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Following the Seattle Seahawks’ 2nd round, pick #47 selection of Marquise Blair, John Schneider was asked what he liked about the former Utah safety. The Seahawks General Manager got right to it, enthusing: “Physical. Great athlete. He ran fast. True competitor.” In his 10th draft, Schneider traded back from early 2nd to mid-2nd, gaining another pick. Yet he still managed to get a Seattle player.

Jim Nagy was an NFL scout for 18 years and was most recently with Seattle, where he served for five seasons as the Southeast Area evaluator. Now the Reese’s Senior Bowl director, it was obvious to Nagy that Blair fit the Seahawk prototype:

“Coming from Seattle. That guy’s a Seahawk safety right there,” disclosed Nagy at the 2019 Senior Bowl opening presser.

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Matty F. Brown
Jim Nagy made lots of comments relating to the Seahawks in his presser. THREAD.

He spoke on the importance of a prospect overcoming challenges:

“That’s one thing we really hammered in Seattle. Finding the guys that had been through adversity. Because it’s not going to be easy.”

8:30 AM – Jan 22, 2019
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Nagy was right. Blair was projected by many analysts as a Day Three pick, but Seattle’s Front Office and Head Coach Pete Carroll clearly fell in love with the traits and athleticism of the player. Here’s how Blair tested:

Height: 6ft 1
Weight: 195lbs
Arm length: 31”
40-yard-dash: 4.48 seconds
Vertical jump: 35”
Broad jump: 125”
Short shuttle: 4.49 seconds (pro day)
3 cone: 6.84 seconds (pro day)
There are rough, jagged elements to Blair’s skillset. But Carroll clearly trusts his coaching to polish Blair into an NFL gem. Let’s get to the tape and study the game of Seattle’s 2nd overall player.

A silent assassin
Seattle’s defense looked slow last season. They needed to get faster and nastier, at safety and up front. Blair helps that. His trademark trait is keying rapidly and then hitting like a bullet train. A downhill flyer with aggression and speed is getting increasingly difficult to find in college football. Schneider described Blair as a “really intense tempo setter” and “a tough, tough dude.” Meanwhile, Carroll disclosed that “it’s [Blair’s] toughness that we really are excited about.”
In his rookie mini-camp presser, Blair told reporters that his mentality comes from playing “backyard football.” His play-style inspiration was YouTube highlights of any big contact:

“When I was little I just watched highlights a lot, just hard-hitting highlights. Just anybody.”

It shows.

Clip 1: Blair did bite somewhat on the play-action, but his energetic hustle to get out to the wide receiver screen and punish the receiver was exciting.

Clip 2: This is excellent trigger speed from Blair running the alley, where he kept near hip pursuit and cleaned the running back out.

Clip 3: The downhill hunger from Blair extends to deep safety. Here he surges from single-high and joins the pile.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Blair’s calling card is his downhill aggression and speed. His trademark trait is keying rapidly and hitting like a bullet train. It’s what stood out to John Schneider and Pete Carroll. The defensive front needed to get faster and nastier. Blair is

12:47 AM – May 7, 2019
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Blair will add twitchy venom. That’s what clearly stood out most to John Schneider and Pete Carroll. “He’s really violent, really aggressive,” Schneider summarized. He added “He’s really quiet. Like a silent assassin. This guy’s like…he’s scary tough.”

Live by the sword…
Die by the sword. (Or a weapon that assassins use, IDK) Players who play football ferociously are more susceptible to tackling misses, dangerous plays and ejections; Blair was ejected from two college games in 2018. The NFL lacks the stringent, sometimes harsh targeting rules of college football. Blair’s tape had aiming point plus footwork issues and Blair can refine his tackling technique.

Clip 1: Blair was eager to beat the OL block after quickly keying the screen play. He thundered downhill with speed. However, once getting to his spot, he needed to close on the ball-carrier with his feet. It was a solid juke from the ball-carrier and a tricky play for Blair to make, but some extra, smaller steps and greater control would have helped avoid the missing lunge.

Clip 2: The running back cut inside, sending Blair to the floor because his feet weren’t controlled.

Clip 3: This is reminiscent of a Tedric Thompson open-field miss. Coming downhill from deep safety in the cavernous open-field is hard. Yet Blair’s miss was preventable. He goes to dive at the ankles of the receiver, again from far away. Getting slightly closer with less of a lunge, then aiming his eyes higher, through the thighs, would have led to a higher chance of success.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Like most ferocious players, Blair’s got plays against ballcarriers

Lack of breaking down and controlled footwork=lunging misses

Low aiming=dangerous dipped head+misses

High aiming+bending at the back not sinking at the knees=dangerous+2

12:52 AM – May 7, 2019
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Fortunately for Blair, Seattle has produced excellent instructional videos for coaches, in correspondence with USA Football, on how to teach players to tackle. There is an emphasis on near-foot, near-shoulder contact, with players “swooping” into the tackle with control.
The Seahawks are one of the best franchises to go to if a player wants to sharpen their tackling. Misses from Blair may decrease, but the dangerous plays aspect is likely to be tougher. The issue will be getting Blair to sink more at the knees and bend less at the back.

When asked about his ejections, Blair said “I just gotta lower my target.” That’s fine, but to do that the defender must be able to see what he is hitting. Blair, by bending at the back, reduces his vision of his target and the head will naturally dip more. Whether a slightly different hitting position can be learnt at this stage is highly unlikely, so Seattle may have to live with it.

Ultimately, when Blair does fully break down he is a very reliable tackler. It’s just channelling his want to blow defenders into smithereens. The theme of the Seahawks trusting their ability to develop certainly extends to Blair’s tackling. Said Carroll “It’s just hitting people. He needs to do it right…I think we can focus that.” Schneider answered questions of ill-discipline with “We’re cool with it.”

Sashimi-raw at single-high
I like sushi, especially the accompanying sashimi. I don’t like Blair at single-high safety. Judging by the post draft comments of Head Coach and General Manager, the Seahawks don’t seem to either. They certainly prefer him down near the line of scrimmage as a strong safety. “We’re gonna zero him in, make it focused for him as he starts out at strong safety,” disclosed Carroll.

Blair beginning as a box defender therefore makes sense. He has a worrying tendency to to open his hips early from his backpedal at deep safety, guessing on which way to flip rather than reading a quarterback’s intentions or the route concept.

Worse was Blair’s inability to defend multiple vertical routes from deep—a crucial trait for a free safety in a cover 3 system. A four verts concept is the standard beater! Too often, Blair read the concept wrong and left routes open in behind him. This abysmal ranking of threats made him a liability all too often.

Clip 1: Blair in his 1/3 had to recognize the offensive concept and the defensive coverage. At first, he should have gained depth in his zone and tried to dissect the two vertical routes from the #2 and #3 receivers. However, after the #2 receiver cleared the hook-curl defender, Blair needed to be closer to that route. Poor eye discipline drew him fully towards the #3 receiver’s route, which was already covered well by Cody Barton (matching Final 3 Crosser).

Clip 2: This is a similar situation, with Blair being drawn to the #3 receiver. He has a tendency from deep to open early and gamble on what he sees first. That’s a terrible trait to have, and one offenses will exploit with baiting routes. Blair gets away with his poor coverage as the wide open #2 receiver drops a sure touchdown.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Blair primarily being a strong safety in Seattle’s defense is a smart decision. He’s sushi-raw at single-high safety, lacking the instincts, awareness and eye discipline to cover a deep middle 1/3 effectively. Free safety would be a

12:54 AM – May 7, 2019
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Smaller areas…
In smaller areas, though, Blair is much more comfortable. Last year, Seattle’s defense evolved into playing more match quarters and cover 1 with the initial match-ups disguised. This was particularly true against 11 personnel, shotgun spread teams like Kansas City.

