Last week I took a look at a couple areas regarding Seattle Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi and his penchant for penalties this season. First I looked at his history of false starts and one of the factors that may have been in play during his many false starts, and then I evaluated one factor that could be contributing to his issues when it comes to being flagged for fifteen yard penalties.
Now is the time on Sprockets when we
dance look at holding penalties.
Without digging too deeply into the eight plays on which Ifedi has been called for holding this season. Each holding penalty is presented with a snapshot of each play followed by an explanation of what led to the hold and a second picture helping with that explanation.
On this play we see Russell Wilson rolling out to the right. The pocket broke down pretty rapidly, and Russell begins to scramble. In this picture it appears as though Russell may have significant room to run if he goes straight up the middle, however, the second picture shows that the San Francisco 49ers had two defenders playing in underneath zone coverage just past the line of scrimmage. Wilson likely would not have made it very far attempting to run on the play. Also, this is not an attempt to minimize Ifedi’s failure on the play. Ifedi was beaten to the outside, got chip help from Chris Carson and Russell dodged the rusher, so the hold actually occurs as Ifedi is engaged with his man for a second time from the left offensive side of the formation.
On this play aganst the Tennessee Titans, as will be seen in the second picture, Russell Wilson took a ten yard dropback while Ifedi pushed the defender back ten yards behind the line of scrimmage. The result of this was that as pressure comes on Wilson, Wilson step ups in the pocket, but he collides with Ifedi as it appears they were expecting the pocket at different depths. This is an issue I will look at more in the future, but when charting the depth of Wilson’s dropbacks in the pocket, they are rather haphazardly distributed. I can’t say this is Russell’s fault, because I don’t know enough about how deep he is supposed to be in the pocket, but I can compare the distribution of his drops to that of someone like Tom Brady for comparative purposes. Brady is very consistent in the depth of his dropbacks, and a lack of consistency could pose an issue for a line when pass blocking. I am not attempting to assign blame in this situation, simply pointing out that Wilson’s drop depth varies greatly. Whether that is because of Wilson, coaching or some other fact, I’m unsure. I simply know it appears to have contributed to Seattle’s offensive problems this season.
This is going to become a recurring theme. The pocket breaks down, and Russell bails to his right rather than climb the pocket. As he rolls to the right, Ifedi fails to disengage and is called for a holding penalty. On this play, Wilson again took a ten yard drop into the pocket. This results in Wilson being unable to climb the pocket when protection breaks down, leading to Russell leaving the pocket to his right. In contrast, on this play had Russell taked an eight yard drop, he would have had a significant amount of running room up the middle by climbing instead of bailing. Now, part of the reason why he doesn’t climb the pocket should become more evident as we progress through these holding penalties.
I’m not going to spend a ton of time explaining this one, because it’s pretty readily apparent what led to the holding penalty with Ifedi failing to release Jason Pierre-Paul. Russell is leaving the pocket to his right, and Ifedi is not disengaging. The interesting thing on this hold was why Russell couldn’t climb the pocket. In the next still it is clearly visible that Ethan Pocic has one foot inside the eight yard line, and one foot just outside the nine yard line. The problem is that the line of scrimmage was just inside the fifteen, and that puts Pocic’s left foot roughly seven yards in the backfield. It would be a maze for Wilson to climb the pocket out of danger, so he flees to the outside as he often does, and that’s when Ifedi gets called for the hold.
Well, well, old friend Russell running to the right, I see we meet again. There’s Germain wearing number 76 in that picture for the last time in 2017, as Wilson flees the pocket to his right and Ifedi failing to disengage. Now, on this one, there are going to be multiple explanation pictures because I want to highlight exactly how good a job Ifedi did on this play. How can Ifedi have done a good job if a holding flag was thrown at him? Well, let me explain. Here is a screen capture showing the time video clock for this play on the All 22 film at 0:22 at the time of the snap.
