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.
Preseason Week 2 in the books. Let’s get it!
1. Germain Ifedi: Woof!
Concerns about Seattle’s right tackle spot have reached Defcon 1, again.
Germain Ifedi has been brutal this preseason, showing no signs of improvement. Overhauling the offensive staff hasn’t changed anything. Ifedi is on the shortlist for worst starters, at any position, in the league. He’s become borderline unplayable.
Ifedi was raw when he was drafted. He had immense physical gifts.
The Seahawks anticipated he would be an uber athlete who could dip and bend with some of the twitched-up speed skaters we see flying in off either edge these days. Pairing that explosiveness with his long levers had the potential to be a sweet pass protecting package. And though he was never a refined run-game player, those physical attributes, coupled with the right coaching (sorting out his pad-level, and which foot to move with first, for starters), would unlock a fresh side to his game.
None of that has materialized; he’s gotten worse.
It was almost uncomfortable watching him fail snap-after-snap against the Chargers. It was as though he didn’t belong in the league, let alone starting.
Things started out rough in the run game:
Above, Melvin Ingram was able to slot his hands between Ifedi’s, forklifting the right tackle towards his own backfield. When he was finished, Ingram raised up his right arm, sunk it into Ifedi’s left shoulder, bench pressing the tackle three yards behind the line of scrimmage. It was too easy.
Ifedi lacks play strength. Part of it is the same lingering leverage issue he’s never been able to correct – being so long comes with its downsides, apparently. The bigger concern is his hand usage, meaning he’s not able to unload any power if he did fire off the ball at the right angle, and consistently resulting in him conceding his chest. How does a right tackle running outside-zone end up in this position?
Ingram – a stud -- routinely rocked Ifedi in the run-game; he embarrassed him in pass protection.
Ifedi’s elongated stance leads to all kind of mechanical issues. Sometimes he has a false step. Often, he’s forced to overcommit. He consistently narrows his base. He doesn’t naturally drop anchor, losing all sense of balance, and giving him no chance to redirect against a counter move. This is as bad as it gets:
Mechanically, he’s all over the place. And he just doesn’t move as well as he should:
Watch how Ingram zooms around the corner. Ifedi can’t get down there with him. This was supposed to be a strength!
It’s not just the physical tools, either. It’s the mental side of the game. Ifedi isn’t disastrous at picking up interior pressures – stunts and twists. He does, however, appear to have blinkers on when it comes to any kind of blitz that isn’t immediately in his sightline. Slot, corner, boundaries, overloads, they all seem to befuddle him:
His awareness in the run-game is lacking, too:
Above, Ifedi is supposed to climb up to the Will ‘backer, seal him, and flip his hips towards the field. Easy, right? Nope. Ifedi climbed up, initially looking towards the Mike. He realized his mistake and pealed towards the Will. The Will delivered an in-out boxer step, leading Ifedi to lunge, whiff the block, lose balance, and fall over.
He actually fell over.
There’s no correcting this. Seattle needs to try someone else at the spot. Losing Jamarco Jones stinks; he would have beaten out Ifedi comfortably. George Fant is the answer to no question. Sliding DJ Fluker over brings a whole set of new problems. Willie Beavers might be the only option, and he’s not a good one.
Yeesh. Outside help it is then. And there’s not much out there: the free agent market is dried up; the trade market doesn’t have many desirable options.
Here’s some targets the Seahawks could consider, on a sliding scale of desirability:
· Ty Nsekhe
· Marshall Newhouse
· Cameron Fleming
· David Sharpe
· Will Holden
· Andrew Donnal
Some of those guys may become available after roster cuts, but it’s unlikely. You’d have to move an asset. Nsekhe, Newhouse, Fleming and Sharp are too valuable as sixth lineman/rotational/cover pieces, aiding a position group that is constantly banged up.
I don’t know what the answer will eventually be. I know this: It’s not Ifedi.
2. Those red zone designs
I saw some consternation on the interwebs about these two pre-snap looks from Seattle’s red zone package against the Chargers:
I get it. In the age of pace-and-space football, we’re conditioned to think about blocking guys without blocking them: clearing numbers out of the box through formations and alignments to give a clearer path to the goal line. That’s heightened when you have a mobile quarterback that a defense has to account for. Then we’re playing 1-on-1 football across the board and we can virtually guarantee, through scheme, a 1-on-1 matchup in the hole for the quarterback or running back (provided it’s, you know, blocked for).
But I don’t hate those condensed looks, or either of the calls. At the goal line, it’s matchup football, that word NFL coaches so love. You’re not just throwing lbs at lbs for the sake of it. You don’t need a team-wide push. You just need to win a 1-on-1 block. And the team came perilously close to scoring.
Sure, would I like to see an expanded red zone package, beyond the dross Darrell Bevell threw out there? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But the examples above aren’t indicative of old-school, pound-the-rock, Neanderthal football.
Isolating a tight end and clearing one corner/safety out of the box on either of the plays wouldn’t have changed the dynamics, other than, perhaps, the team unleashing the dreaded fade route because we liked that matchup better and we played the numbers game.
The play calls were fine. The talent to win 1-on-1 battles up front was the issue.