Clip 1: An unusual play from the defense, but Blair seamlessly picked up the uncovered man on the play-action pass.

Clip 2: When his initial pre-snap intention is matched by the post-snap process of the quarterback, Blair has quality range. This play was from single-high and he almost gets to the ball thrown from the boundary to the field. That’s a lot of space to cover, sideline-to-sideline, even if the rest of his tape suggests he has a history of guessing and playing overly instinctual on the back-end.

Shrunk down to a deep half, Blair could excel. On the brief occasions he executed that assignment for Utah, he looked comfortable. Furthermore, Utah deployed their half safeties in role that kept them close to the hashmarks—which would ease the transition to a quarters-role.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
You must be able to cover verticals from deep safety, especially in a cover 3 where four verts is the go-to beater of offenses–even on Madden!

Focusing on his initial, pre-snap read, Blair flashed range and awareness. He’s better suited to smaller

12:57 AM – May 7, 2019
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Clip 1: Blair “pitches his tent” well and maintains sound leverage.

Clip 2: This is another rep that provides us with a glimpse of what Blair could do in Seattle’s scheme. On the boundary cornerback blitz, Blair is tasked with covering the isolated receiver one-on-one. The way he reads the receiver’s hip, stays in phase and maintains the initial inside leverage is impressive. It’s a trait that suggests a fluent translation to the Seahawks’ man coverage.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Carroll’s D evolved last year; more match quarters and cover 1 with the match-ups disguised pre-snap. With Earl gone, you can expect this trend to continue.

Blair showed leverage comprehension+reading of the hip that translates to downfield matching/

1:00 AM – May 7, 2019
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However, Blair’s man coverage is still largely an unknown. Perhaps tellingly, Utah frequently kept him out of man coverage scenarios even when they had the opportunity. Pete Carroll’s coaching and the step-kick press technique would put Blair’s solid length (31” arms) to use. It was revealing that Carroll mentioned the slot unprompted when first talking about Blair: “We’d like to start him at safety and inside.”

When asked if he could do nickel stuff, Carroll reiterated Blair’s man coverage potential: “There’ll be opportunities for some special stuff. For him to match-up.” “Special stuff” might well mean big nickel, with starter reps potential hard to come by in his rookie year. But it will likely extend to the “bandit back” role of the Big Dime defense the Seahawks enjoyed success with last year on passing downs.

Blair’s change of direction skills did look leggy, with a lack of flexibility affecting his ability to sink into cuts. He has a solid speed turn but flipping the hips and sinking at cut points took him some time. The 4.49 second short shuttle of his pro day matches this but the 6.84 second 3 cone disagrees. Regardless, like every Seattle safety since the days of Thomas and Chancellor, Blair is likely restricted to matching up with tight ends only.

Despite Carroll saying he wants to zero Blair in at strong safety first, Blair’s rookie day comments reiterated the underrated, required versatility of a Seahawks safety. When asked how similar his usage was to Utah, Blair answered: “It’s kinda the same thing. We go to strong safety, free safety.” This certainly suggests more interchangeability, though that has always been an underestimated aspect to Seattle’s defense. The safeties rotate more than one would think, especially against motion. The “uh-oh” aspect of Blair at deep middle then emerges.

Underneath coverage
Playing more regularly as the down safety, Blair will most often be deployed as a “buzz defender.” That is what Seattle calls their hook-curl, buzz-to-flat coverage guys, and they often have two of them on each play—3 deep, 4 under. the pass, the hook-curl is Blair’s best assignment. He gets rapid depth shuffling to his zone landmarks thanks to nice footspeed. But it’s the cerebral part of his coverage that most impresses.

Clip 1: This was superb hook curl spacing from Blair. He first took away the out route for the quarterback. He then moved backwards to take away the Y-Cross 95 concept of Washington State.

Clip 2: Again: Blair executed splendidly. This clip shows him dropping into a hook curl over trips. His scanning towards the #2 receiver was crucial to his successful coverage. It took away the corner route and the primary read of the quarterback. This is a coaching tape combination of instincts, smarts and awareness.

Clip 3: Blair acted as an excellent underneath layer of coverage beneath the #3 receiver’s vert. The quarterback noticed that it was a Middle of the Field Open defense from Utah and tried to squeeze the ball down the middle of the field. But Blair’s tight merging made the throw near-impossible.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Blair as the down safety in Seattle’s D will get a TON of hook-curl, zone coverage assignments. This was Blair’s best coverage deployment at Utah. His zone spacing and scanning was splendid, getting to landmarks quick followed by superb melting/

1:03 AM – May 7, 2019
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Clip 1: Blair stayed disciplined in the red-zone sticks defense. He didn’t overcommit on either route and acted as the perfect coverage layer

Clip 2: Blair almost went for the shallow route outside, but he stayed put underneath and then ran well with #1’s post, forcing the throwaway.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Blair also took away concepts in the tighter confines of the redzone too. With underneath zone and matching. He rides underneath routes well and dissects defenders. That matches Seattle’s match quarters and “buzz” assignment for the Cover 3

1:06 AM – May 7, 2019
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The Seahawks are big on “indicators” for their zone defense, both pre- and post-snap. It’s all about making the zone less spot-drop, more zone-match. Seattle talks about indicators with their coverage, adapting their zones to beat multiple concepts. Pre-snap, one of the indicators is formation. The tight receiver split on the backside. Post-snap, the shallow route must be indicator.

Mike Leach loves mesh, or “92.” It’s the staple Air Raid passing concept along with Y Cross (95). The scouting report ahead of the Washington State game would have been full of it. And still Blair bit on the cheese of the first shallow route (a big Seattle “no-no”). He didn’t recognize the concept. He took the bait. Pretty much every NFL starting overhang defender can play a “hook curl” zone well. What makes for excellent hook-curl play is concept recognition.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
The Seahawks are big on “indicators” for their zone defense, both pre- and post-snap=Zone shells less spot-drop, more zone-match.

Blair fails to recognize the Mesh 92 concept of Wazzu. Utah must have heavily gameplanned for this. It’s an Air Raid staple!

1:09 AM – May 7, 2019
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Defending the run
Playing cover 3 involves the strong safety in the box a fair bit. The position is required to set the EDGE as the FORCE defender or line up near the tackle as a TAN player, a player who looks to turn the ball back to a run-through inside linebacker or searches for the next available gap.

These roles require the ability to take blocks on from fullbacks and offensive linemen and set the EDGE. I’m not talking to the level of Kam Chancellor, bench pressing right tackles. But a degree of physicality is required that Blair lacks right now.

Sure, he brutally smacks when surging downhill at receivers and running backs. But Blair struggled to take blocks on with less of a run up when involved in the box fit. Instead, he relied on his agility and accelerated to dip inside blockers for the tackle.

Clip 1: Facing NFL competition in Andre Dillard exposed just how weak Blair was in the box. His assignment tasked him with reading off the 4i (inside shoulder of the tackle) defensive end in front of him. Blair had no plan for stacking and shedding Dillard. The result was him getting stuck to the block of Dillard and he kept going backwards and backwards, before eventually spinning further back to try and disengage. By this point, the play was over.

Clip 2: Blair was fitting the b-gap from the box on this cut-up. He was quick, but he didn’t use his hands to squeeze the block and hold his gap. Instead, he surged through and made the guard’s job so easy. Blair ended up getting pushed out of the play, well past the running back and opening his gap up again.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
In those plays, Blair either avoids contact due to the OL downblocking and the QB reading him, or by being too quick for OL.

