This week, I figured I'd analyze and rank at the same time. Here's my breakdown of the draft picks after preseason week 2 in Denver. Keep in mind, these rankings are taking into account both games and are not just rankings for the most recent week. They're cumulative and take into account week-to-week improvement, primarily from an intangibles and instincts perspective, as these are typically what dictate long-term success and ultimately, these players' chances of making the Seahawks Roster.
Here are the rankings after two weeks:
1. Russell Wilson - QB - At first glance, Wilson seemingly picked right up where he left off in PS Week 1, again buying time with his feet, escaping pressure, utilizing play-action and exhibiting good accuracy. On second look, he showed us a little bit more this time around. What I liked about his performance this week, was that he actually stayed in the pocket and made some throws that indicated he could see the field just fine.
The 3rd quarter seam route to Anthony McCoy was placed right where only McCoy could get it, and Wilson did a good job on that play of looking off defenders, locating McCoy and getting the ball out with strong zip and good location. On another play in the 3rd, Wilson dropped back, set his feet in the pocket and hit Robert Turbin on an out route toward the sideline. Again, Wilson checked a couple of other targets first, then led Turbin nicely to a ball outside the numbers, where only Turbin could get to it, despite being blanketed pretty good underneath.
In the fourth quarter, Wilson hit Sean McGrath down the middle on a three-step drop whereby he put enough zip on it to beat the closing safeties this time (as opposed to last week's interception in the end zone), and put enough touch on it to drop it in over the linebackers. Then there was the go-route toss up the right sideline that would have been a completion and most likely a touchdown had Phil Bates not let up mid-route. It wasn't just the throw from the pocket on this play, but you'll notice if you watch it back, that Wilson's eyes were in the middle of the field until just before he threw it. He's looking off the safeties. He's doing the little things. He's doing them from the pocket, and he's putting the ball where it needs to be.
On the Jermaine Kearse post route completion, Wilson utilized play action, took a deep drop, hitch and put the ball on a line down the center of the field where Kearse could get it at the high point. What was interesting about that play, was that there was no sight lane open between Wilson and where the ball ended up. There was actually a cluster of about 5 linemen stacking up directly in front of Wilson when he threw it.
I had said after last week that I needed to see some accuracy from Wilson, from inside the pocket, to get a better indication as to whether he could see from back there or not, and I saw that on a number of occasions this week. Let's also not forget the touchdown pass to Cooper Helfet in the fourth quarter. Here, Wilson again utilized play action, pulled linebackers and safeties forward with his eyes, and then softly dropped a corner-endzone pass into the hands of Helfet who got a great release, by the way, and ran a really nice corner post. Again, he wasn't outside the pocket here.
As for his running and escapability, Wilson was good again. Fans who enjoy seeing him run for his life, should send Frank Omiyale a "thank you" card with some cookies, and ask him to share a couple with Allen Barbre.
2. Bobby Wagner - MLB - Wagner once again put together a solid showing, and continued where he left off in terms of diagnosing the run early and staying around the football. On the 3rd down run stop (for loss) by K.J. Wright early in the first quarter, Wagner was the key penetrator on the play as he shot through and filled the initial hole, forcing McGahee to the outside where Wright was able to disengage in the backfield and drop him for a loss. Wagner showed the discipline to stay in his gap on this play, and trust in the guys on the edge to close the deal, when he could've over-pursued to the outside (a common rookie mistake).
On Denver's first run play from scrimmage, Wagner displayed the ability to again keep himself clean with his hands and exhibited the vision to mirror the RB from the other side of the line, with the burst to close and wrap the runner in the hole. His progress continues to remind me of K.J. Wright last season in terms of being conservative to keep with his assignment and not get over-excited. The big plays will come, but right now he's doing a good job of staying disciplined and aware of what's going on around him. After last season, I wrote an article for Hawk Blogger on K.J. Wright's development and progress throughout his rookie year, and specifically, how he began to really turn up the aggressiveness toward the end of the season, once he got comfortable. I could see Wagner's rookie year unfolding in a similar manner.
