Welcome to the Film Room Five! This is a weekly column I’ve run for some time, in which I unload my notebook from a week of film study. Bringing it to Field Gulls, the focus will be the Seahawks – obviously. I’ll add in a couple of league-wide/sport-wide trends here and there.
Football is back. From a schematic standpoint, preseason football is mostly pointless. Teams run bland schemes. It’s also tough to evaluate singular players when they’re going up against competition that is often athletically overmatched or learning a new role or, you know, flat-out bad. Still: Football is back! Let’s get it.
1. I see you, Justin Coleman
Justin Coleman had a delightful 2017. That carried over into the preseason kickoff game.
Coleman is an explosive leaper. He has good recovery speed, nimble feet, and the length to match up with anyone, no matter who motions or shifts into the slot. It’s a dream package for Seattle’s nickelback role.
The knock on Coleman has been his struggles from the neck up. He’s inconsistent. His vision comes and goes snap-to-snap. When he loses, he loses early in the rep. He can panic once he gets behind a play, leading to tendency to misjudge the flight of the ball, frustrating penalties, and failing to get over to cover a receiver in-time.
That improved somewhat last season. His role was slimmed down. There was less to process than when he was in New England. The message: you do you, Justin. Just go play.
It was his best season yet. He played more aggressively; he was a big part of the team’s blitz and zone-pressure package.
Everything was about getting him playing downhill. That’s where he’s at his best, either with help in-behind or breaking early on quick route concepts. There, length, strength and speed – his best assets – are at a premium. He can play vertically, rather than having to twist one way then the other. Up in press – or when giving an initial soft cushion -- he can lock his hands on shorter, nippier receivers He can ride the initial part of the rep, deviate the receiver off-course, then swoop underneath the route:
Still: There were those same flashes or passivity. He doesn’t fair as well against slower-developing concepts, or when he’s moved further back from the line of scrimmage. When he fails to recognize a concept quickly, he’s left to rely on his recovery speed:
We saw the best of Coleman in the first quarter of last Thursday’s game vs. Indy. Some corners need to get physical. They want to get in-phase with a receiver ASA-and-P. Coleman is one of those guys:
The timing and precision of his hands is not always great, but when he locks on with a receiver, he fights. You can’t ask for much more. It was good enough for him to finish 28th among qualified cornerbacks last year in passer rating allowed (71.2), per ProFootballFocus.
It’s rare for a player to develop a total set of skills at once. They build in incriminates. Coleman went undrafted for a reason. Now he’s found his niche. In Seattle’s base-system, he’s a great fit. It’s a role tailored to his skillset. With that has come more consistency — though those frustrating stretches still exist.
He’s built an excellent foundation. Now he can work on sprinkling the extras on top: consistency, even more plays on the ball (he had two pick-six’s in 2017), and not panicking – up in press or when playing the ball.
There aren’t too many slot corners around who will be as valuable to their defense or as impactful as Coleman will this season. It will lead to a nice payday at the end of this thing.
2. Rasheem Green: showing stuff
One of the things you can use preseason football to evaluate is rookies. One of the most jarring things to players coming from college is the speed of the game. Even though they’re practicing at full tilt in camp, games bring a little extra juice. Some guys get completely overwhelmed. Others look like naturals.
Enter: Rasheem Green.
Green flashed against the Colts. He was still prone to the problems that plagued him college; issues that he will have to overcome long-term. But he certainly wasn’t overmatched. The stage was definitely not too big for him. He looked damn near comfortable, in fact.
Concerns about relying on him as a down-in, down-out pass-rusher this season remain. But you know the Seahawks staff got a little tingly seeing their new toy sparkle so early on.
The good news: He looks like the player he was in college. The better news: he’s now being used in the right role.
Green is a base-end who should kick inside in obvious passing situations and in certain speed-based sub-packages. He can win outside:
That’s classic Green. Watch how he comes off-the-ball a fraction slower than everyone else. He isn’t a pogo-stick player; he doesn’t naturally explode out of his stance (his development, here, stunted by playing so much as a one-technique). That will come. The hand fight is more fascinating. He can reach his hands to spots others can’t. He’s a longer, more athletic dude than opposing tackles are used to, even at this level.
No matter that he didn’t fire off-the-ball. He made up for it with his length, an efficient rush, and effort closing to the quarterback. He was never consistent utilizing any of those things back in his USC days. The early signs are beyond encouraging.
He’s more of a work in progress against the run:
The team should have major reservations in using him as an early down run-defender. Again, he’s a beat slower than anyone else getting out of his stance. You can’t be against the run; a lineman will punish you.
Green’s development might be the most intriguing preseason storyline. Right now, he is who we thought he was. That’s a great sign. You best believe there are evaluators already wincing at some of their draft choices. Seattle’s will be cracking smiles.
3. J.R. Sweezy’s addition makes sense
Grabbing J.R. Sweezy out of the dustbin was a smart move by Seahawks GM John Schneider.
Sweezy doesn’t have the same oomph he did when he was last in Seattle. His body has broken down. But he still has something provide a team. Particularly this team, one that still has a stack of questions along its interior.
For one: he’s improved in pass protection. Don’t chuckle, he has. He finished pretty much slap-bang in the middle of eligible guards in quarterback pressures in 2017. He still has those light feet once he’s in his set, and he uses them to his advantage throughout the rep. He mirrors excellently once he plants his giant mitts onto a pass-rusher:
Eek. Did you catch that ugly part, though? How ponderous and wilted he seemed coming out of his stance. Sweezy played nicked up ever since he skedaddled to Tampa for a sack of cash (I still can’t believe they chucked that much money at a guy was, if we’re being kind, league-average at his best). He seems to slow with every passing snap. He was never twitched up. Now he’s moving with all the grace and guile and torque of a discombobulated turtle.