When hit by OL, issues occur. He tries to outspeed and dip through contact. Needs better UOH, gets bullied. 195lb box an issue?

1:16 AM – May 7, 2019
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There are some serious positives to Blair’s box play. Toughness is of course the main one. But there’s plenty more, hence why the Seahawks want to maximize his reps near the LOS. Consider Carroll’s observations: “We really like him attacking the line of scrimmage. He blitzes well. Tackles well. Hits well. Great feel.” “Great feel” features in all these clips. Blair doesn’t just run fast, he also processes quickly.

Clip 1: Blair was reading the 4i defensive end and fitting either outside or inside depending on where the run went. He maintained his depth, giving him the runway to duck inside the outside block from the tackle to make the tackle for loss.

Clip 2: Blair’s quick processing and removal of threats, first honoring the primary concern of the jet sweep with depth and then quickly registering the quarterback keeper was beautiful on this play. He scraped for the tackle.

Clip 3: Blair ducked inside the lead block of the jet sweep after quickly identifying the play type. (Bending at the back is somewhat disturbing, he really needs to sink more, but that’s an issue mentioned earlier.)

Clip 4: This was excellent from Blair, with him reading the downblocking offensive line. He stayed home to play the quarterback keeper, forcing the ‘give’ read. After seeing the ball handed off, Blair then scraped around the pile and made the tackle for loss.

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Matty F. Brown
Replying to @mattyfbrown @FieldGulls
Being put at SS will require Blair to be in the run fit of Seattle’s cover 3 (3 deep, 4 under). Like the plan in Seattle, Blair was often the wide fit. He was very quick at processing the run type+fitting his gap. Plus Blair was an excellent

1:12 AM – May 7, 2019
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Blair’s blitzing ability deserves a mention. It’s sudden and disguised, full of the violence and hunger that accompanies Blair’s downhill pursuit. It earned a mention from Carroll and there will be a separate Seahawks on tape covering Seattle’s pressure options later in the offseason.

The key to an effective evaluation is the much harped on mantra of “focus on what a player can do.” Blair’s skillset, as outlined above, fits a Cover 3 strong safety very well. Except there’s one nagging thought that pierces the “what he can do”; his ability to take blockers on in the box. Blair’s so keen to try run around or inside blocks that his ability to set the EDGE or be the turnback player in the fit can be questioned. If that’s still unsure come week 1, Blair will not be a starting member of the Seahawks defense.

Can a 195lb player with these traits get it done in the box, in Seattle’s style of defense? Blair adding bulk doesn’t seem conducive to his game, given his downhill speed is a big positive. So, will increasing his hand usage and encouraging him to stack blockers on the outside noticeably improve things? Carroll will back the coaching staff’s ability to mold Blair’s nose for the football into an effective NFL EDGE setter.

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You’d think the NFL, the corporate and cultural behemoth of American sports, would have a set of rules governing the attributes of a franchise quarterback.

You’d think, 100 years into this thing, it would have a stone-scroll template that determines how it chooses the young men who become the most exalted and fetishized athletes in the game.


You would be wrong — not that it doesn’t try. Oh god, how it tries. It has the combine and the pro days and the interviews and the individual workouts and the jumps and the leaps and the shuttles and the endless measuring and the computerized timing and whatever else it can think of to analyze a human being within a centimeter of his life. And yet, when it comes to what’s important and predictive as it pertains to a presumptive franchise quarterback, your guess is probably as good as theirs.

History shows us he can be slow. He can be weak. He can be dumb. He can be a bad teammate. He can even combine a few of those at once and still get drafted before the first bank of commercials. But as the NFL defined itself as America’s favorite pseudo-religion, and as the dumb and the weak and the slow cleared the underbrush for future generations of dumb and weak and slow, there remained just one thing a quarterback couldn’t be: short. Football’s merchants of speculation might argue about Wonderlic scores, hand sizes and the pitfalls of a country-club background, but they all view short the same way: quantifiable and damned obvious. Short can’t hide.


For more on the athletes and ideas that represent the future of sports, check out the May issue of ESPN The Magazine.

• Nick Bosa is ready for a triumphant return
• Fran Belibi is the future of the WNBA…if she wants to be

• Will this tech experiment change football forever?
• Can Kyler Murray upend decades of draft convention?

Being tall excuses just about everything. If he’s 6-4 and dumb, they’ll call him football-smart. If he’s 6-4 and slow, they’ll tout his real or imagined ability to move in the pocket. If he’s 6-4 and weak, they’ll change his diet and point him toward the weight room. If he’s 6-4 and a bad teammate, they’ll surround him with veterans who can fix that right quick. Every flaw can be worked around or compensated for or beaten out, organizationally speaking. Except height.

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray measured 5-10 1/8 at the combine, and the number was reported as an achievement, maybe even a defining moment in the Heisman Trophy winner’s career. He is small, not just for a quarterback but for a high school point guard. And yet the Arizona Cardinals just might make him the first pick of the 2019 NFL draft.

How did this happen? Did the NFL’s thinking change? Or is Kyler Murray that rarest of humans — the kind who can change the NFL’s thinking?
“Here’s the one thing you need to know about Kyler,” says former NFL quarterback and coach Jim Zorn. “Short goes away when you see what he can do.” Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SPORTS
MURRAY IS MANY things other than short. He is wickedly fast, smart, strong and slightly mysterious. He throws the ball with both ease and a force that can be measured audibly. He possesses an undercover agent’s awareness of his immediate surroundings and a distant reserve that is easily — and inaccurately, according to those who know — taken for cold detachment.

Some of the stories seem to border on the apocryphal. He is so fast that his center at Oklahoma, Creed Humphrey, swears there were times he would block on a quarterback draw and “feel the wind coming off him when he’d go by.” At the risk of further hyperbole, Murray’s athletic ability might be generationally transcendent. By the end of April, he will be the only person ever drafted in the first round in both Major League Baseball (ninth, by Oakland, in 2018) and the NFL. The Athletics gave him a $4.7 million bonus and projected him to be their star center fielder of the future. They also gave him their blessing when he said he wanted to play one more year of football at Oklahoma, which he turned into 4,361 yards passing, 1,001 yards rushing and that Heisman. The Athletics’ generosity came with a cost; now he’s someone else’s quarterback of the future. (Unless, of course, they return with the offer of a major league contract that might be lucrative enough to change his mind one more time. Baker Mayfield got $32.7 million guaranteed as last year’s No. 1 pick — the A’s could double that if they choose.)


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The analytics that recommended Mayfield, another undersized Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma, serve Murray well. Murray’s 11.6 yards per pass attempt was the highest by an FBS quarterback since 2004. And despite his height, he had just four balls batted down or defended within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage last season. Daniel Jones, a 6-5 likely first-round pick from Duke, had 14. In addition, the NFL’s lean toward more spread-style offenses (the kind Kliff Kingsbury will employ with the Cardinals) has lessened the perceived risk of a short quarterback. Evaluators can point to Russell Wilson and Drew Brees as evidence that shorter quarterbacks can find passing lanes inside and outside the pocket, and they can fulfill themselves by comparing Murray to Wilson-despite vast differences in speed and style-because nobody has much of an imagination anymore.

“Kyler’s always had bigger people in front of him,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley says. “He’s always had to find creative arm angles, find different lanes, move in the pocket to create them. He’s had to deal with it forever. I’ve always said, ‘If you’re going to be short now, you’d rather be short the whole time.'”

