The Seahawks traveled to Mobile with a set of personnel needs. Who impressed enough?
The 2010 Seahawks didnt go 7-9 and back into the playoffs with spit and baling wire, but it sure looked like it at times, especially when the team lost seven of its last nine regular-season games and appeared totally outmatched by the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the playoffs. Two numbers come into focus as we review the 2010 Seahawks personnel the first is 280-plus; the number of personnel moves Pete Carroll and John Schneider made in one calendar year. The second number is zero, which is the number of Pro Bowlers drafted by former team president Tim Ruskell from 2006 through 2009. Carroll and Schneider had to overcome Ruskells Behring-esque personnel futility, and they did so in their own Year 1 to a degree.
But with all those moves made, and with so much of the Ruskell shadow off the roster, Carroll and Schneider will endeavor to do what Ruskell and Jack Zduriencik could not, and Steve Sarkisian has to take the second year and build when its more about correcting ones own mistakes than correcting the errors of others. Step 1 in that process came last week in Mobile, AL., when the 2011 Senior Bowl game and week of practice presented potential new personnel through the draft evaluation process. Based on what was apparent to this reporter, heres who stood out at the Seahawks most pressing positions of need.
Three cornerbacks impressed all week Texas Curtis Brown, USCs Shareece Wright, and North Carolinas Kendric Burney. All three are in the 5-foot-10/190-pounds area. Brown and Wright are both projected by NFLDraftScout.com as third-round picks at this point (Burney is a projected fifth), and while strong scouting combines and pro days could affect their stock, theyre each likely to be mid-second day picks in a pretty deep market at the position. Brown is a more physical corner who can play some man Schneider may find him appealing as hes a somewhat smaller version of the defensive backs the Packers have preferred over the years. And Carroll knows Wright very well, having coached him at USC for four seasons. In Wrights case, that may not work in his favor, as he struggled with injuries and academic ineligibility.
Burney proved to be one of the most intriguing players throughout Senior Bowl week especially from Wednesday on, he was all over the place and constantly near the ball. He picked off two passes in Wednesday practice and nearly got a third. Not an outstanding wide 2-zone corner (he tends to get beaten on his backpedal), Burney is great in sport spaces, especially when hes asked to jump routes. If the Seahawks are looking for an elite nickel corner (and given the amount of nickel most NFL defenses play these days, they should be), Burney would be an interesting option. I have a feeling that hell be a lot higher than a fifth-rounder when the pre-draft process is all over.
The six quarterbacks three on the North team, three on the South were a hodge-podge from day to day. Nobody really stood out during practice week, and it wasnt until the game that Florida States Christian Ponder set himself apart. Ponder, who was named the games Most Valuable Player after throwing two touchdown passes, may be a great fit for Seattles return to a traditional West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Hes dealt with shoulder and elbow injuries, and he doesnt have an elite deep arm, but it wont take Ponder three years to figure the Bevell offense out.
The obvious question for Washington state football fans was the pro-readiness of Jake Locker, and the results were as middling during Senior Bowl week as they were through Lockers career with the Huskies. Locker had by far the best pre-throw mechanics of any ot the quarterbacks in Mobile, but he would follow a perfect stick throw with a howler that would go a good five feet over a receivers head. And for every running play in which he would zoom past the opposing linebackers, there would be a goofy jump-screen that showed just how far Locker really is from bring a productive NFL quarterback. He was the most polarizing player during the week people formed radically different opinions based on the days and the plays they saw.
The Seahawks are fairly set with Russell Okung at left tackle and Tyler Polumbus as the swing tackle, but the need for an elite right tackle is glaring, and has been for a while. Two tackles intrigued at that position. Mississippi States Derek Sherrod, who projects as a first- or second-round left tackle, reminded me of St. Louis Jason Smith, who moved to the right side when he got to the NFL. Sherrod played both sides during practice week, and as much as guys will tell you that its just a matter of flipping the protections, it really isnt, and he made it look easy. Sherrod was also the best and most consistent blocker in the game.
Alabamas James Carpenter, projected to go quite a bit lower in the draft, doesnt have Sherrods skill set, but he proved to be a tough, workmanlike, consistent blocker who might fit the bill if the Seahawks find other needs addressed with their earlier draft picks.
This may be the teams greatest position of need it could be legitimately argued that the Seahawks need two new guards if they are to improve on their 2010 standing. Fortunately, the position is pretty stacked this year, and two stood out during the week. Youll be hearing a lot more about former Baylor tackle Danny Watkins, the 26-year-old British Columbia native who used to fight fires (no, really), and replaced Jason Smith at Baylor. He played a lot of guard during the week and was tremendously impressive, showing a real nasty streak the Seahawks havent seen at the position since the days of Steve Hutchinson. Watkins also slid inside to center at times, and he told me that he felt very comfortable at the position. He reminds me of a more aggressive Robbie Tobeck.
From a purely physical perspective, Florida States Rodney Hudson was consistently dominant through the week, playing at a very low level and exploding up into his stance. Hudson may work better as a center because he doesnt have a very wide base, but he may also be a real difference-maker in a zone scheme.
Carroll and Schneider may look for pass-rushing ends to supplement the efforts of Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock, but the real and obvious need is at the five-tech end position that Red Bryant filled so ably, and which fell apart upon Bryants mid-season injury. Among the players who would fit the bill based on size and skill set, Clemsons Jarvis Jenkins drew specific interest from the Seahawks, according to sources at the scene. The 6-foot-4, 309-pounder was an All-ACC selection in 2010, and he was one of the linchpins in Clemsons stout run defense.
I was equally impressed with Mississippi States Pernell McPhee, a hybrid defender with a little less size (6-foot-3, 274), but no lack of aggressiveness. If the Seahawks were looking for another pursuit end in the Junior Siavii mold, McPhee may be their man.
Seattle talked to a few receivers, specifically Miamis Leonard Hankerson, who was one of the stars of practice week. Formerly the owner of a drop problem that would have made Koren Robinson blush, Hankerson got that issue dealt with and has become an excellent and reliable possession receiver. He doesn’t have blazing speed, and Im a bit concerned about his cut speed transferring to the NFL, but hes got a great understanding or route concepts and he doesnt fear traffic.
A much faster player who receiver a lot of mention through the week was Boise States Titus Young, who brings uncertain hands to the game, but on-field speed in the realm of a DeSean Jackson or Mike Wallace. The Seahawks offense struggled mightily when Deon Butler was lost for the season as the teams only deep threat, and this could very well be a position they address in the draft. Depending on how they feel about Golden Tate going into the 2011 season, a guy like Hankerson may be a fit as a legit #2 receiver a desperate need that we saw when Mike Williams was hurt and nobody else stepped up in-season.