One criticism I have of Wagner at the moment is that he seems to be a bit more susceptible to play action than he should be. However, when he bites on play-action, he has the fluidity and quickness to correct, accelerate his drop and get back into proper position. As a one-on-one cover guy, Wagner displays (as he did at Utah State) more than adequate agility and hip quickness to mirror tight ends, but he's got some work to do in terms of his instincts and awareness in space when dropping into zone. On Saturday, he really wasn't a part of Seattle's first string nickel defense and pretty much sat out entirely on a couple of those 1st quarter drives. Wright was playing the middle in these situations, with Hill as the only other linebacker in the formation, and Chancellor up in the box acting as a kind of 3rd linebacker. At this point, I would consider this to be nothing more than an experience issue and we'll probably see Wagner worked into these situations as the year progresses, considering his athleticism and clear natural ability to cover.
3. Robert Turbin - RB - Last week I made it a point of emphasis that Turbin needs to run better through contact, and show better effort to engage and move defenders. He did that this week. He ran a lot more aggressively, cut back more sharply, committed a lot quicker and kept his feet moving a lot better on contact. There were only one or two instances this week where he was taken down too early when he could have avoided it, and in those cases, it was simply a case of limited vision and awareness. These issues are to be expected when you're learning a new system. Especially a system as intelligence and anticipation-dependent as Tom Cable's zone blocking scheme, which relies on the patience and vision of the runner to allow blocks to set up and to identify running lanes before they develop.
There were a couple of plays in the 3rd quarter where Turbin was dropped at or near the line when there were creases to either side of him. Instead, he elected to dive into the pile and try to squeeze whatever he could get out of the play. Turbin possesses the lateral quickness and burst to make the jump-cut and exploit those lanes, but didn't see them in these cases. Lynch actually does this on occasion as well, but they were a lot more frequent for Lynch during the first half of last year, which might lead one to believe that a guy like Turbin will start seeing those opportunities as he gets more comfortable with the scheme.
Additionally, Turbin has quietly shown that he can be relied upon in the passing game both from a blocking standpoint and as a pass-catcher. The bootleg toss from Russell Wilson on 3rd down was an impressive play, despite it only going for a few yards. Turbin got out into the flat quickly, got his head around, located the ball, secured it, and then immediately got his head upfield and his arm extended to hold the ball across the first down marker as he stepped out of bounds. All are indications of a solid, smart pass-catcher, and I think we could see a lot of Turbin in 3rd down situations this season. As a pass blocker, Turbin does a good job of bending at the knees and snapping into the chest of his target. Several improvements this week for Turbin.
4. J.R. Sweezy - OG - Last week, I mentioned that Sweezy was the most surprising of the draft picks in my view, simply because of his lack of experience at O-line, and his decent week 1 performance at guard despite it. Well this week, I came away even more impressed.
Sweezy started the game at right guard, ahead of Deuce Lutui, and at times, flashed complete dominance. He drove his opponent off the line and into the ground on more than one occasion while run-blocking. He displayed both power and awareness to chip the D-lineman off the snap, then explode to the linebacker at the next level and cut him down. He did this on more than one occasion. Did he always make a clean cut block? No, but the explosion to the 2nd level and the quickness with which he identified his target, as well as the decisiveness and commitment to get there were all mightily impressive. His biggest area of work right now is going to be learning not to drop his head on contact. Maybe it's the D-lineman in him, but quite frequently when engaging an opponent both at the line of scrimmage and when attempting to cut a man down at the 2nd level, Sweezy bends at the waist, lowers his head and throws his arm or shoulder at his target. This is easily evade-able by D-linemen and especially linebackers, and he'll need to work on it. Initially, he gets away with it due to his quickness and ability to put himself in good position, but it's not a sustainable blocking technique and could lead to injury, among other things.
In pass protection, I saw a lot of improvement from last week. Whereas against against Tennessee Sweezy often moved forward off the line in pass protection (as if firing off from the DT position) leaving him susceptible to being easily ripped or clubbed aside, this week, he did a much better job of "sitting" and "punching" which is basically a quick way of saying he took a step back off the snap, got set, bent at the knees and got his arms extended and into the chest of his opponent.
His hand placement was good this week for the most part, and he kept his feet moving to mirror his man. He's easily the quickest O-lineman on the roster, and he plays hard to the whistle.
A couple of other mistakes I noticed from Sweezy were the occasional instance of getting too upright/stood up when engaging a bigger D-tackle. In these cases, Sweezy has the tendency to be driven back easier than he should. He doesn't possess a great deal of anchoring strength to just sit there, dig in and hold position. His game is one of quickness and leverage at this point, and he needs to bend at the knees and stay low when engaging his opponent, to hold ground. For the most part, he did the right thing, but there were a couple of cases where he got blown off the line relatively quickly. It's all about position, and I saw more good than bad here.