It’s an interesting recommendation: Look, we know he’s short, but he’s always been short.

“Don’t look at his film from college or even high school,” says Tom Westerberg, Murray’s head coach at Allen High, north of Dallas. “Look at peewee football or middle school. He’s always been what he is now — a small quarterback. There was never a time when he was one of the bigger ones on the field. This is all he knows, and I think he’s going to challenge the NFL’s thinking and then blow it out of the water.”

Murray started for Riley at Oklahoma for just one year, and yet when Riley is asked if there’s one play that typifies Murray’s rare skills, he is silent for a full 13 seconds as he sorts them through his mind. Finally, he says it happened midway through last season, against Texas, when the Sooners’ offensive linemen so thoroughly botched a play that it’s a wonder they all made it out alive. The ball was snapped, and the right guard and right tackle pulled to the left while the left tackle pulled to the right. As they tried to dodge one another — there’s a split second where it seems plausible the right guard might ask the left tackle what he’s doing there — Murray acted as if this were the plan all along. He maneuvered past the pileup, sidestepped an unblocked defensive end, turned the corner and ran 67 yards for a touchdown.

“Here’s the one thing you need to know about Kyler,” says former NFL quarterback and coach Jim Zorn, who worked with Murray to prepare him for his pro day. “Short goes away when you see what he can do.”

THE MAKING OF a legend, in three parts:

I. Jeff Fleener was an assistant coach at Allen High — home of the $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium — when he first heard that Kevin Murray had started a business to train high school and college quarterbacks in the area.

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Another coach told him, “Kevin’s son can get it.”

That’s a good tip, right? Son of a former star quarterback is training in your area, be worth your time to check it out.

“Oh yeah? How old is he?” Fleener asked.

“He’s 9, but I’m telling you …”

Fleener cut him off. “OK, whatever. I mean — he’s 9.”

The guy shrugged and raised his eyebrows in a suit-yourself kind of way.

“I’m just telling you,” he said, “the kid can flat-out throw — and he can fly.”

“Yeah, but he’s 9,” Fleener said.

“Yeah,” the guy said, “but just you wait.”

II. When Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon was at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, the last thing his quarterback did before he took the field on Friday night was take out his phone and watch a highlight video to get hyped for the game.

Sermon asked him what he was watching, and the quarterback just held the phone up and said, “Kid from Texas. Kyler Murray.”

The quarterback knew this Murray kid had never lost a high school game. Eventually, he would go on to win three straight state championships at Allen and enter the conversation about the best and most famous prep player in Texas history.

Back in that locker room in Marietta, Sermon watched the video to its end, and when that little kid was finished running past people and throwing over them, Sermon looked at his quarterback and said, “Wow. He’s something else.”

III. Lincoln Riley is sitting in a deep leather couch in his office when he’s asked to recall his first impressions of Murray. The office has the feel of a sacristy — ornate furnishings, ceilings tall enough to create echo-y acoustics, a Vatican-level shrine of the sponsor’s brand of sneakers on one wall. It’s an oligarch’s office presided over by a 35-year-old guy in a sweatsuit and a baseball cap. The scene is worth mentioning because A) guys like Murray helped to build it, and B) it’s so comically outsized and ostentatious that even Riley seems a little embarrassed by it.

Asked about Murray, Riley tugs at the bill of his OU golf cap and starts talking about the one and only occasion he’s known Murray to run a timed 40-yard dash, right after Murray transferred to Oklahoma in 2015.

“He left Texas A&M and came here after the first semester ended, early December, so by the time we got him he hadn’t been playing a sport for about six weeks,” Riley says. “It was the first time in his life he wasn’t playing a sport, and it was easily the most out of shape I’ve ever seen him. For him, he was kind of pudgy. I knew he was very athletic, but I thought he might come in here and run a 4.5, which for a quarterback is blazing fast. Well, we tested him the first week he got here and he ran a 4.3 on a laser. That was just like — wow. Out of shape — wow. And that’s the last 40 he’ll ever run in his life.”

Is that why Murray didn’t run at the combine or his pro day?

Riley draws his words out like blown glass.

“There … is … no … need.”
“I think he’s going to challenge the NFL’s thinking and then blow it out of the water,” says Murray’s high school coach, Tom Westerberg. Brett Deering/Getty Images
VIEWED FROM A certain angle, Kyler Murray’s life has taken shape as a variation on a theme. Thirty-six years before Kyler became an Athletic, 18-year-old Kevin Murray, Kyler’s dad, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played one unsatisfying year in the minors before deciding to play quarterback at Texas A&M. He was sued by the Brewers, who claimed breach of contract and demanded that Kevin’s $35,000 signing bonus be repaid.


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After leaving baseball, Kevin led the Aggies to two Southwest Conference championships, set SWC records for total offense and sat through 12 rounds of the 1987 draft without hearing his name. Nineteen quarterbacks — Mark Vlasic, Sammy Garza, Ken Lambiotte, Dave Walter from Michigan Tech — were taken in 12 rounds of that draft, and a Dallas Morning News story on Kevin after the draft ran under the headline, “He’s a QB Nobody Wants.” In the story, one NFL scout, as if calling out a 1987 bingo card for criticizing black quarterbacks, said the league decided Kevin was “a little arrogant, didn’t always go to school; his work habits are not good and he’s moody.” There was talk that he was an inaccurate passer, despite his completing nearly 60 percent of his passes at a place and time when throwing the ball happened primarily on third-and-10. An unnamed A&M official at the time told the Morning News that Kevin wasn’t drafted because he was black, and Lynn Amedee, A&M’s offensive coordinator, said, “Somebody blackballed him.”

Kevin, who still runs a quarterback-training service, was a prominent figure at Kyler’s pro day workout in Norman. He was on the field helping his son warm up before his throwing drills, and he and his wife, Missy, stood directly behind Kyler as Zorn led the throwing session. “Kevin isn’t there so he can say, ‘Look what I’ve done,'” Zorn says. “He’s supporting his son. The son could say, ‘Dad, go away,’ and he would. But Kyler respects his dad and appreciates what he’s doing for him.” When I introduced myself to Kevin earlier in the day and told him I’d like to interview him in the coming weeks for this story, he nodded noncommittally and flashed a look that discouraged further conversation.

“Kevin is tough,” Westerberg says. “He has a pretty good front to people who don’t know him. He definitely wants what is best for his son, but he is not a coddling parent. If Kyler does something wrong, he’s going to get the same look Kevin gave you.”

Camp Murray is a tightly sealed ecosystem but is not without its complications: Kevin’s brother, former big league outfielder Calvin Murray, is a longtime lieutenant of agent Scott Boras, who handled Kyler’s baseball negotiations. When Kyler announced his decision to play football instead of baseball, any further public discussion of baseball was prohibited. Kyler and his parents declined to be interviewed for this story, and two sources — despite having nothing but laudatory things to say about Kyler — had to clear it with the family before consenting to speak.

No man’s distrust is abstract, untethered to the lines and angles that shape his life, and in that light, Kevin’s protection of Kyler is understandable. Kyler is a 21-year-old public figure in a hypercritical environment where everyone has a voice, and opinions are wielded like knives. The insulation and learned circumspection is part of the reason Kyler lives in the spotlight and yet remains unconstrained by it. Athletes would seem to face a binary choice: Embrace the fame or avoid it. Either on guard or onstage. Murray resides in a third realm: He ignores its very existence. If you don’t acknowledge it, is it really there? And when it’s been there as long as you can remember — when coaches know your name when you’re 9 and kids four states over are watching your high school highlights as pregame hype — does it eventually blend into the background, just more white noise?

