9th play, now from the 2. Rams rush Steven Jackson, Russell comes in for the fill, bounces a bit off to the side, but stalls Jackson's progress. Leroy Hill grasps Jackson's legs and the two combine for the stop. Each play was essential to the Hawks winning. Kudos, guys.
Brian Russell had his best tackle of the season, in what should have been a forced fumble. Russell gets his share of cheepy hits, but in this case, it almost paid off. Brad Hoover was sliding down after a 1 yard dump off by Moore. The typical thing to do here is get a hand on the guy so that he's down. Russell decides he's going to blow Hoover up. The brunt of the hit lands on Hoover's arms and the ball, spitting it up into the air and right back into Hoover's arms. The whole play is called dead on a Kelly Jennings illegal contact, but the effort's appreciated.
Think when he decides to play bad: I was not very high on the Brian Russell signing. At the time I didn't even think he'd make the starting squad. Through training camp and into the preseason it became clear that Russell would be the starter and Michael Boulware's days as a Hawk were over. I was still pretty iffy on Russell - in part because of a natural distrust of players whose "leadership" is touted well above any particular skill or accomplishment. But the defense was playing well, the deep pass wasn't the bugaboo it had been for so many years and it's just plain hard to evaluate the play of a free safety.
Eight games into the season, it's time we start asking ourselves "
what is Brian Russell doing?"
I went back through the entire season's play-by-play (provided by CBS) and recorded every play Russell was listed beside. That encompassed an interception, 3 pass defenses and 38 tackles. For each I recorded the total yardage recorded on the play. The interception and 3 pass defenses each earned 0s. I also recorded if the play was successful or not. First let's establish a baseline. Pro Football Prospectus records very similar stats for all defenders, my 2006 copy was most handy so I grabbed a couple players from it: A Pro Bowler and a Castaway.
Target: 14% (6th out of 75)
Pass Stop: 53% (33)
Pass Yards: 7.4 (28)
Rush Stop: 46% (24)
Rush Yards: 7.2 (41)
Target: 10% (29)
Pass Stop: 51% (39)
Pass Yards: 9.2 (51)
Run Stop: 33% (47)
Run Yards: 8.4 (51)
Boulware had a decent season, it was 2005 and everything was right in the world of the Seahawks. I provided his data instead of someone who performed worse, because Boulware is the player Russell replaced. It's important to look at these stats together. For instance, if a player's target number is high, he may simply be making up for the failings of others, something important to consider when looking at his Stop Rates and Average Yardage rankings. If his Stop Rate is good, but his average yardage bad, that might indicate his team was able to force their opponent into long yardage situations. Remember, allowing a 17 yard completion on 3 and 20 is a success. And if a player's stop rate is middling or poor, but their total yards allowed rate is poor or worse, it might be a good indication that that player is not only allowing a lot of successful plays, but big yardage plays. That's Boulware. Of course when a player is bad in all categories...
Target: 9.6% (estimated)
Pass Stop: 18%
Pass Yards: 13.4
Run Stop: 29%
Run Yards: 11.7
That's staggering. Russell must be one of, if not the worst safety in football in all four ratings. When we gripe about opponents converting long third downs, the poor use of zones, and uninspired blitz packages, we might be missing the forest for the tree. A full 21% of Russell's tackles are 20+ yards downfield. Russell is consistently playing so soft, so conservatively, that he's accomplishing little more than preventing the homerun. None of this should be terribly surprising. Russell is a journeyman FS who's been let go by some iffy pass defenses. With two other viable free safeties on roster, it's time Russell's job security is a least questioned.
Here's Brian Russell's charted stats for the half: Blown Tackle, Blown Assignment, Blown Tackle, Blown Assignment, Blown Tackle.
Shaun Alexander is a once great running back. His play is inextricably linked to the Hawks' Super Bowl run of 2005-2006. He, therefore, deserves some tolerance, some mercy. Brian Russell deserves to be catapulted into the sun. I broke down the Kevin Curtis touchdown for my fiancée and just before the reception paused the game and pointed at Brian Russell, she asked "What's he doing?" My answer was pretty easy "Nothing," or more accurately getting faked out of his shoes on Curtis' double move.
The Hawks are in base formation. The Eagles have two receivers left, Reggie Brown and the aforementioned Curtis. At the snap Brown slants right and into Deon Grant's zone. Grant covers him. Jennings, in man coverage, runs stride for stride with Curtis. Curtis enters Russell's zone and is double covered, briefly. Curtis runs a double move, false step in, slant out, slant in. On the second move, the slant in, he completely sheds Russell. It's now one on one deep. Jennings is a step behind, Feeley finds his man open, and for a second before Curtis hauls in the catch, you can see Russell all alone deep left, covering no one, doing nothing. This is the shot that prompted Alanya to ask the question every informed Seahawks fan has been asking for weeks. Were Jennings better, he still could have stopped the catch, but when a player runs deep left, it's the job of the free safety to pick him up and apply the double cover. In fact, since Russell provides nothing in the way of run support and plays so deep as to rarely be involved in all but the deepest passes, helping out in deep cover is about all Russell is asked to do.
Oh Jesus, do we have to revisit Russell? As long as he's on the field I suppose yes. 4th play, first Eagles drive of the 3rd quarter. Philly's offensive line creates a nice "^" shaped seam for Westbrook to rush through. Given the blocking and Westbrook's ability, this run was destined for at least 10 yards. That's because the only unblocked Hawks are members of the secondary, and one doesn't even come close to Weapon X until he's 10+ yards downfield. That "one" is free safety Brian Russell. Russell's job is to figure out, on the fly, where he can meet Westbrook head on, hopefully tackling him and preventing the score. Because Russell is to the right of Westbrook and because Westbrook is faster than Russell, Russell's vector of pursuit should be flat. That is, he should attempt to use his cushion to meet Westbrook where he'll be. Instead, for what, the third straight week?, Russell takes the wrong angle, pursues where Westbrook was, moves from five yards ahead of the rusher to a half a yard behind and to the side, and attempts a tackle that puts the hopeless in futile. If Russell can't cover deep, can't prevent long rushes from turning into scores, can't pick the ball or prevent long first downs, what is it that he can do?
Finally, further proof that Brian Russell rots. It's 4th and 1, the Skins are on the Hawks 27, a stop for Seattle gives them the ball and a 13 point lead with about 16:00 minutes left in regulation. Important, yousay? The Hawks D is in a base formation, the Skins run a PA out of a heavy package. Russell reads the PA, at the line of scrimmage assumes man coverage on Sellers, and then is Cajun cooked by Washington's 32 y/o, 284 pound fullback. That Russell had to interfere with Sellers to prevent a touchdown reception is, is, - Jesus, Russell, it's just pathetic. Russell pitches a fit to the official, but on replay you can see Russell grabbing Sellers' leg with his right arm. A real "heady" move by a player that would make a better coach.
"Russell is the reactionary fling following Ken Hamlin"
That was predictable. The oodles of shit-tastic, phantom safety play by Brian Russell, that is. I was on to Russell August 6th, but the Pale Rider continued to give good quote, "lead", jog to and fro pre-snap, and otherwise appear just in time to catalog the carnage the entire season. No, nothing could stop him. Not his criminal lack of athleticism, his evident poor decision making, his inexplicable angles in run pursuit or the Bouncing Betty I buried in his front lawn. And unless something fortunate happens between now and season's start, Russell will return as the Seahawks’ starting free safety.