The Seahawks' Rookie Report is a series of posts I've done that evaluates and ranks this team's rookies, week-to-week. With one preseason game completed, let's get to the 2012 draft picks first. We'll go in order of draft selection:
Bruce Irvin - DE - West Virginia: Irvin displayed the get-off and explosiveness that we've heard everyone (myself included) rave about since Seattle selected him in April. He explodes out of his coil and keeps the pads low when hitting the edge. He never outright blew by anyone on Saturday, and struggled to turn back to the inside when the outside edge was sealed, so he'll need to continue developing a repertoire that will make him a threat beyond just out-running his opponent to the edge.
He did flash good arm extension and leverage on a couple of occasions with a single arm bar to the chest of his blocker and impressive drive to push a significantly larger opponent backward, but that will not be where Irvin makes his living at this level. It's going to be get-off, speed, flexibility at the edge, and quickness to go with a bundle of moves back to the inside (i.e. spin, rip, club, etc.) that enable him to move around his opponent laterally to either side, and close on his target.
There was one instance (might have been his first play on the field) where he stunted to the inside and had an open lane to Hasselbeck, but the former Seattle QB was able to get rid of the ball before Irvin reached him. Regardless, the speed was on display on that play, and you got just a small sample of the type of speed this guy brings to the defense.
Bobby Wagner - MLB - Utah State: Wagner got a ton of snaps, and good for him....he needed them. He was boxed out of a couple of run plays at the 2nd level by downfield blockers in the first quarter, and didn't show a ton of fight to shed on those plays. In coverage, he's a natural, fluid dropper with smooth lateral movement, and looked good there for the most part, despite locking onto the QB and getting a bit "still" in his zone on a couple of plays. But it appeared as though he was so focused on maintaining his assignment that he probably stiffened up a bit, especially early on, and didn't allow himself to cut loose initially.
First game. No worries. Toward the end of the 2nd quarter, he began to roam a bit more freely and appeared to allow his athleticism and instincts to take over as he flew to the ball better and got in on a couple of tackles. The guy can cover a ton of ground, and I believe, just based on what I saw as the game progressed, that he'll show improvement in the coming weeks and be just fine to start there by week 1. He has the type of athleticism that will afford him the ability to mis-diagnose and still correct adequately during the initial phase of the learning curve, so fans shouldn't be too worried about the first game. Heck, the first game for all these guys is primarily spent working out the jitters. It's really a bad game to grade rookies on, except to use as a contrast to the following week to prove the point of "improvement with time."
Russell Wilson - QB - Wisconsin: Wilson came away as the most impressive rookie by my evaluation. The most important initial things to look at with a rookie QB are primarily intangible (accuracy the exception):
- Progressions: Does he go through his reads quickly without locking on to a target or hesitating?
- Decisiveness: How quickly does he decide where he's going with the ball, and then how quickly does he pull the trigger?
- Decision-Making: Did he make the right decisions throughout the game? Target the right receivers, or pass on good options? Defer too frequently to check-downs as a means of "safety" (was he too conservative)? Force the ball or throw into good coverage?
- Pocket Presence: Does he feel pressure, move in the pocket to avoid pressure and then escape when there's no where to go in the pocket?
- Accuracy: Does he put the ball in the right spot?
All of these contribute to a projection of how well he is deciphering information, including reading defenses and anticipating DB movement. These all trump completion percentage, TD passes, interceptions, although they are key in determining how these stats pile up.
With all of these in mind, let's talk about each one with Wilson.
As for progressions, Wilson was quick to locate his first target, and then cycle through others in situations where he ended up deferring to a 2nd or 3rd option. He did lock-on to his first read slightly on a couple of occasions, particularly early on in his play, however this improved over the course of the half, and he progressed more rapidly as the game moved along. He looked off effectively on a couple of occasions as well, particularly on the early snap from Jeanpierre and subsequent short hook route completion to Braylon Edwards.
As for decisiveness, there didn't appear to be much hesitation with Wilson, and he was quick to let the ball go when he ID'd the preferred target. He delayed throwing on a couple of occasions as he wasn't satisfied with how open his receiver was, and thus, bought time with his feet to extend the play until his man was open (see pass interference call on pass intended for Morrah). No worries there. It's good to see a guy who isn't holding onto the ball and freezing in the pocket (ala Jackson last year, and even Flynn early on in the first half of this game).
