James Carpenter is one of the more intriguing picks from the 2011 Draft for me, for several reasons. First, he was a surprise choice to most people here - I don't know many that were expecting the Seahawks to pick a tackle with their first selection - so right off the bat many were left scratching their heads (including, famously, Nick Saban). Add in the notion, right or wrong, that right tackle isn't a position teams should or need to draft in the first round and you've got more head-scratching and bewildered looks to and fro.
Come game time several months later, when you multiply these two factors by the fact Seattle was installing a new offensive line system under Tom Cable with players that had zero experience together or zero NFL experience at all protecting a quarterback that tends to hold on to the football for a long time and seems to lack much pocket presence or ability to slide or strafe away from pressure, and you can almost expect the James Carpenter pick to look like a wasted one by midseason. Too many sacks given up, too many assignments were missed, the run game was embarrassing for the first six or seven weeks, and there was a lack of immediate, tangible impact from a pick that is supposed to produce an immediate and tangible impact. Of course, all this was exacerbated by the fact that Carpenter then badly tore his ACL, in practice, and missed almost half the year.
Finally, add one measure of Breno Giacomini at right tackle, one splash of Paul McQuistan at left guard, let bake for seven games and out of the oven you get one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL (that was by far the stupidest sentence I've ever constructed). All without first-round pick, James Carpenter. Also, Carpenter's ACL rehab is going slowly. Also, the Seahawks signed Deuce Lutui. And Alex Barron. And Frank Omiyale. Where does that leave us?
I don't know, but it kind of makes the guy that we had such high hopes for one year ago a forgotten man. He may not play this season, according to some reports.
Still, I've got very high hopes for one James Carpenter, as soon as he returns to full strength. I think with more experience in the system, better communication on the line, better teamwork, frankly, Carpenter can still be a very, very good NFL tackle or guard. James Carpenter is only 23 - John Moffitt turns 26 this season, for comparison. He's got the physical attributes anyone would love on the offensive line, and at times, he flashed brilliance - particularly in the run blocking department. It's easy to watch the video below and groan at the ineptness of the line during the Seahawks' first several games, but I can't forget some of the good things that Carpenter can do.
Our own Derek Stephens tracked the Seahawks' rookies very closely this last season and in his end-of-year wrap up report, had this to say about James Carpenter:
"The sample size was smaller than we'd all hoped for, but Carpenter did flash an array of promising skills at right tackle, and briefly and left guard. He's extremely nimble considering his massive frame, possesses upper and lower half power, and can really deliver a pop of the line. Struggles came primarily in pass protection but had little to do with physical limitations and a lot to do with misdiagnosing and failing to properly anticipate his opponents' move.
"The improvement in this area was gradual over his body of work, but it was certainly evident, which suggested that he was beginning to understand and anticipate better. He wasn't a very consistent "instincts" guy at Alabama, so there were always questions there for me. However, the power and rare size/quickness and flexibility combo made him intriguing and he did show enough intelligence and recovery ability to warrant a lower first round grade, in my opinion. And I think he played like a low first round offensive tackle on a young team in a new scheme. He's a long-term starter at right tackle or guard given that he stays healthy, but if he wants to be a legitimate top tier lineman, he'll need to do a better job of coming into camp in shape, continuing to take and make corrections, and be more consistent at getting into position off the snap.
"He can trap, seal, pancake and explode at the point of attack. He gets down field and can square up at the second level. He can do it all. It's the intelligence piece that is still in question for me, but he can be an average tackle on a good team as is. His chances of becoming a pro bowler would probably be enhanced with a move to the inside (i.e. left guard) which wouldn't be outside the realms of possibility if there's a better tackle prospect available for Seattle to draft in the next year or two, and other need areas are filled."
Check out the season retrospective videos below, and as usual, many thanks to Nate for taking the time to put them together.