He also needs to continue to learn blocking assignment on blitzes. There was one instance (the Marshawn Lynch holding penalty) where Lynch was waiting behind Sweezy to pick up whatever rusher that Sweezy didn't, as there was a lineman and a blitzing linebacker both coming through the right side. Sweezy started toward one of the two and Lynch appeared to move into position to take the other. Then, Sweezy changed his mind and switched targets, leaving Lynch out of position and forcing him to hold. Situations like these are where Sweezy's inexperience will show the most, simply because he lacks the instincts for the position. But I'm confident he'll make the adjustments and learn this stuff relatively quickly, as throughout the game, the awareness seemed to get better in each passing situation.
While it could be argued that Scruggs has played better at his position, fundamentally, than Sweezy at his, Sweezy is starting and running fully with the first team. Thus, the significant bump in ranking.
5. Greg Scruggs - DT/DE - Scruggs picked right up where he left off last week, showing explosive get-off, violent hands, good use of arm length and lower body leverage, closing burst and a relentless motor. He had another sack and got penetration repeatedly from the inside. One thing that became more evident this week as well, is his ability to break down and change direction in space to prohibit QB escape-ability.
As predicted last week, Scruggs did get some late first-half reps with the first team D-line on passing downs, both at the 5-technique DE position, as well as the 3-technique. One thing that I didn't note last week in my review, but noticed again this week, is that Scruggs displays a pretty good spin move from the inside. There's all kinds of potential with this guy, but he's far more polished than he looked in the limited footage I saw at Louisville, and than I expected him to be coming into preseason. Between he and Sweezy, Seattle might have had the best 7th round of any team in this year's draft.
6. Bruce Irvin - DE - Watching Bruce Irvin in PS week 2, I've got to say that I got a bit frustrated. There's no doubt that the guy has incredible get-off, and elite speed for the position. It has become evident rather quickly, however, that he doesn't have a go-to move once he reaches the edge. He's resorting far too often to the bull-rush, and he's getting stood up pretty easily on contact. Orlando Franklin (Denver's right tackle) pretty much manhandled Irvin in the first half, and seemed to have no issues locking him up at the point of attack and rendering him ineffective as a pass-rusher. What's additionally bothersome is that once his progress was stopped on a given play, Irvin didn't exhibit any real second effort to fight off his blocker, disengage or play through the contact. It's on the tape, folks. Just keepin' it real.
He also appeared to be attempting to set up moves for a majority of his time, rather than using his speed to reach the edge quickly and then find a way to disengage and close from there. He'd come off the snap, get into what might be classified as ‘rapid jog', then burst toward Franklin as if he was trying to surprise him with some type of change-of-pace move. But then, nothing. No spin, no swim, nothing. He'd just put his hands into Franklin's chest and get swallowed up.
There was, however, one particular play where Irvin came off the line extremely quick, and took a powerful swipe at Franklin with his right hand, knocking Franklin out of his way completely. He then displayed strong closing burst to wrap up Manning who had barely gotten the ball off in time to prevent a sack. That is what he should do more. It shows that he does possess natural hand power and ample strength to combat NFL tackles. That was the first real ray of hope I've seen during the preseason that Irvin possesses something more than just pure speed and good flexibility to turn the corner.
Bottom line, as I mentioned last week, Irvin must develop a spin move or something back to the inside. If he does, he could be devastating. As of right now, he's just a fast, undersized end with a limited repertoire.
Against the run, Irvin exhibited adequate "squeeze down"/"pinch" ability from the strong side, but again, doesn't play well through contact to finish plays. When he's in space, chasing the QB, you'll see a lot of hustle and relentlessness. Against the run, he simply doesn't look very motivated.
7. Jaye Howard - DT - Howard really made some strides this week. I saw a lot more use of hands, and some other technique (swim, rip) that suggest he's not going to try and rely solely on the bull-rush as I noted in last week's analysis. He made a key tackle for loss on a play where he was able to twist his upper body to knife through a gap right off the snap, and close on the ‘back. What was most impressive this week though, was his get-off. He was jumping a lot quicker, and firing off with good pad level, much more aggressively this week. He looks a lot more explosive than he did initially.