Decision-making was about 85% good, 10% fair and 5% bad. The bad being the interception in the end zone when Wilson tried to loft a seam pass to his tight end, but instead saw it swallowed up by a defender who had plenty of time to spot, adjust and easily reel in the pass. There's really no explaining the thought process on that play. It looked as if Wilson might have decided against the throw just as the ball was leaving his hand, and thus pulled back on the power. If not, then it was simply a botched read on his part, and might point toward visibility issues from the pocket. As much as I'd like to keep with my theory that he has no visibility issues (based largely on his college tape), he didn't throw but just a few times from the actual pocket, so it was hard to evaluate his vision from that standpoint.
Pocket presence is "TBD" as far as I'm concerned, because we really didn't see him throw a lot from the pocket. The feel for pressure and escape-ability were certainly there, and graded very well. But as for moving and remaining inside the horseshoe, it wasn't easy to evaluate. He spent, I think, an unrealistic amount of time outside the pocket from a play-design standpoint, in play-action situations. Fortunately for him, his speed and elusiveness enabled him to make enough time and room for himself to make most of his throws on the run. I call this "unrealistic" for the simple reason that teams will eventually be able to scheme against it and force him to stay in the pocket for a high enough percentage of plays that he'll need to be competent as a passer from there, if he's ever to be a regular.
Wilson's accuracy was good. The TD pass to Edwards was put in the right place and displayed strong awareness by Wilson as to the route that Edwards was running, as well as to the abilities of Edwards (size, ability to go up and get the ball). The short to intermediate stuff was typically put right on the money, particularly on the stick throws that didn't require any "leading" by Wilson. I saw no issues with accuracy here, and as a guy who studied him thoroughly at Wisconsin, there were none anticipated. Again, there is the whole "from the pocket" question in terms of the accuracy, but we'll have to wait to see more action from there.
Overall, despite there being some mistakes and incomplete areas of evaluation, Wilson displayed better-than-adequate performance in all the key areas. One of the things that I was most impressed with from a demeanor standpoint, was how calm and collected he was between plays. Looking at his face, you could tell he had command. Watching him "correct" Lemuel Jeanpierre after his early snap was further indication that he's comfortable directing the offense and keeping guys accountable.
I'd prefer to see him run with the first team offense at some point in the next two weeks, just to see what improved protection will do for him. Will he leave the pocket even when protection is good? If so, again, we may have to wonder about the visibility. But he handled himself extremely well under pressure, and much of what we saw in terms of progressions, feel for pressure and decisiveness, appear to be natural enough that they should transfer environments, regardless of the level of play of the defense.
In other words, I'm not sure that playing with the 2nd and 3rd teams, against 2nd and 3rd team defenses, helped Wilson go through his progressions faster, feel pocket pressure easier, throw with more accuracy on the run or become more decisive (the latter, maybe, if guys were simply more open and easier to commit to). Perhaps he completed a few more passes or escaped the pocket a little easier due to vanilla defensive schemes, and gained a few more yards on the ground than he would against a 1st team defense. But I would be much more concerned if he compiled the same statistics, but did so while locking onto receivers, forcing the ball into heavy coverage, or tucking and running at first feel of pressure.
Robert Turbin - RB - Utah State: Turbin got some heavy work in with Lynch staying on the sidelines for the entire game. What I liked about Turbin was his ability to allow the hole to develop in front of him, and then the display of a strong natural burst to explode through it when it was there. He protects the ball well, keeps his weight forward, and falls forward consistently. He also displayed some natural pass-catching ability. What was less that impressive to me, was how easy he was to bring down.
I wrote and podcasted about this when Seattle drafted Turbin, as he showed the same tendency at Utah State to be susceptible to ankle tackles, one-armed waist tackles and even "bumps" or "brushes" from defenders. People often look at the upper body and think "power runner," but that's not entirely the case. Turbin doesn't possess the lower body power and drive that Lynch does, and fans should not expect Marshawn Lynch 2.0.
I've heard analysts and commentators recently throw out generic assessments such as "Turbin is a lot like Lynch", or "Turbin is built low to the ground and is a pure power runner", but it's not true. Now, is it a problem that Turbin isn't like Marshawn Lynch? Not at all. In fact, Turbin possesses natural quickness and burst that Lunch doesn't, and is well-rounded enough to be a featured back. That's what Seattle lacked last year - a true featured back that could spell Lynch, change the pace, and didn't need a ton of open space to gain significant yardage (Forsett, Washington).