“Kyler’s aware of the attention — he just doesn’t care,” Riley says. “When he first got here, it was almost like he was a little anti-social. He’s come to embrace it a little more. He doesn’t dread that part of it now. When he first got here, he didn’t want to do interviews. He was like, ‘It’s not going to help me become a better football player, so why should I do it?’ Not to be a jerk — it’s just not him. I told him, ‘If you want to be what you want to be — an NFL quarterback or an All-Star center fielder — this is part of it. You have to develop this part just like you do other parts of your game.'”
Did he? Riley says Murray got better, that he tried, but there’s not a lot of conviction in his words, and the results are inconclusive. During Super Bowl week, Murray appeared on the Dan Patrick Show as part of a promotional gig for Gatorade, and the interview devolved into an excruciating question-and-nonanswer session about whether he would play baseball or football. He assiduously avoided any in-depth media interviews as the draft approached. CeeDee Lamb, an Oklahoma receiver who caught 1,158 yards’ worth of passes from Murray last year, says he’s never met anyone who can isolate himself from outside influences, good and bad, the way Murray can. He laughs just thinking about it and says, “Kyler, man — he’s away from everything. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it.”

And within those words is a mystery that remains unsolved: Is he blocking it all out, or taking it all in? Someone, probably someone in Arizona, is about to launch a revolt against the establishment, and who better to lead than a guy who leaves expectations flailing in his wake? Murray’s next challenge is both enormous and simple: upend decades of convention and, along the way, determine whether new expectations represent limits — or possibilities.

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A day after the Seahawks dropped their season opener at Denver, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made his usual appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle to discuss a game in which the Seahawks “missed an opportunity.”

“We had a great opportunity,” Carroll said. “We made the plays to get us ahead with a great touchdown pass to (Tyler Lockett), and we just needed to hold it, and we didn’t do it.”

Here are six takeaways from Carroll’s weekly appearance on the Brock and Salk Show:

1. Big plays were a killer.

The Seahawks defense played well in spurts, particularly in the second half, but when asked his single biggest takeaway from the loss, Carroll quickly pointed to the big plays Seattle gave up, which included two long touchdown passes.

“We didn’t play good enough football,” Carroll said. “I say that because we had two enormous plays on defense that changed the game, we busted both of them. They were just busts. Sometimes you survive those kinds of plays and get onto the next, but for them to throw a flat route for a touchdown, and then they throw a crossing route for a touchdown and it’s a gimme, that’s too much in that game. Make them earn their way down the field, maybe they kick field goals instead and it’s a totally different outcome. It’s our inability to just be really clean throughout the game. We showed some newness, and unfortunately it got us.”

2. Russell Wilson “got hammered,” but also can be better.
When asked to assess the play of his quarterback, Pete Carroll noted that Russell Wilson was under pressure quite a bit, though the quarterback himself acknowledged that a few of the six sacks he took were his fault.

“He got rushed,” Carroll said. “He got hammered, we got sacked six times in the game. He was in the midst of some of those, he bailed a couple of times and got in trouble, but we didn’t protect him as well as we needed to throughout… Unfortunately we didn’t protect him enough to have a really clean game.
“I think it was a hard game. Right off the bat we got hammered. He got hit a couple times in this game, it makes a difference. Every quarterback who has ever played feels that stuff, so you have to get around it. I thought he bounced back when he could, we didn’t quite it done—what really shows up is the third-down numbers, 2 out of 12, you’re not going to get it done. There were too many third-and-longs. That’s enough to wreck your day if you don’t overcome it. We weren’t as clean as we needed to be. He could play way better, he could have gotten us out of some issues early by getting rid of the football a couple of times… Russ needed to do better than he did yesterday, but we needed to help him a lot.”
3. The Seahawks didn’t run the ball enough.
In part because of the aforementioned third-down issues, the Seahawks didn’t get their running game going as much as they would have liked, particularly early, because the offense didn’t stay on the field long enough. The Seahawks finished the game with just 14 rushing attempts by running backs, seven each for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

“We didn’t do it enough,” Carroll said. “That goes back to, we didn’t convert on third down, so then you’re off the field so you don’t get to use the ready list you have. We didn’t get through it, we ran the ball six times in the first half. How many plays did we have, 15 plays in the first half? That’s not enough to figure it out.”
That being said, Carroll still saw some things in those limited opportunities that leave him encouraged about the running game going forward.

“The angle block stuff happened again, we hit the trap, we hit a nice wham play,” Carroll said. “We did some nice stuff, there’s some things there for us that are going to be good, we’ve just got to get to them, we didn’t have the opportunity to access them.”

With another elite pass rusher coming up next week, the Seahawks know they need to run the ball better and more often to keep Khalil Mack from being too disruptive.

“It has to happen,” Carroll said. “It has to happen. We need to do that. You can’t get sacked when you’re running it.”


4. “Everybody should be really excited about” Brandon Marshall.
Brandon Marshall made his Seahawks debut a memorable one by recording his first touchdown catch since 2016, a 20-yarder in the third quarter that was also Seattle’s first third-down conversion of the afternoon. What excited Carroll most about Marshall, who had three catches for 46 yards, is that the veteran pass-catcher is just getting going with Wilson and Seattle’s offense.

“He played great,” Carroll said. “He really practiced beautifully through the last couple of weeks, really finally got into shape and looked good and felt confident in his breaks and his cuts and his catches and all that. He’ll improve a lot with Russ. There’s a chemistry here that can go to a real high level. They’re working at it and communicating well, but it’ll get better. Russ knows that he’s open, he knows he can make the catches, he’s looking at him with the thought that he can make some stuff happen. We went right to him in the red zone. Unfortunately we get the (offensive pass interference) penalty on the first one, he should have had two touchdown catches on the day. I think everybody should be really excited about this. I know we are.”
5. Earl Thomas’ return was handled well on all sides.

Earl Thomas returned to the team last Wednesday after a holdout that covered all of training camp and the preseason, and not only did Thomas play well on the field, recording five tackles and an interception that set up a touchdown, he and the rest of the team also impressed Carroll with the way everyone responded to Thomas’ return.

“What was really exciting to see is just how it all came down,” Carroll said. “The way Earl handled it, the way the players handled it. Our guys in here really dealt with it just right, and Earl was embraced. Everybody made him feel comfortable. We realized that he might be the most uncomfortable guy in the place, just not knowing how he would be received, and our guys couldn’t have done it better really.”

6. Injury updates.
Receiver Doug Baldwin left the game with what Carroll said was an MCL sprain, and as of Monday morning there were no new specifics for Carroll to report.

“I haven’t heard back,” Carroll said. “He was sore last night, but he was walking OK and all that, he wasn’t hampered in that regard. He got hurt. There isn’t anybody tougher than him, and if he can come back he’ll come back. That’s why he went back in the game, and they were trying to talk him out of it to get him out of there.”
Linebacker K.J. Wright, who missed Sunday’s game while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, will run hard on Monday, but Carroll made it sound like it’s unlikely Wright will be back for Monday night’s game at Chicago.

“K.J. is running today for the first time really hard, so we’ll find out,” Carroll said. “It would be a miraculous return if he makes it back this week.”

Carroll doesn’t yet know if D.J. Fluker will get back from a hamstring injury, but if he has to miss a second straight game, the Seahawks feel confident with J.R. Sweezy at right guard.

“D.J., we’ve got to make sure we don’t take him too far too fast, we’ve got make sure he gets through,” Carroll said. “And Sweez did a good job in there for him, so we’re OK there if we’ve got to hold him another week.”