Get-off is one of those things that typically transitions to higher level of competition, because it's not affected by an opponent. Some of the vanilla scheming of the preseason could make snap counts a bit predictable I suppose, but I'm not reading too much into that. Overall, I just thought Howard was much better this week, and looked more like the interior rusher that he was drafted to be. He wasn't content with simply holding the point of attack this week. He was getting upfield. At this point, I'd say he and Scruggs are pretty close in depth chart competition, with Scruggs having a bit of an edge from a pure performance standpoint. Both guys in on passing downs could make for a really quick tandem of DTs to go with Irvin and Clemons on the edge. You can see how some of these packages could develop and give Seattle a huge pass-rush upgrade over last year's unit.
8. Korey Toomer - OLB - Toomer hasn't been in a ton of "big-play" situations, but one thing comes through on the tape that I'm encouraged by - discipline. Like Wagner, Toomer doesn't show a lot of the overreaction or over-compensation that you typically see with rookie ‘backers coming into the league. He's attentive and although he appears to be calculating and analyzing a bit too much, he's constantly conscious of where he needs to be. Sure, he's a bit late in getting there sometimes, but this is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you'd expect from a 5th round linebacker.
The guy has some really appealing tangibles - length, speed, and strong closing burst. He's not as laterally fluid as a guy like Wagner, but drops well and can certainly cover enough grass to maintain one side of the field. He's physical at the line and isn't afraid to bump a tight end off the snap and crowd him down field, and when blitzing, he uses his length and active hands well to keep off the blocker's frame. He's been quite, but he has minded his assignments well I think, and has a good shot of making the team. The blocked punt recovery was a display of good awareness and composure, and certainly scored him some points from a roster/depth chart perspective. I'd like to see him get in on more ST tackles.
9. Jeremy Lane - CB - Lane continued with aggressive, sound open-field tackling against the run this week, and also showed us more of his closing burst and recognition on plays in front of him. He didn't press a ton in game 2, and I couldn't see a whole lot of what was going on down field, but he didn't surrender anything big, and was around the ball a lot. Coye Francies and Phillip Adams being contributors in the return game could mean that one or both of them have the overall edge at this point, but as far as long-term fit and coverage technique, Lane is still the better scheme fit.
The ‘Hawks just have to decide if they want to go "future" or stay a bit safer with a veteran like Francies. If I had to choose the two, I keep Lane, simply because this staff has shown us nothing in two and a half years that would lead me to believe they'll toss aside a future fit for a "now" solution. If it's clear there's no future (LeGree), they have no problem sending you on your way, but that's far from the case with Lane. He too needs to really step up on special teams and make some plays. He's often the first one down the field on coverages but needs to thwart blockers better and fight through contact there the same way he fights for position at the line on defense. These young guys need to look just as motivated to make a special teams tackle as they do to make an interception or hard hit.
10. Winston Guy - SS - In many ways, PS week 2 was a week that Winston Guy should try to forget. Well, in 2 ways specifically. Guy was responsible for both blocked punts. His man beat him on both of those plays, as he simply wasn't aggressive enough and didn't put enough of an effort forward to wall off his man. As I tweeted at one point yesterday, "punt team protection" is a lot more than just "punt team protection" when you're a 6th round pick. It could mean your job.
As for his play in coverage, I did see a couple of things that indicated he's making progress. First off, he got some first-half time with the defense, spelling Chancellor up in the box in 3-safety situations, and also covered the flexed TE from the slot a couple of times.
In coverage, all I could really see was what he did when he was up near the line, and I was encouraged by his transition from backpedal to turn and run stride-for-stride with the TE. He looked quick and fluid, and didn't appear to be laboring too hard in the process.
As far as what was going on deep, I couldn't see the action clearly enough to really be able to adequately judge his read/react skills, which are what I'm most interested in from a coverage standpoint. Jeron Johnson obviously did a lot to help himself, both in coverage (INT) and up in the box (strip) against the run, so Guy is by no means a shoe-in to make this team. I can tell you this - he can't continue to blow assignments on special teams and simply play adequately on defense against 2nd and 3rd team offenses. At this point, I've got him as the 5th safety in line, behind both Johnson and Maragos.
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. Derek also maintains a really great free agent tracker that is much more in-depth than most places because of his background doing deep scouting of NFL Draft prospects. It's updated daily.