It’s an odd dichotomy. Sweezy is at his best on quick sets. I mean, he kind of has to be; he doesn’t have the time or skillset for anything more extravagant. Yet too often he isn’t quick enough to those sets, resulting in a less-than-stellar anchor that sees him rocked and driven into the QB’s lap:
Sweezy makes his living out of the power in his hands. If he doesn’t set his base, that’s all rendered meaningless.
The same is true in the run-game. Tampa didn’t ask him to get out and run, much, in 2017. He was often used as the backside cut blocker on outside-zone runs – running away from the side that would need him to move forward quickly, attack the right angle, and twist a blocker (the most difficult block in football: the reach block). His job was to dive at people’s legs. He did it pretty well.
Sweezy worked well on deuce blocks, too. But he didn’t offer much, if anything, as a guy who could climb up to the second-level. It stunted some of Tampa’s offense. It’s partly why the team parted ways with him and why he was available so cheap.
It remains a smart pickup. The Seahawks are right to kick the tires on Sweezy; to try to squeeze the last drops out of his declining body. Perhaps he rebounds. Perhaps he finds a fountain of youth. At worst, he’s a senior presence who can still offer you something in pass protection… when he’s able to climb out of his stance.
Sweezy cost all of $1.5 million, with a signing bonus of just $100k. The team can move on for free at any time. It’s worth seeing if he has anything tangible or intangible to offer.
4. Nick Vannett: alive and well
The former Ohio State tight end hasn’t lived up to his third-round billing since the Seahawks selected him a couple of years ago. He’s caught just 19 passes with the team; he has one touchdown, hardly the matchup threat teams crave in a moveable tight end.
This offseason, Seattle drafted Will Dissly in the fourth-round and signed free-agent Ed Dickson to compete with Vannett. His Seahawks’ career appeared on life support.
Well, there are signs of life!
Vannett was a bright spot running with the 1’s on Seattle’s opening drive. Russell Wilson probably took the headlines: he looked sharp, throwing with rhythm and precision and playing with his regular season bounce. Vannett was a lovely surprise.
Brian Schottenheimer flexed him across the formation:
The team’s intent was obvious: use Vannett’s athleticism to stretch the seams with vertical releases. It worked well, particularly when the Seahawks jumped into a five-wide package, sticking Vannett in the slot with a free release.
It was the perfect gameplan against the Colts’ two-deep zone looks. Vannett did a nice job of recognizing the soft spots in zones, regardless of the depth of his route:
If when he wasn’t bursting into open space, he crated nice angles for Wilson, presenting the quarterback a big target, particularly when releasing from the slot:
He may not get open, open, but he’s a big target with the smarts to sit down where needed and craft neat openings, while shielding himself from a defender:
Vannett’s touchdown capped off his performance. Again, the majority of the credit should go to Wilson, but his tight end deserves some, too:
Vannett struggled to separate on his corner route. The Colts safety was in perfect position, playing with the perfect leverage, putting Vannett in an un-throwable position. He didn’t fall asleep, though. Once the scramble drill kicked in, Vannett leapt into action. He worked hard to find an opening for Wilson to squeeze the ball into, working back towards his quarterback:
Vannett is never going offer much a run-blocker. It’s just not his game. Nor is he a dynamic, game-changing athlete. But he showed against the Colts that he still has an interesting set of skills – as long as his back problems remain under control. If that’s the player the Seahawks get this year, a zone-coverage threat who makes plays in the redzone (even if he struggles to separate from cat-coverage), they will be delighted.
5. Good job, Steve Wilks
(Note: The fifth part of the Film Room Five is typically a reader question, observation, idea or note. It can be anything schematic, personnel or X’s & O’s based. I guess it could be other stuff. But who would read a football column to find out about a writer’s coffee tastes or their thoughts on craft ale or something. That would be self-indulgent madness. If you have any questions or thoughts, tweet them @OllieConnolly or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Credit to new Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks for pulling rookie quarterback Josh Rosen early in his preseason debut. The coaching staff were not going to learn anything watching their future star take a beating behind an incompetent offensive line.
Rosen was pressured or delivered a bad snap on 11 of his 13 dropbacks, per ProFootballFocus. He held the ball an average of 2.13 seconds before being pressured, an almost embarrassingly low total.
The Cardinals’ backup line was caved-in in every way imaginable. Rosen’s guys failed to pick-up basic stunts or twists:
They whiffed on individual assignments:
Rosen was able to make some chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what:
Above, the entire left side of his protection was obliterated. Rosen remained calm, sliding to his left, resetting his feet, and delivering a strike to the middle of the field. Calmness in the face of a collapsing pocket is an unteachable skill. Rosen had it in college. He didn’t appear flustered in his first pro action, despite the apocalypse unfolding around him.
Not everything from Rosen’s up-and-down outing was on his line, though. Rosen got lucky:
One of the knocks on him coming out was his field vision. He forced some things; he missed late rotating safeties and dropping linebackers. The play above is a classic example. Rosen tipped the play with his eyes. He missed the Chargers’ linebacker buzzing towards the sideline. It should have been six the other way.
Wilks deserves credit for recognizing the pointlessness of keeping Rosen out there. Other coaches would have stuck to their predetermined rep count. Wilks adapted; he took the long view. Why mess with the future of your organization when there’s no earthly upside?
Rosen will take snaps with the 1’s this week. A smart move from a rookie head coach. We should get a better look at his feel for the game at this level.