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Back when David Moore was an under-recruited receiver at Gainesville High School, his mom offered up some advice before he eventually went on to a successful college career at Division II East Central University.

“Listening to my mom, she would tell me, ‘it’s not about where you go, it’s what you do when you get there,’” Moore said. “Then when I got (to ECU), I had a good connection with my coach, and it just felt like home. The rest is history.”

It turns out Angie Moore might have been onto something. Because even if her son had to go to a Division II school in Oklahoma to show what he could do on the football field, Moore’s talents still got him noticed by NFL teams, including the Seahawks, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. Moore spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad before eventually earning a late-season call-up, and now with a year of experience under his belt, he looks not just like somebody who’s likely to make the team, but like a potential impact player.

“He has shown us that he really has special catching ability,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s got really good ability at the point of attack… At the point of attack, he’s really strong. He doesn’t look as studly as he is, he’s about 216, 218 (pounds), and he plays to that strength and it works for him. And he’s really good when the ball’s contested. So, that’s the thing that we like the most about and we know he can make things happen, so we really want to keep working to fit him in. He came from a program that was not at the same level that we’re at, so he’s been in the catch-up mode for some time. But, he’s way farther ahead than he was last year at this time, and we clearly have an appreciation for what he can do with the ball. He can catch the kicks too and punts, he’s ready to do all that stuff when we want him too. He’s really just become a bigger factor, and now we got to see how we can use him and see if we can get him in the right spots to utilize his talent.”
What’s most noteworthy about that praise being heaped upon Moore isn’t so much that an NFL head coach said those things about a former D-II player and seventh-round pick, it’s that Carroll said all of that two weeks ago before Moore was a standout in Seattle’s second and third preseason games. In Seattle’s second preseason game at Los Angeles, Moore made one of the plays of the preseason, somehow snatching the ball away from two defensive backs for a 52-yard gain. On the very next play, Russell Wilson went back to Moore, who drug his defender to the 1-yard line for a 19-yard catch. Last week in Minnesota, Moore caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex McGough, and he also returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, but that play came back due to a holding penalty.

Through three preseason games, Moore has a team-high 142 receiving yards and his five catches are the most among Seahawks receivers. He has also been a regular contributor on multiple special teams units before adding return duty last week. Moore said a year of NFL experience, even if most of it came in the form of practice, has made a world of a difference.

“When I was a rookie, it was all new, so having a year to learn it and learn from the best, I’m a lot more comfortable and I’m playing faster,” he said. “.. It’s just having another year under my belt. Last year was a learning process, just gaining knowledge from the veterans and coaches, and just getting some trust. I’m just coming out here playing fast, being more comfortable.”
And for all the spectacular plays Moore has made in preseason games, what really helps his chances of having a bigger role in 2018 is the way he performs on a daily basis in practice.

“It’s really nothing that we don’t see every day in practice,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of Moore’s big-play ability. “We see it all the time in practice. What he’s doing now, which is cool, is the consistency. He’s doing it day-in, day-out. It used to be, when I first got here, there’d be a practice he’d have a great one then he’d take a couple steps back. We’re not seeing that; we’re seeing him play consistent. He’s so big, so powerful, and how competitive he can be to go up and fight. And that one catch (against the Chargers), I still don’t know how he got it, it’s pretty amazing.”

Moore’s playmaking ability has him looking like a player capable of a breakout season in 2018, something that seemed a long ways off when he was heading off to begin a Division-II college football career. Fortunately for Moore and the Seahawks, he followed the advice of his mom, and continues to do so today.

It’s not about where you go, it’s what you do when you get there.

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The Seahawks’ veterans are taking the next step in offseason workouts in this spring’s walk-up to summer training camp.

Earl Thomas is not in step with them.

Seattle began the first of three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) Monday at team headquarters in Renton. The Seahawks also will be on the practice field for no-pads workouts Tuesday and Thursday this week, May 29-30 and June 1 next week and June 4-7. It’s the third of four offseason phases before training camp begins July 26. The fourth phase is the mandatory veteran minicamp June 12-14.

That may be the only part that entices Thomas to show up.

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The three-time All-Pro safety wasn’t at the start of OTAs on Monday, as expected. He hasn’t been at any team workout since last season ended on New Year’s Eve.

Why? Because these practices and meetings are still voluntary, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

Coaches, of course, have a different view of “voluntary” this time of year—call it “strongly encouraged.” But the letter of the NFL contract law remains the same.
“Veterans sometimes look at those rules and they see ‘voluntary,’ and they see it differently than other guys,” coach Pete Carroll said when I asked him about Thomas two weeks ago, at the end of the team’s minicamp for rookies.

“So, we’ll see.”

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Pete Carroll talks about his top draft picks at end of Seahawks’ rookie minicamp
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll discusses his top draft picks at the end of the team’s three-day rookie minicamp. Gregg Bell

On Monday, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner ended an interview on the Seahawks’ flagship radio station, Seattle’s KIRO AM, with an unsolicited show of support for his star teammate.

“Before we get off, I would like to take this time to shout out to Earl Thomas,” Wagner told 710 ESPN Seattle. “I think he’s an amazing player. I think he’s an amazing person. He’s a Hall of Famer. And just let him know that we’re over here wishing for the best in that situation and we’re thinking about him, and I just want him to know that from this end.”

Asked by the station’s host why he felt the need to voice support for Thomas over the air, unprompted, Wagner said: “Just because he needs to know. He needs to know that we appreciate him over here.”

That’s opposite what Wagner and Thomas had going in December, after Thomas said Wagner should not have played hurt in a pivotal division game at home against the Los Angeles Rams. Wagner was limited by a hamstring injury, and the Rams smacked the Seahawks 42-7 in Seattle to win the NFC West and effectively end the Seahawks’ playoff streak at five seasons.

So at least through all their upheaval this offseason these Seahawks have progressed from that.

The team can begin fining Thomas if he misses any of that June 12-14 minicamp, or training camp.
Thomas isn’t in the mode of giving away money. He’s the opposite. He’s seeking a new, third contract and wants to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL beyond his deal that ends after the 2018 season. That means at or above the $13 million per year and $40 million guaranteed, what Kansas City gave his 2010 draft classmate Eric Berry last year. He also has stated he wants to remain a Seahawk—at his price, that is.

If Thomas, who turned 29 on May 7, stays away from the mandatory minicamp next month that would indicate he may be willing to lose money over his principle into training camp, too.

But Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last month he’s been told by Thomas’ representatives that the six-time Pro Bowl free safety will not hold out into training camp or the season, as fellow safety Kam Chancellor did for naught while seeking a new deal three years ago.

Schneider has also said the Seahawks’ precedents of getting extensions done with core players before they play out their final contract seasons does not apply to Thomas. The GM has said that’s because this is a third contract for him, not the second ones that others—for Thomas, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin—have been.

The Seahawks have other contract issues besides Thomas’ beyond this year. Most prominently, they must plan for giving Wilson a new, third contract at $30-million-plus per year this time next year. The franchise quarterback’s deal ends after 2019. And the market for elite quarterbacks continues to rise. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers next in line to push that going rate even higher.

The Seahawks have had stars skip OTAs and offseason workouts in previous springs. Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett used to stay at his winter home in Hawaii then show up for the mandatory minicamp and training camp to avoid fines. Former cornerstone running back Marshawn Lynch also usually only showed up when he was mandated to, usually by the start of training camp.

