More On the Seahawks' Undrafted Free Agent Class Part I

Tuinei.

I'm not in the mood to do an introductory paragraph. Here follows a short blurb - my take - on each of the Seahawks' undrafted free agent signees.

Ohio WR Phil Bates:

What can I add about Phil Bates that Charlie didn't address in his nice profile on the Ohio QB/WR? Not a whole lot. I am intrigued with Bates firstly because I had never heard of him prior to Sunday afternoon. His size/speed ratios are very good - at 6'1, 200 he ran 4.48 in the 40 (1.54 10 yard split), 4.39 shuttle, 6.87 3-cone, had a 40.5 vertical, 10'08" broad jump, and put up 19 reps of 225. That's damn impressive for a receiver, especially the 3-cone (would have been top-10 at Combine), the vertical (T-3rd at Combine), and bench press numbers (T-6th). Some say these numbers don't matter, and they might not to some teams, but I think the Seahawks grading system certainly take the physical potential into account quite a bit. I'm unsure at which weight Bates will try to play at - closer to 200 or the 220 he was at during the season last year, but he certainly looks the part as that big, physical mutli-threat as a runner or pass catcher.

After hearing John Schneider talk about how they had Ricardo Lockette graded out as the 2nd best WR in the entire Combine last year, physical testing wise, and taking into account the fact they drafted the unheralded Kris Durham in the 4th round, in part because he ran a 4.4 at 6'6, I think this makes Bates an interesting player to watch in training camp. The Hawks have kept a guy or two around for periods of time purely based on his physical upside (Jameson Konz, Chris Henry come to mind) and Bates fits this mold. He reminds me a lot of another QB/WR track star project the Hawks had around for a few season, Isaiah Stanback. He's a wildcard to keep an eye on.

- McNeese St CB London Durham:

Durham is another small-schooler that the Seahawks noticed, likely, because of his size and speed, physicality and attitude. He's listed at 6'2, 185 on his college profile, and 6'0, 180 at the Seahawks webpage, so he's probably closer to the latter. He was clocked in the 4.49 range at his pro day, but other than that I wasn't able to find a whole lot on him as a player.

When you watch the video below, you'll notice he plays with a certain violence not present in every players' makeup. He takes blocks head on (and wins), upends running backs, he club-whips receivers, and throws opponents to the ground, causes fumbles, and makes plays on the football. Obviously, the video below is a highlight reel, but going off of the little footage we have of Durham, I'm like his style of play.

It's interesting to note that in most of the looks below, he's playing in off-man coverage, typically about 10 yards off the line, so he might be getting a look as a potential slot cornerback type rather than an outside press corner, but that's just speculation. He does seem to have the physicality to play outside though.

- California (Pa.) G Rishaw Johnson:

Johnson was dismissed from Ole Miss after his junior year and finished his career at California PA. He's a nice size and watching the highlight tape below you can see why the Seahawks had a fourth-round grade on him (per Schneider interview). He's strong off the snap, violent, and from the scouting reports I have seen, is a very promising physical specimen with some technique issues he needs to work on.

Still, he's nearly 6'4, 313 pounds, has long 35" arms and compares himself to Davin Joseph, a guard for Tampa Bay. When I watch him, he kind of actually reminds me of James Carpenter a little bit. Maybe a little iffy in pass protection, but farily beastly in his run blocking duties as type similarities, and big, hulking upper body and dreads in physical similarities. Johnson will be one to watch, and if he buys in and works hard, could conceivably earn himself a back-end roster spot. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he were a practice squad player if he does end up getting cut.

- Washington WR Jermaine Kearse:

Kearse was sort of a surprise signing for me. Memories of the 2010 campaign come to mind, when Kearse became a little bit infamous for having great physical potential but rocks for hands. From memory, he cleaned up the drops a bit in 2011. Kip Earlywine aptly pointed out this was probably due to a more 'catchable' ball from Husky QB Keith Price, as compared to the p-rods that Locker would throw, and summed up Kearse perfectly when he said that he "is the Huskies equivalent of Darrell Jackson. Sneaky fast, great route runner, separates/gets open, high yards per catch, productive, plenty of hundred yard games and a touchdown machine in the red zone, but unfortunately, drops way too many passes." This is essentially the same thing that Davis said when I asked him about the signing, though Hsu pointed out that Kearse probably quits on a few too many routes as well and isn't great against the press.

Overall though, he has some potential. If I'm comparing Kearse to any current Seahawk, I could see the former Husky in a similar role that Ben Obomanu plays in this offense. Find the soft spot, run solid routes, get vertical when asked to, and run well with the ball once it's in your hands. Kearse, like Obo, finds ways to sell double moves and create separation and somehow finds ways to get behind the defense.

I don't know if Kearse has the talent to challenge for that role in the pros, but I'm looking forward to training camp to see if he stands out. The fact he was able to find the endzone so many times in his career (8 TDs in 2009, 12 in 2010, 7 in 2011), with two different quarterbacks, doesn't hurt, and if he can demonstrate the ability to focus and perform in the redzone like he was able to do in college, he'll have a chance. Like Carroll says, "Anybody that can score touchdowns is big on our board, because they're so rare and so hard to find."

- Oregon WR Lavasier Tuinei

As long as we're talking about touchdown makers, we should bring up the other wide receiver the Seahawks signed, under the radar pass-catcher, Lavasier Tuinei ("lah-VAHSH-ee-ay TOO-in-ay."). The lanky 6'5, 220 pound Oregon receiver scored ten touchdowns in 2011 and proved to be a dependable red-zone target in crunch time. Tuinei was the offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in January after catching 8 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns and this performance came after a fractured shoulder blade kept him out of the Ducks final two regular season games.

As Derek Stephens put it, Tuinei 'lives in the seam' and actually reminds me a lot of another former UDFA that is almost exactly his size, Buffalo's David Nelson. Nelson became a nice red zone threat out of the slot for Chan Gailey, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills in his 2nd season - gathering 61 catches and 5 touchdowns. I had done a little study of Nelson when Thomas brought up the idea of sliding Mike Williams to the slot as a big slot WR, and Tuinei certainly fits the mold for that type of player - length, nice hands, good catch radius, but lacks top-end speed and suddenness and might not get much separation on the outside.

I have a little inkling that Tuinei could push for a roster spot as this type of player - to be used early in 4, 5WR sets in the slot as sort of a tweener WR/Joker TE. He's too slight of frame at this point in time to be doing much blocking as a tight end, but he has intriguing measurables, particular his length at 6'5 with 34.5" arms and an 81" wingspan (that's six feet nine inches for those of you keeping track at home). John Schneider loves his 'catch radius' - this was one thing he brought up a lot about Doug Baldwin, and Tuinei has this, plus proven soft hands and nice balance and body control.

More soon...

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