after the notoriously elusive Calvin Ridley in the open field.

The Seahawks used plenty of Defensive Back heavy packages like Dime and Nickel, with K.J Wright playing only 56% of snaps, and 1st rounder Jordyn Brooks playing just 9% of defensive snaps. Bruce Irvin, DE/ROLB, played on 85% of defensive snaps and is a more significant utility player than this number.

The Seahawks are a 4-3 team, meaning four down linemen is the norm for any given play, even if in a dime package, it is likely to be 4-1-6. The one line-backer is Bobby Wagner, but with Adams and Irvin, the Offense can never be sure who is blitzing and covering. Now a DE, Irvin began in Seattle as a ROLB and had at least good zone coverage skills. With Jamal Adams in the box so much, the Seahawks can blitz him and cover the missing zone with Irvin to create an overload on one side of the field. Still, if there is a fake blitz and the protection is slid away from Bruce Irvin and is indeed blitzing, he can be very disruptive. Additionally, Seattle is perfectly happy to blitz or drop both these players as well.

Seattle having two hybrids, Adams from 3rd level to 2nd level, and Bruce Irvin from 2nd to 1st, it allows a much more tremendous amount of defensive variety than previously afforded.

Before you shake your head at me, this isn’t a side by side for similarities, but for differences in how big men can run routes. Calvin Johnson has been a defining figure of the Big body Wide Receiver. DK has been said to be running a ‘Megatron Route Tree, ‘ which is to say, almost entirely consisting of Go routes, Curls, and slants. 

Each uses the body barrier and physical advantages to create catching opportunities, and each exploits the threat of the others. However, although DK may not have the almost automatic (robotic, even) catching radius that Megatron did, he does have something else.

His first Jab Step outside forces the DB to keep his hips open, ready to flip out and carry Metcalf down the side-line on a fly route, giving up a step to a player with 4.3 speed. The following steps allow him to get inside of the DB and then straighten up towards the end zone, not allowing the DB to get downfield and regain access to the middle of the field over the top. As the DB is flipping his hips inside and regaining balance, Metcalf takes a full speed 45 degrees cut and puts himself between the Cornerback and where the ball is headed. The Cornerback didn’t even touch him.

Metcalf does have the skillset to run this route with plenty of contact and shielding like Calvin and expect to see it in the coming weeks. Still, if you let Metcalf come to you, he’s got the talent to go right by you.

I’m using this play to transition to the Offensive line but first, let’s just have a look at this release by Metcalf. This time he will get contact with the Defensive Back and shows off his excellent body control, in the form of flexibility and strength.

It begins with a couple of step shimmy to square up in range of the CB, who should have not pressed at this point because this is a dream scenario for Metcalf. As the CB lunges and hits the chest with both hands to slow the release of Metcalf, D.K. synchronizes his arm jab and step to the inside. The route is won in the next half-second with 3 synchronous actions.

  1. His upper body twists away from the hands in his chest, lowering and moving his torso further away from the defender, but not so far back as to lean over his center of gravity

  2. He uses one arm extended with the hand on the inside shoulder, lifting the DB slightly. As he is twisting, his profile to the DB is less, his leverage is better and his reach is longer. Effectively he can push the DB and the DB cannot push back.

  3. He steps through with the left foot, crossing the face of the Defender and continuing to accelerate while the upper body bends to maintain control over the CB.

At this point, the WR is facing the right direction and is accelerating very quickly with an unimpeded view to the QB as the CB is off balance and out of position, and Wilson threw a perfect deep ball, as is his specialty, the catch and touchdown was uncontested.

The same play, with a different angle and a new emphasis. From Left of the screen, Tackle Brandon Shell #72 improves his early game mistakes (which I will cover later) to effectively counter the bull rush from Fowler Jr and then use the hug technique to control the DE’s movement, ending the rep.

Rookie Damian Lewis’ first game received some praise, especially considering how often he dealt with the highly regarded Grady Jarrett. On this play, though he does miss his initial punch and you can see Jarrett moving around as Lewis lunges forward, the RG has impressive agility to regain inside control and slow the DT. the priority was to keep the pocket clean for the throw, which Damien does, by forcing an outside move.

Center Ethan Pocic makes a mistake here by sliding towards Jarrett, who he sees making an outside move, and never checking the 1 technique, who needed a chip from the center to be neutralized. However, the protection call is acceptable. There aren’t any wasted receivers in to block unnecessarily. A check to the inside will come with experience and undoubtedly be picked up in the film room.

Left Guard Mike Iupati, often regarded as a run blocker, does a great job of recovering the rep, limit the damage, and then create space for the throw using good body control. With the move to the inside, Iupati overextends and loses almost all leverage on the DT, expecting some help inside, but somehow shifts himself enough to get a shoulder around the edge and begin to curtail #50 John Cominsky’s rush, carrying it harmlessly towards the back of the pocket. At the freeze frame, to maximize space for Wilson as Cominsky tries to bat the ball, Iupati Leans over the Defender, a rare move to give up leverage, but it does clean the pocket for the throw. A very impressive recovery.

Left Tackle Duane Brown puts on a masterclass at left tackle in this rep. Anticipating a Power to speed move, like a bull-rush swim, Duane dips down at the moment of contact, fires both hands into the chest, and lifts the DE so that he cannot drive with his legs to throw Brown off balance. As the DE lands, Duane adopts a more traditional double shoulder clamp position and anchors himself for any further movements. By the time the DE has recovered enough to try another move, the ball is already out, and the play is over.

This play is from earlier in the game but is useful to look at for its differences. The right tackle, Shell, has another reasonably strong performance, and I have found that throughout this game, I noticed he would be much more successful the more aggressively he attacks his block. Duane Brown is the opposite, often controlling the best if the End comes to him, but Shell seems to be better with momentum, even dealing with evasive or speed moves. Though almost giving up the inside, the left guard briefly manages to hold and keep the pocket clean for the most part. The left guard and tackle double Jarrett with a competency level, but there are 2 more interesting blockers here.

First is Ethan Pocic, who often successful at 1 on 1 blocks throughout this game and is beaten with a ‘grab and pull’ move that isn’t technically legal. Still, the unfortunate reality is that you can call a penalty on every play for both teams and that penalties are temperamental. The widely used hug technique shown by RT Brandon Shell is illegal, as it is a grab, but because you cannot move left or right in its vice, the ref doesn’t see the defender being held back, therefore no flag.

It is an accepted part of the game, and Pocic must simply endeavor to even out his center of gravity on pass plays. I would also like to point out that he had made a smart decision as Wilson moves forward. Had Pocic given in to the natural instinct and thrown a block, it would be an easy 10-yard penalty for Atlanta. Not a shining commendation to follow the rules but worth noting the soundness of the player.

The other player to notice is Will Dissly, who shined in pass-catching early last year before an injury, really deserves credit for this pass protection work. Though it looks like he is losing the edge, he is perfectly keeping his back to Wilson to create a bubble around him without comprising a cutback to the inside. After absorbing initial contact nicely, a textbook set of blocks to only allow Dante Fowler Jr to ‘ride the edge of the pocket’ harmlessly

This is the play I have previously mentioned concerning Brandon Shell #72. This is the first drive on 3rd down and Shell is seemingly caught unawares by this power move. The Hug technique which clamps the shoulders and stops movement requires the OL to give up the chest area. When Shell miss-times his punch and is slightly too high in his stance, the DE is able to push him straight backward into Wilson

This is the only section I will analyze Wilson, as it is undeniably apparent the strength of the game he had and therefore nothing much to be learned from it, but I was impressed by this throw, and how pedestrian it seems for him. Not only is Wilson unable to step into the throw, he is having contact made with him during the motion, but can still put the ball perfectly where it needs to be for the 3rd down conversion. 

It may seem easy due to the shortness of the throw but throwing to the side-line requires lots of power, so it cannot be jumped for an interception. However it cannot be too much power and overthrown so this being a shortened throwing motion for Wilson but is able to put a fair, yet perfect amount of power and placement on this ball is impressive.

A short example of run blocking here, with the RT/RG combining to deal with one DT, then move onto a 2nd level block and cover-up. Pocic does a great job of moving and walling the other DT, creating the lane for Hyde to run this ball. Must also give credit to LG/LT for opening a second lane if the interior was blocked, as well as the TE Hollister to work through the trash and set a block downfield.

I split this one in two otherwise imgur gets very unhappy.

This is a collection of plays from the 2nd year 1st rounder L.J. Collier, who it is far to say had an unproductive rookie year. I wanted to show these to back up my general assessment of him from this game, which is this:

L.J Collier is extremely frustrating to watch, but it’s not all his fault. The root of the problem is that he is one of the most technically basic players I have seen. All his success up till now through college and flashes through year 1 has been through sheer athletic talent, which he has lots of. 

He started out as a pure power rusher but did not develop moves or countermoves to help him, only using a bull rush and a poor understanding of mechanics. Seattle picked him up to turn that around and unlock his potential. Collier seemingly spent this offseason upgrading his agility with pretty good results. He moves in open space a lot better and has a nice burst and side to side quickness. 

The problem is, he is still unbelievably raw as a prospect. No matter how good his athletic talents are, the lack of any swipes, clubs, or jabs means he cannot defend nor escape the clamp that tackles love to neutralize with. I must make it clear that I am just as frustrated for  him as at  him, as there is no way he can develop any of these moves on NFL caliber guys without his coaching staff right there with him and an NFL level talent, which was impossible to facilitate this offseason.

He cannot even be effective in the run game with his strength because he hasn’t learned to anchor or stack effectively, meaning he isn’t an asset in either run-stuffing or pass-rushing, leaving very little space for him on this line to develop in games.

Does this suck and did he do his best to upgrade what he could (agility) and utilize the offseason? Yes. However, we are now 17 games into his career with an awful lot of training sessions, yet the only move I have seen is a lateral swim that doesn’t even break a defense, just moves a slot over. He still even now lacks any way to get past a player in front of him, yet he has enough drive and ability that he can still make some impact.

This point is emphasized twice with the intention grounding that should definitely count as his first sack, which came off an athletic sprawl and then a well-motivated scramble to the QB, and a play he absolutely should have made a sack but was nonetheless the reason for its lesser success. This second play I refer to is in the top video, where he pressures Matt Ryan to the point he throws the ball away but he is stopped by Todd Gurley, who he merely bumps into, rather than swim or bull rush as a polished DE would.

I am still interested to see his future, and I believe he has great potential but he needs to work full time on ways to win at the line like clubs and lifts. Even if the moves aren’t polished at least try. As it happens at the moment, he reverts to his incredibly basic style of play and therefore cannot be said to be the best in any facet for this defense which is a danger with such a deep corps with high upsides.

[Cover image by Larry Maurer via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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