Thomas has been publicly preparing for the possibility the transitioning Seahawks will decide to let him leave rather than give him a new, rich deal as he approaches 30 years old.

In December, after a win at Dallas in his home state of Texas, Thomas went to the Cowboys’ locker room and told coach Jason Garrett to “come get me.” A few minutes later in the locker room in Arlington, Texas, that Christmas Eve day, Thomas said he meant when Seattle “kicks me to the curb.”

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In the first prime-time game of his young career, Seahawks rookie running back Chris Carson was carted off the CenturyLink Field turf after suffering a gruesome leg fracture and ankle sprain.
Carson detailed the play in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop, who penned a piece about the abundance of injuries to high-profile NFL players this year.
During Seattle’s Oct. 1 victory over the Colts, Carson was tackled by Jon Bostic, then while the linebacker had him wrapped up, defensive tackle Grover Smith came in to finish the play, driving Carson to the ground with the runner’s leg stuck underneath Bostic.
“My foot was caught (under a body),” Carson told Bishop, “and my left ankle was trapped underneath him. Two other guys came in and pushed me—and I’m yelling, ‘Chill, chill, chill!’ My ankle was folding and I hear this pop.”
Moments after the play, with teammates and coaches gathered around and the home crowd watching him eventually leave the game in air cast, Carson said “I felt people touching my shoulder, but I couldn’t look. All I was thinking was, Dang, my season’s over.”

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SEATTLE—Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense nearly had another magic comeback in them, scoring once to cut a late double-digit deficit to just three points, then getting to the edge of field goal range with seconds left. But unfortunately for Seattle, Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt to tie the game fell just short, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to escape Seattle with a 34-31 victory.
Here are five rapid reactions to the Seahawks’ loss, which dropped their record to 6-4: Read
1. Early Miscues Proved Very Costly.
The Seahawks played the Falcons pretty evenly for three-and-a-half quarters of Monday night’s game; the problem was what happened early in the first quarter. Aided by a long return on the opening kickoff, the Falcons opened the scoring with a quick touchdown drive. The Falcons then got the ball back soon after thanks to a Desmond Trufant interception on a Russell Wilson pass intended for Tyler Lockett, and after Trufant’s return gave the Falcons another short field that they turned into a 14-0 lead.
The mistakes continued into the second quarter with Wilson fumbling on a sack, and Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn scooped up the loose football and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown.

2. The Falcons Won On Third Down.
The Seahawks defense made a lot of good plays, particularly against the run, holding the Falcons to 89 rushing yards on 30 carries. Unfortunately for Seattle, getting the Falcons into third-and-medium-to-long situations didn’t lead to stops. Of all the telling stats in Monday’s game, none might have been bigger than Atlanta going 9 for 14 on third down, including going 7 for 9 on its five offensive scoring drives.

3. Tyler Lockett And The Return Game Looked Great.
Coming into this game, Lockett and the kick return game had struggled to get going, with Lockett averaging 21.3 yards per kick with a long of 43 yards, which came in the first game of the season.
On Monday, however, Lockett looked again looked like the All-Pro returner he has been in the past, returning five kicks for 197 yards, giving him an average of 39.4 yards per return. It wasn’t enough to produce a victory in this game, but it’s an encouraging sign for special teams play going forward.

4. Mike Davis Looked Good In His Seahawks Debut, But Fell Victim To Seattle’s Continuing Bad Injury Luck.
Following a promotion off the practice squad, Mike Davis started at running back for the Seahawks, and had some impressive moments, including a 13-yard run on a touchdown drive on which he rushed for 21 yards on three carries. Davis also had 41 receiving yards on a pair of screen passes, but unfortunately he injured his groin on the second of those long receptions and was unable to return to the game.
“He got a groin strain, I think it was,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said postgame.
And Davis was not the only player to leave the game with an injury, as for the second straight game, the Seahawks were hit hard in that area. Shaquill Griffin left the game in the first quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return to action. That meant Byron Maxwell played almost the entire game at left cornerback less than a week after signing. Right guard Oday Aboushi also left the game early with a shoulder injury and was unable to return. He was replaced by Mark Glowinski.
“He banged his shoulder pretty good,” Carroll said of Aboushi. “Don’t know what the extent is, but enough that he couldn’t go back in.”

5. Jimmy Graham’s Red Zone Success Continued.
Seattle’s first touchdown of the game came from a likely source, with Jimmy Graham hauling in his seventh touchdown in the past six games. All seven of Graham’s touchdowns have come in the red zone, making him the NFL leader in that category.
The touchdown was also the 16th of Graham’s Seahawks career, putting him in a tie with Jerramy Stevens for the most touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history. Graham finished the game with a team-leading seven catches for 58 yards.

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RENTON Nothing new about Earl Thomas. He missed another Wednesday practice, for the fifth consecutive game week.

But this is new: Seattle’s All-Pro safety is much more iffy to play than he has been all season.

Thomas continues to rest and get rehabilitation on his strained right hamstring he sustained late in last weekend’s win over Houston. He may not practice until Friday, if then. The Seahawks may not know until pregame warmups before they host Washington on Sunday if Thomas can play.

“No, not yet. We are going to wait a couple days,” coach Pete Carroll said before Wednesday’s practice. “We will see on Friday.”
Bradley McDougald is readying to make his first Seahawks start.

General manager John Schneider and his personnel staff signed the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter in the spring, to backup both Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor. His coaches have been finding increasing roles for him as a bigger, fifth, “nickel” defensive back inside against big receivers including tight ends.

“I’ve been working to be a starter since I’ve been here,” McDougald said. “So this is nothing different.”

Carroll says the Seahawks are lucky to have him.

“Very fortunately, on our end of it, Bradley has been a starter in the league for years and he’s got the experience, the savvy,” Carroll said. “He is a play maker. He is really tough. He’s a good tackler, and we have spotted him all over the place to do things in coverage as well as the running game. He is just a really, really good football player to be able to set up.

“There is no question. We don’t have any hesitation in him playing or keeping the plan, principles intact or anything of that. This was a guy that we were very fortunate to get in the offseason. John figured this one out early on and he’s been a great addition to our team and now he is ready to go. He is excited about it and I’m anxious to see him play.”
The Seahawks had 10 players sit out practice. That’s not entirely alarming on any November Wednesday after banging for seven games.

#Seahawks practice: Earl Thomas may not play; Jarran Reed new. Others seem vet rest/maintenance–except for Lane still coming back from HOU

— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) November 1, 2017
Of those, Chancellor, Wagner, Bennett and Freeney seemed like veteran rest and/or maintenance days for nagging aches.

Lane was still returning from Houston after he failed his physical exam following Seattle trading him to the Texans to get left tackle Duane Brown, who debuted in Seahawks practice Wednesday. McDougald acknowledged that the situation of Lane’s return to the team that dealt him away “is definitely different” and that “Jeremy might be at a weird stage.”

My News Tribune colleague John McGrath details how awkward that whole deal is.

“Jeremy Lane is having one hell of a season,” McGrath writes. “With an emphasis on the hell.”

Reed’s concussion listing was new. He was getting praise last week from Carroll for his advancement in his second NFL season inside on the defensive front.

Britt sprained his ankle two games ago in the win at the New York Giants but finished that game while missing only six plays. He played all of last weekend’s win over the Texans. Carroll said his center and 2016 Pro Bowl alternate is OK to play again Sunday.

“He is fine,” the coach said. “We are going to go light on him today just to make sure from the aftermath of the game but he will be fine and ready to play.”

Freeney didn’t practice because he’s 37 and a future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher, and doesn’t have to.


