Marshawn really loves product placement
I have to tip my hat to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks' organization. Late June through July is pure torture for diehard NFL fans like myself. Yet somehow Pete has made his way into headlines multiple times this offseason, subtly making the summer football drought more bearable.
Of course, no story stirs up quite as much controversy as the quarterback competition. Luckily for every Seattle fan, there will be no mention of the QB battle in this article. If I had to read one more redundant opinion on that situation my eyes would probably fall out, so I shan't force that upon you all.
Anywho, we will be evaluating the Top 5 most talented players currently on Seattle's roster. No. 1 will surprise you, I promise.
Let's get this party started.
I love Doug Baldwin. Everyone else loves Doug Baldwin. Why do we love Doug Baldwin? Because he was the only reason we converted any third downs last year. I do believe in the "clutch" gene, and if anyone on this team has it, it's Baldwin. But besides that here are some other aspects of the Stanford grad's game that really portray his talent.
Hands: Remember Baldwin's one handed catch against the Bengals? Remember his miraculous spinning reception on the sideline in double coverage against the Bengals? Remember him catching a T-Jack bubble screen pass that was 9 million miles above his head, then running it in for a touchdown? Probably not, but those are some of the highlights from Baldwin's rookie year. He is sure handed indeed.
Brain: There are these nifty little things called option routes in the NFL. If your receiver is smart, he can recognize a defense and adjust his route accordingly to either sit in a zone, drag his man across the middle, or take off deep. Less mentally fit receivers often struggle with this, and as a result, the quarterback looks bad when he has to throw a ball right into coverage. Baldwin is of the former sort. Part of the reason he excelled on third down was his ability to adjust his route and get into one on one coverage. From there, his speed did the rest.
Slipperiness: You could also call this elusiveness, but slipperiness is a way better word. He spins, he jukes, he flat out runs past defenders. Three out of Doug Baldwin's four regular season touchdowns came on YAC (yards after catch). Because of this, Baldwin makes for a great slot receiver.
Do I look concussed to you?
I sense that people might get angry about this one, due to the fact that Rice's plethora of injuries nullify any and all talent he possesses.
Let's pretend for a second that Rice's shoulder doesn't shatter into a million pieces every time he catches a ball. Here are some key attributes that make a healthy Sidney Rice elite.
Not Dropping Passes: NFL.com recently published a list of the receivers with the best "drop rate," which essentially translates to how many catchable passes were dropped by the receiver. Our very own Sidney Rice cracked this top list. Simply put, the man catches anything and everything thrown his direction.
Catching Radius: Rice stands at an enormous 6'4", with freakishly long arms and insane leaping ability. This monster of a human being can practically snag passes from other solar systems. Rice makes a fantastic target, and is able to make a quarterback look good after an inaccurate throw.
Body Control: Sidney Rice isn't the fastest receiver in the world. He definitely can torch a DB for a big gain, but mostly relies on his body to physically best a defender. This is where body control plays a huge role. Rice can contort his body to make the spectacular SportsCenter Top 10 reception, or make a finesse catch while toe tapping to keep the ball in bounds. Overall, Rice's body control is phenomenal, especially for a man his size.
Peace and Love man! Peace and Love!
Big surprise here. We all know Beast Mode is composed of titanium, testosterone, and skittles. But let's break down exactly what made Money Lynch a 2nd pro bowl alternate last year.
Juking: Just ask Ray Lewis.
Field Vision: Lynch vastly improved this aspect of his game over the 2011 season. In large part, effective field vision contributed to Lynch's breakout half of the season. When Seattle's offensive line finally got some cohesion, extremely underrated fullback Michael Robinson was able to effectively block through the B gap (between the guard and tackle on either side of the line). Marshawn, in the second half of the season, learned to trust and follow Robinson, which would allow Lynch to be dangerous in the open field. If Lynch can hit his holes correctly and continue to trust his blockers, expect his success to continue in 2012.
Power: The most obvious aspect the Lynch's game. Behind every great collision Lynch makes with a defender, however, is a world of footwork and balance. Lynch stays low, keeping his center of gravity close to the ground. This makes defenders who tend to tackle high or above the waist look quite foolish. In addition, Lynch always keeps his legs pumping forward, even when defenders are around his waist. In many cases, this allows Lynch to break out of large groups of tacklers (as the Philadelphia Eagles will attest).