And now here is a screen capture of the moment the ref goes to grab his flag. You can see the ref down in the lower right hand corner of the capture pulling his flag out, and you can also see the clock on the film putting the time between the snap and the ref grabbing for his flag at six seconds (00:00:28 - 00:00:22 = 00:00:06, everybody follow?) Now, assuming it takes a full second for the ref to see the hold and decide to reach for his flag, that would mean Ifedi blocked his man for a full five seconds before any kind of hold was called.
On this play Ifedi was tasked with blocking Lamarr Houston, so it’s not as it he is blocking a Pro Bowler or an All Pro, but Houston recorded five sacks in the ten games he played this season, which means it’s not like he’s blocking Aaron Curry.
This one is short and sweet because I feel like I’m repeating myself too much. That’s Ifedi holding Junior Galette (58) as Russell Wilson leaves the pocket to the right side. The reason Russ bails to the right rather than climb the pocks is, once again, because Pocic has been driven backwards. Pocic is at nearly the same depth as Duane Brown and Ifedi, and that’s an issue. Pocic’s left foot is inside the 25, and with the line of scrimmage at the 31, that puts Pocic six yards into the backfield on a play on which Wilson took an eight yard drop.
On this play we see Russell bailing out of the pocket to the right, but the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end has beaten Ifedi to the inside and that leads to the holding call. Now, this still comes roughly three seconds after the snap, so Russell had time to set and survey the field for a second before needing to bail. It’s not a perfect pocket by any means, in particular with Luke Joeckel being at the 18, seven yards in the backfield, on an eight yard drop by Wilson. In any case, here’s a capture of the pocket Wilson did have at roughly two seconds after the snap (I’ll save you asking the question - no, he doesn’t have any open receivers downfield).
That’s Ifedi laying on top of former number three overall draft pick Dante Fowler in the lower left hand corner of the picture. Fowler attempted to use a spin move, which Ifedi ate and then forced Fowler to the ground once he was off balance. Unfortunately, in doing so, Ifedi has his arms around Fowler in a way that will often result in a holding call when the defender gets taken to the ground. In any case, Russell again has a decent pocket at the two and three second marks post snap, with McKissic open past the first down marker, but Wilson does not throw it to him for whatever reason (bottom picture).
So, having looked at these, the pattern of Russell Wilson bailing out of the pocket to the right leading to an Ifedi hold becomes apparent. But that pattern largely disappeared in the second half of the season because Ifedi was only called for holding twice over the final eight games of the season. Further, both of those were in the Jacksonville game. Obviously nothing can be said for certain until he steps on the field in 2018, but based on how he performed in the second half of 2017, it’s possible Ifedi has already learned to be better aware of Russell in the pocket and fixed the issue.
Two holding penalties over an entire half of a season is in no way perfect, but it is acceptable. If Ifedi can maintain that level of performance over an entire season it would put him in line with the performance of offensive linemen like Tyron Smith, T.J. Lang, Nate Solder and Gabe Jackson who all finished 2017 with four or five holding penalties. Obviously, four holding penalties is more than ideally desirable, but it’s a whole lot better than twelve, which is the pace he set for himself over the first half of the season.
Interestingly, Ifedi has never been called for holding on a designed running play through the first two seasons of his career, so if Seattle indeed gets back to running the ball more as Pete Carroll has expressed his desire to do, the holding issue may not even be as much of an issue in 2018. It certainly wasn’t as big an issue in the second half of 2017. For those fans who have been clamoring that Ifedi needs to be smarter and show an ability to learn and improve, that 67% drop in holding flags from the first half of 2017 to the second half of 2017 may be the proof you’ve been looking for. It may also be randomness, but seeing as how Ifedi went from four holding flags on plays where he had his man properly blocked but failed to disengage over the first eight games to zero such flags over the final eight games, he might be a quicker learner than some give him credit for.
In any case, with more than six months until training camp to work on his technique, awareness and mental game, let’s hope Ifedi and Brown spend a lot of time together in Houston working on all aspects of playing offensive line at a Pro Bowl level.