Turbin is strong enough and big enough to possess and display a power element to his game, but he simply has to anticipate hits better, and use his powerful arms to keep himself clean when tacklers are approaching. He rarely extends his arm to keep defenders away, and he drags his feet a bit through trash, making him way too easy to tackle. Not trying to be too critical folks. Just telling you the truth. There's a ton of upside, and I think Turbin has legit "feature back" capability, because he sees the hole and commits. He's a true one-cut back suited well to play in a zone scheme like this one, but there are a few tweaks he could make to his approach, that will gain him extra yards. He needs to be a lot more aggressive on contact.
Jaye Howard - DT - Florida: Howard got a lot of work in on Saturday as well. He spent all of his time at the 3-tech tackle spot, and gave us plenty of footage to evaluate. He didn't really show anything spectacular, although he does possess a pretty quick get-off and consistently low pad levels off the ball. He gets his arms extended and into the chest of the blocker, and keeps his feet moving.
But where Howard will have to excel if he's to develop into a consistent pass-rushing threat from the inside, is in using his hands and natural foot quickness to knife gaps and evade blockers. In other words, we saw too much bull-rush and not enough pass-rush technique (i.e. rips, swims, clubs, etc.). His long arms and natural quickness make for a set of tools that could yeild some pretty special stuff, if he's to maintain consistent effort and continue working to develop a repertoire of moves. But he's not going to make it on a pure power game at this level.
Korey Toomer - LB - Idaho: Toomer was this year's "Mark LeGree" in that he was a bit of a gamble in the 5th round coming out of Idaho, and coming off injury. Nobody really knew what they were getting with this guy. The question now is - "is Korey Toomer this year's Mark LeGree?", like, in a bad way. While he's struggled to really stand out in practices, and has been repeatedly poo-poo'ed by folks who haven't the convenience of a rewind button as they make their judgments from the berm of the VMAC, he had some good moments on Saturday.
Like Wagner, he froze in space a couple of times and was late to break on routes underneath, as he locked onto the QB and seemed to lose himself a bit. And like Wagner again, Toomer overran an opportunity for a backfield stop on a running play that would've been a key TFL, had he finished. Against the run in general, he diagnosed well and took good angles, but didn't necessarily explode to the hole, and tried to meander his way through blockers rather than swat or rip through them in pursuit.
He did make a good special teams tackle, and displayed good drops and zone discipline while in coverage. Toomer is raw and still learning to play linebacker. He needs to dial up the physicality of his game, fly to the football faster, and trust his athleticism more. He has some nice natural explosiveness and fluidity, and I see a guy who could still beat out a Mike Morgan for a backup SAM and special teams role, with upside to develop into a potential big-play threat at the position. But he'll need to show that he's growing each week.
Jeremy Lane - CB - Northwestern State: Lane possesses the best press technique of any of the 2nd or 3rd team CBs. He makes immediate contact, extends his arms to redirect the receiver, isn't afraid to crowd his man downfield, and can come back to the ball. He was called for pass interference on a play where he could've knocked the pass down without grabbing the receiver, so that was a bit of a wasted opportunity. He needs to learn to harness his physicality.
He's a solid tackler in the open field, and overall, possesses better man coverage skills than either Coye Francies or Phillip Adams. The latter two, however, have displayed more discipline, and thus are getting more of the 2nd team reps, while Lane has been sitting with the 3rd team. Probably didn't help that he got in a fight in practice a few weeks back, either. He made a couple of nice open-field tackles in run support as well.
All-around, he's the ideal fit for this scheme - physical, long, tough and plays with a chip. At this point, though, he's going to have to learn to control himself better if he wants to be anything other than a special teams contributor. Let's see if he moves up the depth chart and ends up getting time with the 2nd unit this week. His play on the field says that he should. It would be interesting to see him take some nickel snaps at some point, to see how he does in the slot.
Winston Guy - S - Kentucky: Guy played a decent amount in the 2nd half on Saturday, and appeared to be in the right spot most of the time. His forte in college was playing the run. Often times, he'd come up on the line and play as an outside ‘backer at Kentucky and the tape showed a guy who reacted quickly to plays in front of him, and wrap-tackled extremely well, even from unconventional angles.