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GREEN BAY, Wis. Jimmy Graham began the final season of his $40 million contract on Sunday.

It was not a roaring start.

On the first play of the Seahawks’ 17-9 loss at Green Bay in the season opener on Sunday at Lambeau Field, Russell Wilson threw incomplete to his star tight end. That was largely because Rees Odhiambo, making his first career start at left tackle, got beaten by a Packers pass rusher at the snap.

On the second play of the season, Wilson flipped a lateral outside right to wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Baldwin lost 3 yards because Graham didn’t block the Packer in front of him.

By midway through the first quarter Wilson was under siege behind the malfunctioning offensive line. The Seahawks began keeping Graham, second tight end Luke Willson, even running backs Tre Madden, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise in to help on pass protection. At the end of helping, Graham would peel off into short, dump-off routes.

That and a couple incomplete passes on well-covered plays designed for him are why he had three catches on seven targets for only 8 yards on Sunday.
Wilson threw to Graham on two of the game’s bigger—and for Seattle, more frustrating—plays.

On third and goal from the 3 in the third quarter with the Seahawks down 7-3, Wilson scrambled away from more pressure and threw for the 6-foot-7 Graham in the back right of the end zone. Before the high pass arrived, two Packers hit Graham. The officials, two of them on the spot, did not throw a flag for pass interference.

Carroll said he was told it was because the officials deemed the throw uncatchable out of the back of the end zone. The coach noted he saw the ball land in the white, 3-yard, painted border that is immediately past the end line. Wilson also said he thought Graham got hit early on the play.

The Seahawks got Blair Walsh’s second field goal instead and still trailed 7-6. They never got closer to the lead.

With 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter Seattle trailed 14-6 and had another third and 3, from its own 44. Wilson threw a back-shoulder pass deep down the left sideline to Graham, who had beaten his defender deep in Packers territory. Graham turned to his left, had the ball on both hands—then dropped it before it plopped out of bounds into the triumphant Green Bay sideline.

Instead of being poised for a potential tying touchdown, the Seahawks punted for sixth and final time.
Graham is months from the end of the contract Seattle inherited when it traded two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round pick to New Orleans for him in 2015. He could become a free agent in March. Some have looked ahead to the possibility the Seahawks will decide not to invest multiple years in the 30-year-old tight end and instead use their franchise tag to keep Graham for 2018 on a one-year contract. That would be either at the average of the top five salaries for tight ends next year or for a mandated 120 percent of the 2017 franchise-tag salary for tight ends of $9,865,555, or $11,838,666, whichever is higher.

On Sunday, that looked like a particularly steep cost for production gained.


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Here’s what we learned during and after the Seahawks’ 14th practice of training camp Wednesday, and the last that was open to the public (the Seahawks officially break camp on Thursday).

1. Expect Dewey McDonald to start at weakside linebacker Friday in place of K.J. Wright
There was no more clarity on Wednesday to the status of Wright, who coach Pete Carroll said on Tuesday is away from the area having “a process’’ done to try to fix a nagging knee injury.

However, defensive coordinator Kris Richard said to expect Dewey McDonald to get the start in place of Wright.

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“We will move Dewey McDonald up and we will allow him to get out there and play and to show what he is capable of,’’ Richard said of McDonald, who was mostly a special teams player a year ago after being acquired in a trade with the Raiders. “He is a really good football player, three-position (linebacker) value between base and nickel and has played some safety in the past. He’s a guy that again, we are looking to see who we can trust with consistency and right now this is going to be his opportunity.’’

Terence Garvin has also played some WLB in the team’s nickel defense and he could see more action in that role on Friday with Wright out, as well. Richard said that for now the team wants to keep Garvin in a role of playing strongside linebacker in the base defense and weakside in the nickel allowing him to have to learn just two roles in what is his first season with the Seahawks. Richard said keeping Garvin to two spots for now “allows him to play fast.’’

2. Tramaine Brock will start out at nickelback

Richard also said that Brock, who was signed by the Seahawks on Wednesday, will begin his Seattle career playing the nickel spot.

Brock played mostly outside during his 49ers career but also said he played extensively at nickel in 2015.

“It may be the easiest thing for him right now,’’ Richard said. “We are essentially in the middle of camp. He’s coming in and we want him to have the most immediate impact that he possibly could and it could easily be inside more than outside.’’

3. Mark Glowinski will start at right guard against the Vikings Friday

In what appears to be almost a true rotation right now, Glowinski will get the start at right guard Friday after Oday Aboushi got the start last week against the Chargers, offensive line coach Tom Cable said after practice.

Cable said the right side of the line remains in some flux but that the rest is just about settled — center Justin Britt, left guard Luke Joeckel and left tackle George Fant.

“Really, I think the biggest pressing issue right now is to solidify that right side,’’ Cable said. “I think we’re pretty solid at center left guard, left tackle. So now we just want to make sure the opportunity is there for everybody to compete, get their opportunity on the right side and then we’ll make that decision. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Cable said rookie Ethan Pocic will get some turns at right guard this week as well after playing right tackle last week backing up Germain Ifedi. That sounds like Ifedi basically winning the right tackle job though Cable wouldn’t go quite that far.

“I think he’s probably on schedule,’’ Cable said of Ifedi. “I’m a little disappointed in that week he missed (due to injury from a punch thrown by Frank Clark). I think that would have really kind of been a big deal for him. So we’re trying to play catch up a little bit. But he seems to be doing fine.”
4. Kasen Williams does appear to be moving up the depth chart a little bit

For the second straight day Williams got some significant work with the number one offense at receiver in a week that follows his breakout performance against the Chargers when he caught four passes for 119 yards.

Williams is stepping into the rotation in part in place of Paul Richardson, who was able to do some work today but did not go fully during team drills and seems unlikely to play against the Vikings after hurting his shoulder against the Chargers.

But the receiving corps otherwise is getting healthy as Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett participated fully today. Lockett made a dazzling touchdown catch during an early team drill. Carroll didn’t talk to the media today so there weren’t a lot of player updates but it will be interesting to see if Lockett plays on Friday.

5. Thomas Rawls again did not do team drills

For the second straight practice Rawls participated in some early work and conditioning but then headed into the VMAC for a while and then came back out and watched team drills from the sidelines.
It’s unclear if Rawls is just resting some — which seems likely — or there is some other issue (he did not appear hurt during Sunday’s game). But that had Eddie Lacy again working with the first team offense during team drills and that might foreshadow that the Seahawks will get Lacy work with the first team in Friday’s game against the Vikings. Chris Carson followed Lacy in the rotations and might also be getting set up to play more earlier in the game this week than he did last week.

6. A few more personnel notes:

— Tight end Jimmy Graham was a full participant on Wednesday after getting what appeared to be a rest day on Tuesday. Luke Willson was still out and seems unlikely to play which again might mean significant playing time early for Nick Vannett and Marcus Lucas.

— Jeremy Lane was again the starter at right cornerback in the base defense with Shaquill Griffin then coming in for the nickel, playing outside with Lane shifting inside. So that will likely be the way the Seahawks open on Friday against the Vikings, as well.

— Brock’s addition will obviously shake up the cornerback rotation. DeAndre Elliottt has been running as the backup nickel but it’ll be interesting to see if the team gets Brock out there quickly on Friday. Pierre Desir and Griffin were the backup base cornerbacks today.

— Linebacker Michael Wilhoite did not practice on Wednesday — unclear if he has an injury or maybe getting a veteran’s day off.
— Marcus Smith again practiced fully and despite being listed as a defensive end is working with the linebackers, specifically at SLB.