"Tom (Cable) thought it would be best for him to develop as a tackle, and we'd eventually get the chance to move him inside. There are more demands out there (at tackle), we'd get to see him more, and it would fit with the guys that we had on the roster, so in the back of our minds, we knew that we could eventually play him at guard. He's done a really nice job so far, and he's off to a good start. We'll see what happens."
- Pete Carroll on Alvin Bailey
One of the biggest surprises of the Seahawks' first preseason game was the steady and fundamental performance by rookie tackle/guard Alvin Bailey. Over the course of the game, Seattle had 56 offensive snaps and gave up zero sacks. At the left tackle position, Pro Bowler Russell Okung protected Russell Wilson's blindside for the first 12 plays, and then the UDFA guard out of Arkansas protected Brady Quinn and Tarvaris Jackson on the subsequent 44 snaps. He did a damn good job of it too. At no time did he look like a rookie out there, not to mention an undrafted rookie that had played strongside guard all throughout his years of college ball.
Bailey came out of Arkansas early, after his junior season, and was a bit of an enigma to scouts. A lot of draft experts in the media had 4th/5th round grades on him but due to inconsistent play, he fell out of the draft altogether. He signed with the Hawks without even looking at whom they had drafted - and came to the team without knowing he'd be playing at tackle to start out. As he told Q13's Aaron Levine, the Seahawks "Threw me out there, see what I could do. It took me about two plays, then realized it's just football. Just got out there, had some fun, knocked some people around."
After watching the game several times, I'm hard pressed to find a major miscue from Bailey (though I'm sure the team would surely nitpick), and the thought of landing a potential backup left tackle that can conceivably come in if Russell Okung were to miss a series or two (or more), that's exciting, obviously.
I picked out a couple of plays that stood out to me, and sent them over in gif-form to Davis to get his reactions. Below is some of my analysis, with Davis tag-teaming as color commentator.
On the Seahawk backups' first drive after relieving the ones, the 2nd team offense finds themselves backed up into their own end. On third down and 7, Bailey and Christine Michael pick up a blitz by the Chargers and Brady Quinn converts a pass to Luke Willson.
On this play, you can see Bailey mirror the DE #46 at the snap. Many players would hesitate here with the corner/safety blitz here and end up blocking no one - letting both players through for a sack. Instead, Bailey stays on point - is pushed back briefly but quickly and athletically re-gains his balance. I'm impressed with his ability to kick-step back and hand fight his way into a 'win' on this play.
Michael's blitz pickup leaves something to be desired here, but it gets the job done.
Adds Davis: "Chargers send a corner blitz. I am not a protection guru, and I don't know if Bailey is supposed to take the outside threat or the inside threat. He takes the outside threat, and Michael crosses the center and picks up the blitzing cornerback rushing inside of Bailey. It's not a great block by Michael, but it gets the job done. 1st down."
I don't know which threat Bailey was supposed to take here either, technically, but I do think he chose correctly in taking the outside guy - this leaves the inside guy more reachable for Michael.
Several plays later, Seattle is faced with another 3rd down.
Says Davis: "Bailey just does a good job keeping his balance here, meanwhile - his counterpart #58 is never a threat, and he loses his footing."
Here's what I really like about Bailey - and I'm no offensive line expert - but he seems to easily control oncoming pass rushers because he locks onto them with his long arms and just swallows them up from there. Bailey appears light on his feet - almost nimble even - and that's a great trait to have in a left tackle. Bailey never lets #58 get into his body - not even close - and controls the exchange.
Later in the 2nd quarter:
Davis: "This is just good old fashioned power, steering the DT onto his back."
Bailey played strong-side guard in college - flipflopping sides during any given series to the strength of the defense. His years playing guard in a power-based system are apparent here, and he fires off the snap and drives the defender into the turf. Seattle is a run-based team - and they run it left a lot - so Bailey's run blocking power is obviously an asset.
The next snap:
Davis: "If this was a deeper drop, Bailey may be in trouble here, but he likely knows the ball is coming out fast, and that he does not want to give up the inside move. At least, I would like to think this. But nevertheless, the edge rusher does not get home."
I would agree with Davis that Bailey's number one priority was likely to avoid an inside move - not only would this shorten the distance to the quarterback, but it would impede the throwing lane on the slant to Kearse.
It's a three-step drop for Quinn out of the shotgun, and Bailey clears the rusher completely out of the throwing lane and way past the pocket. Even if he was a tad slow off the snap getting out of his stance, I'd call this a good play for Bailey.
On to the 3rd quarter. First play from scrimmage.
I love this - and again, you can see that Bailey was a guard in college here, as he rocks back before loading up to engage the defensive end. He actually drives the DE back into the MLB here and effectively takes two defenders out of the play. This technique may not work against more savvy defensive ends as they'll use his aggression to their advantage, but overall I'd say his first steps have been very smooth and he locks on with ease for the most part.
From Davis: "You can see Bailey has power in his upper body, and good arm length, as he extends and rocks the edge defender (poor #58) back rather easily."
The next play from scrimmage is another outside zone - pretty much identical to the run prior, and is framed excellently by Davis:
"This is a classic outside zone run, with a single back and two TEs. Luke Willson motions late to the left-side (strong-side) and you can see he touches Sean McGrath's left butt cheek. I am pretty sure the left butt cheek tap signals that Willson is going to block the defender on the left, which signals that McGrath is to move to the 2nd level defender (likely a Safety)."
"In this play, Christine Michael's key read is the defensive end going heads up against Bailey. Bailey and this DE are in a footrace post-snap to the sideline - both players are trying to "reach" the other combatant.
"If the LT is not able to reach the DE, that is still ok - perhaps the DE is faster (likely) or is aligned to the outside shoulder. At this point, Bailey's job is to seal the DE outside, and he does this well. Michael's job is to read the helmet of the DE matched up against Bailey. If his hat is inside, then Michael should stay outside. If the DE helmet is outside, then Michael should cut inside after reading the strong-side DT.
"Lemuel Jeanpierre controls the DT enough, and Rishaw Johnson is moving to the 2nd level. Michael makes the right read and plows ahead for 8 yards. Success.
"As a Seattle Seahawks Tackle, you have to be able to have success on this play- the bread and butter play of the Seahawks Offense- the Cable outside zone run- with the Left or Right Tackle being the Point-of-Attack"
I have nothing to add. That was perfect. So is this:
"What can I say about this play? Besides chucking #58 to the turf with disdain and violence, he then hits him again, as #58 tries to pick himself up. That's embarrassing."