We saw a little bit of the read-and-react on Saturday night, despite the fact that he wasn't ever in as the primary tackler on any one play. He was diagnosing quickly though, and flying to the football. What I'm going to be looking for in the coming weeks, is how well he plays the pass when asked to cover down field. He can't be a strict run-support safety in the NFL, and the staff are looking for a viable 3rd safety to emerge out of camp. I wrote about the need for a reliable 3rd safety a few days ago, and Guy is certainly in that competition.
J.R. Sweezy - OG - NC State: Of all the rookies, I came away from Saturday's game the most pleasantly surprised by Sweezy. Wilson performed the best, but Sweezy exceeded my expectations the most. Here's a guy who hasn't played a lick of O-line since grade school. I look up a few minutes into the first half, and I see number 64 in the huddle and lining up at right guard, directly between two starters (Unger and Giacomini) and I said (audibly), "no freakin' way", which is what you say when you have a 19-month-old copycat running around the house.
I zeroed in on Sweezy for the entire game on first watch, and what I saw blew me away. The guy knows how to use his hands off the snap. He consistently delivered violent blows to the defender's chest and even drove his man into the turf, to the whistle, on more than one occasion. He exploded off the line on a couple of notable run plays, and flashed the ability to seal, trap, and flat-out drive his opponent out of the play.
There's power, athleticism, and impressive use of hands. Now, where he needs the most work is in his approach to engaging defenders on run plays. Sweezy too frequently would overextend and lead with his shoulder, leaving him susceptible to an easy club or swim, and rendering him somewhat useless on a given play. He looked a bit out of control on some plays, as he whiffed completely and went nose first into the turf on a couple of occasions.
As a pass blocker, again he flashed above-average lateral agility and mirroring ability, extended his arms well and displayed pretty good hand placement. Where he got tied up a bit was in pass pro situations whereby the Titans rushed 3, and he had to decide who to help (between C and RT). He simply looked lost on a couple of those plays. Overall, Sweezy was extremely impressive considering the timetable, and had he been a guard at NC State, I would still have graded his performance as "good" for where he was selected (7th round).
This appears to be a worthwhile experiment, and there's a strong possibility that it could yield the Seahawks a long-term starter at LG within 2 years. I'll be looking for him to improve on some of these expected struggle areas as the preseason progresses. Considering how quickly he has learned, there's no reason to think that he won't.
Greg Scruggs - DT/DE - Louisville: Outside of Russell Wilson, Saturday's opening preseason contest was about the 7th rounders for me. Scruggs had a great game, with a half sack and another couple of big plays in the backfield. If you read me frequently then you probably know I'm not a huge "stats" guy in terms of traditional stats. I'm more of a "watch the tape" guy and I'm focused more on instincts, fundamentals and overall football savvy. Scruggs flashed quite a bit of all of it against Tennessee.
As I watched, the first thing I noticed about Scruggs was his arm length. At 6'3, watching him engage with a blocker, he looks more like 6'6 when he gets his arms extended. He has great length, and is learning how to use it. He was extremely active with his hands and displayed some impressive quickness to club and rip his opponent out of the way. He consistently got penetration from the interior, and made the majority of his plays from the inside, despite lining up at the 5-technique at times, on 1st and 2nd down.
From that end spot, Scruggs made one impressive play to set the edge in the backfield, and force Chris Johnson to cutback and counter to the weak side where he was hit by Chris Maragos and then dropped by Bobby Wagner for a loss. He has a low center of gravity to go with the length and impressive natural power that enable him to anchor against the run. That low center also enables him to get a strong push on the bull rush. Watch for him to start getting some first team rotational reps.
Here's a look at the Seahawks draft pick rankings after Preseason Week One:
1. Russell Wilson
2. Bobby Wagner
3. Bruce Irvin
4. Robert Turbin
5. Greg Scruggs
6. J.R. Sweezy
7. Jeremy Lane
8. Jaye Howard
9. Winston Guy
10. Korey Toomer
Tomorrow, we'll look at some of the "fringe" vets and UDFAs that are vying for spots on this roster, and then on Wednesday, we'll evaluate depth and take a look at the roster as a whole. We've also added a couple of players to our "...Bubble" list on the front page, as well as removed a couple and moved a few others around after reviewing the game tape from Saturday.
DK Note -- Derek has transitioned from doing league-wide NFL Draft analysis at his blog to a more focused and specific, Seahawks-centric draft - free agency - pro player personnel site called "ScoutTheSeahawks." It's now up - and it's definitely a site you must bookmark.