3. Jaron Brown, encouraging
Seattle has to find another couple of playmakers. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny will both bring juice to the offense. But Brian Schottenheimer’s group still has to find a receiver, preferably one who can help on clearout concepts: dragging safeties this way and that, manipulating the leverage of deep zones, and clearing out space at the intermediate level for others to operate, including those pesky backs out of the backfield.
Step forward, Jaron Brown.
Brown looked every bit a free agent steal during his second outing with the team. He opened up the game with a big on a deep-over route, with Wilson finding him off play-action, streaking into acres of space. A nice skill-set meets concept marriage.
We knew he could do that; he’s all sorts of explosive. He’s particularly potent against any kind of cushion, something teams often gift him due to his lethal speed. There, he’s able to dictate the terms of engagement, setting up corners before head-faking and breaking off his route.
You’d like him to be a little snappier out of his break, but usually players run a route like that when they’re setting up a double-move or something else for later in the game.
What impressed me most about Brown though, was his ability to recognize and manipulate leverages and to find soft spots in zones. He’s more nuanced than I first thought, not just a burner:
Above, Brown did an excellent job of reading the Chargers’ low-hole defender, splicing between the linebacker and the deep safety. Russell Wilson took the underneath throw, but he could have easily pumped out of that one and hit Brown for a much bigger player, with a ton of land for Brown to gallop into.
In fact, Wilson missed an even bigger opportunity at the top of the screen. There, he had a seam route streaking between the Chargers coverage, with two Charger DBs converging on a curl-flat zone – either a coverage bust or a match principle misread.
Brown had another explosive play earlier in the first quarter:
Again, he was faced off-coverage. He did an excellent job of getting on top of his defender, and showed off his tracking skills.
There are still lingering concerns about his ability to separate from press-coverage. It’s not his strength. But Brown has shown enough in the first two weeks of preseason. He should form a nice two-man game with Doug Baldwin (whenever he returns). And he will provide an injection of offense whenever he’s given a decent cushion or Schottenheimer is able to scheme open some open grass (stacked looks, bunch formations etc.).
4. Rookie injuries
There is nothing worse at this time of year than losing top-tier rookies. It’s exciting seeing new guys come into the league, particularly if you’ve been evaluating them for four or five years, like yours truly.
Here’s a partial list of the kind of talent who have missed a ton of time during their rookie campaign in 2017:
- Malik McDowell
- Malik Hooker
- Derek Rivers
- Forest Lamp
- Gareon Conley
- Dalvin Cook
- Jonathan Allen
- Deshaun Watson
- Obi Melifonwu
Some missed their entire first season.
And that’s without including the likes of Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Myles Garrett or Reuben Foster, who each missed a good deal of time in their first season as well.
This year we’ve already lost Isaiah Wynn and Derrius Guice. It stinks. No more please, football Gods.
5. That Jacoby Brissett trade-no-trade
(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: email@example.com)
Henry Edwards: The Seahawks offering a second-round pick for a back-up QB shows how scared they are about their o-line, right?
Let me start with this: I believe, like, 99% of the reporting. I know that sounds like nonsense, but that’s how I feel. I think the conversation between the two teams went something like this:
John Schneider: We’re looking for quarterback help. I see Luck looks swole and he’s zipping the ball well. What would be the level of interest in moving Brissett?
Chris Ballard: Everyone’s available for the right price, John.
Schneider: What is that price?
Ballard: It would have to be a second-rounder this year. We still need Jacoby for back-up because we’re not 100% sure what Andrew we’re going to get for 17 weeks.
Schneider: Hmm. Interesting. I would consider doing that. Let me mull it over.
It’s not exactly an offer-offer, but it’s admitting interest at that price point. Parsing hairs, I know. But I think it’s worth doing.
Also, think about this: Who does the leak benefit? Chris Ballard and Jacoby Brissett: Ballard sets the price publicly at more than a two; Brissett shows he’s wanted, wants to start, and is available for the right price. So, it’s safe to assume the leak came from one of those two camps. Given it was a New England based report, it seems kind of obvious which one.
As to Henry’s question. How could the team not be worried by the O-line. Sure, Wilson can dance out of plenty of danger. Hopefully Ethan Pocic improves. Justin Britt could help somewhere, maybe. Duane Brown is still really, really good. But there’s flaws all over the line. Get one or two injuries and it quickly becomes an apocalypse.
Still: Moving a second-round pick for Brissett is a bonkers idea.
First: Wilson doesn’t miss games. He’s started every single game since he entered the league in 2012. And let’s say, for arguments sake, hypothetically, that Wilson did get injured – the only scenario in which Brissett would play. If Wilson were lost for a serious amount of time, the season is done. Over. Having a solid backup for two weeks if Wilson picked up a slight knock would be nice, but not for the price of a second-round pick.
Let me make this clear: this is not a knock on Brissett; he should be starter somewhere. It’s about value. Spending a second-round pick on a player who most likely will never play is a bad allocation of resources. Particularly when you consider there’s a player out there who sports a delightful afro and could be signed for nothing more than cap space (let’s pretend for a moment there wouldn’t be media and political machinations).
I understand the ‘Hawks interest in Brissett, but not at that price.
Read: Switching positions as a rookie is difficult. For Tre Flowers, it’s extra tough.