BY Doug Farrar 05:06PM 01/31/2011

For needs, Seahawks saw a lot at Senior Bowl

The Seahawks traveled to Mobile with a set of personnel needs. Who impressed enough?

Linemen like Derek Sherrod (79), James Carpenter (77), Danny Watkins (59), and Rodney Hudson (62), may be on Seattle's radar based on their Senior Bowl performances / Doug Farrar, Sportspress Northwest

The 2010 Seahawks didn’t 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 Ruskell’s 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 it’s more about correcting one’s 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, here’s who stood out at the Seahawks’ most pressing positions of need.

Cornerback

Three cornerbacks impressed all week – Texas’ Curtis Brown, USC’s Shareece Wright, and North Carolina’s 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, they’re 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 he’s 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 Wright’s 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 he’s 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 he’ll be a lot higher than a fifth-rounder when the pre-draft process is all over.

Quarterback

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 wasn’t until the game that Florida State’s Christian Ponder set himself apart. Ponder, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after throwing two touchdown passes, may be a great fit for Seattle’s return to a traditional West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. He’s dealt with shoulder and elbow injuries, and he doesn’t have an elite deep arm, but it won’t take Ponder three years to figure the Bevell offense out.

Jake Locker, shown here dropping back during Friday walkthroughs, had an iffy Senior Bowl week that reflected his inconsistent Washington career. (Doug Farrar/Sportspress Northwest)

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 Locker’s 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 receiver’s 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.

Offensive Tackle

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 State’s 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 it’s just a matter of flipping the protections, it really isn’t, and he made it look easy. Sherrod was also the best and most consistent blocker in the game.

Alabama’s James Carpenter, projected to go quite a bit lower in the draft, doesn’t have Sherrod’s 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.

Offensive Guard

This may be the team’s 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. You’ll 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 haven’t 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 State’s 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 doesn’t have a very wide base, but he may also be a real difference-maker in a zone scheme.

Defensive End

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 Bryant’s mid-season injury. Among the players who would fit the bill based on size and skill set, Clemson’s 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 Clemson’s stout run defense.

I was equally impressed with Mississippi State’s 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.

Wide Receiver

Seattle talked to a few receivers, specifically Miami’s 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 I’m a bit concerned about his cut speed transferring to the NFL, but he’s got a great understanding or route concepts and he doesn’t fear traffic.

A much faster player who receiver a lot of mention through the week was Boise State’s 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 team’s 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.


YourThoughts

  • Lucky Infidel

    Offensive line. Offensive line. Offensive line. In that order.

    • David

      Yes. Yes. Yes. At last, somebody who gets it.

  • http://sportspressnw glasshalffull

    i totally agree with this writer except on two things…..defensive end and oline… i think the need for a new center based on the shotty play of chris spencer the last 4 years if very evident….we were great with jones, hutchison, and toebeck….then mediocre when we lost hutchison…and then absolutely pittiful when they stuck in spencer after toebeck retired from his blood clot…. spencer is a back up at best…he sux at dialing in the blitz and gets absolutely no push up field…i’ve seen the other guys at least get some sort of push this season…spencer just doesnt have the instincts…and as far as end goes we just need a young diamond in the rough to learn from brock who played on one of the most prodcutive d lines as far as sacks and turnovers go he has a lot of wisdom

  • hawksfan

    glasshalffull, it is arguable that center is the hardest position to develop outside of qb. it takes centers years to become elite, and for this reason most good centers are 8,9,10, even up to 15 year vets. it took robbie tobeck until his 8th or 9th year in the league to look like a legitimate center and he made his only pro bowl right before he retired. chris spencer showed huge improvement this year… probably more than anyone on the roster other than obamanu and red bryant. he is finally settling in to that position.

    that being said, i would argue that every other position across the o line needs improvement other than okung. acquiring robert gallery in free agency seems logical. that leaves holes at right tackle (because obviously locklear isnt getting it done) and right gaurd.

    outside of a future qb i see gaurd as our biggest need in the draft. if locker isnt there at 25, nor any of the other top rated qbs i see us drafting a guard such as pouncy. if he is gone as well i think we will draft best available. i see christian ponder, florida state guard rodney hudson, nevada qb collin kaepernick, and oregons casey mathews, all as possible late round picks that would fit a need for us. none of them are sure bets, but they all have tremendous upside

  • dave crockett

    What I like about the way this draft is shaping up is that it seems deepest at positions of need. So, regardless of what happens in free agency I think Seattle should be able to address needs and still draft something like the best available talent.

  • Recordblender

    If the seahawks could pick up Ryan Kalil C (25 yrs) and Alan Branch DE (25 years) a legitimate center and back up to Red Bryant, we could pick up a couple of guards this year. I really would love to see Mike Pouncey in seahawk blue next year!

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