Earl Thomas: World Class Hurdler
Seventy percent of Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Earl Thomas.
Earl's transition from his rookie to sophomore season was really fun to watch. He went from being a super fast playmaker who looks lost in one-on-one tackle scenarios to a super fast playmaker who is one of the top tacklers for his team. Based on the past two years, here's what we can figure to be Earl's most gifted attributes.
Speed: This counts for athleticism in general as well. Earl Thomas is a lightning bolt out there on the field. He runs a 4.37 40-yard dash (for comparison, the fastest 40-yard dash time at this year's combine was a 4.31). In essence, this speed and athleticism allows Earl to cover the football field by himself in Cover 1 and Cover 2 situations, which anchors a defense and lets press corners abuse receivers off the line of scrimmage. Naysayers may point to Earl's decline in interception numbers from year one to year two as a sign that his coverage skills aren't that adept, but keep in mind that he had at least three more interceptions that were called back due to foolhardy Brandon Browner penalties.
Play Recognition: Earl watches a myriad of film of Troy Polamalu, who he hopes to emulate with his style of play. Hours of film have helped Thomas decipher small tells in the offensive scheme, such as way the tight end comes off the line of scrimmage, the personnel grouping of the wide receivers, and the alignment of the offensive guards. With this mental advantage, Thomas can shut a play down before it starts. Thomas' hard work translated especially to run stoppage, as the Steelers, Cardinals and 49ers found out last season. This ability to make tackles for a loss makes for a "complete" safety in the NFL.
Hit Power: Earl Thomas sure can pack a wallop. Although most of the big hitting (and subsequent fines by Roger Goodell) is the domain of strong safety Kam Chancellor, Thomas' carries his momentum in such a way that quite often receivers, running backs, and kick returners fumble on contact. Unfortunately, this has also been a bit of a crutch for Thomas, because too often he forgoes the chance to make a nice wrap tackle, instead choosing to lower his shoulder into the offensive player. More often than not, this results not in a fumble but in extra yards allowed. Hopefully more experience can remedy this issue.
You're probably surprised, and I don't blame you. But here me out—I can make a solid case as to why this kid has the most talent on the entire Seahawks roster. Here's why Sherm is my favorite Seahawk by far.
Fundamental Coverage Skills: We all know that Pete Carroll wants Seattle's big, physical corners to play hard, physical press coverage. Sherman accomplishes this task phenomenally. Off the line, his 6'3" frame knocks receivers off balance. But beyond that, Sherman has incredible hip rotation. Admittedly, I misevaluated Sherman out of college, for I dubbed him rigid and far too nonathletic to play corner. Boy, was I wrong. Sherman fluidly moves his hips to adjust to double moves and maintain excellent single coverage, expertly employs his feet and lower body to establish position on number one receivers and masterfully uses his outside arm to deflect passes, which avoids penalty flags and just plain looks cool. Essentially, Sherman is the poster child for fundamental coverage skills. His mastery of these tools with only two years of college experience really displays Sherman's natural talent.
Fundamental Tackling Skills: Often, when a receiver is in man coverage with a cornerback, the Quarterback or offensive coordinator will have a receiver run a curl route or quick bubble screen route, with the expectation that a good juke or effective spin move will beat the sole defensive back and go for a large gain. Richard Sherman does not miss that tackle. In many situations in 2011, Sherman stopped short passes for minimal gains, because he is a textbook tackler. That isn't to say that Sherman doesn't hit with power. His length allows him to wrap up a receiver, and then the rest of his body pounds the receiver into the dirt. We saw this happen many times last year.
Playmaking Ability: The Sherminator's production really speaks for itself. in 10 starts, Sherman had four interceptions and a forced fumble (a play that really showed just how hard this guy can hit). If that trend were to continue for a full 16 games, Sherman would have between six and seven interceptions along with one or two forced fumbles. Those are pro bowl statistics. Additionally, Sherman was in the top 10 in the entire NFL in pass defenses, despite only starting 10 games. That's pretty remarkable in itself, but there's an even more telling statistic. Before Richard Sherman started, quarterbacks opposing the Seahawks had an extremely high 91.4 passer rating. After Sherman started, that dipped down to a meager 65.9. Richard Sherman doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for helping the Seahawks' defense establish itself as a top 10 unit.
Ultimately, the statistics tell the story of Sherman's talent. Give this guy a couple years, and he'll be in the same conversation with guys like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha.