Brian Billick's thoughts for April 13
Billick examines the draft needs of the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals and looks at running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Kendall Hunter.
Seattle Seahawks | Arizona Cardinals Jacquizz Rodgers | Kendall Hunter
Seahawks could look to improve pass rush
The Seattle Seahawks had a great run in 2010 with a most unlikely playoff run stemming from a 7-9 record that was able to win the anemic NFC West.
As exciting as making the playoffs was for the sub-.500 team, come the draft they may wish they had let someone else go dropping from what would have been the eighth overall pick to the 25th.
No team had more turnover in personnel than did the Seahawks with better than 200-plus roster moves made from the time Pete Carroll took over as the headman.
That turnover yielded some unlikely benefits when they signed wide receiver Mike Williams and gave him another chance after Detroit cut the 2005 10th overall pick, and no one was willing to pick him up. They also picked up important veteran presence in wide receiver Brandon Stokley.
Last year's draft resulted in two solid starters from the first round by way of offensive tackle Russell Okung and sagely safety Earl Thomas. Second-round wide receiver Golden Tate has also shown signs of being a contributor.
In 2011, Seattle will have just two picks in the first two days of the draft after trading this year's third-round pick to San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst.
Even with all those moves, Seattle has plenty to get done this offseason. Brandon Mebane and Raheem Brock are both free agents along the defensive line and Seattle had difficulty generating a pass rush with out using their nickel blitzes.
They might also look at the offensive tackles with the 25th pick because current starting right tackle William Robinson is a free agent.
Seattle may have a tough time improving on its 7-9 record with the NFC East being its out-of-division opponents along with the AFC North. They will also have to play both Atlanta and Chicago.
Cardinals need complete overhaul
The Arizona Cardinals did more than just fall out of the playoffs last year at 5-11. They totally changed the personality of their team with the loss of players like Kurt Warner, Carlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and Anquan Boldin.
In 2009, the Cardinals were 28th in the league in rushing attempts. When Warner retired, coach Ken Wisenhunt wanted to recraft the Cardinals in the image of the Pittsburgh Steelers teams he was part of prior to coming to Arizona.
The problem is with no presence at quarterback and a diminished defense, they ended up last in the NFL in rushing in 2010 and 29th the league in total defense.
Whisenhunt has brought in Ray Horton from the Steelers to be his new defensive coordinator and install the 3-4 zone blitz concepts of Dick Lebeau that former defensive coordinator Billy Davis could not quite piece together.
Perennial Pro Bowl selection Adrian Wilson can give him a familiar presence at Safety but interior defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Darnell Docket, both of whom are effective players, but are up the field pass rushers, are not the anchors that system needs inside.
Outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, both former Steelers, have reached the point in their career where they just don’t have the effectiveness needed from those positions either.
In short, the Cardinals are in total rebuild mode and have the fifth pick of the draft to begin that process.
Typically, the second round can be a real trap round for poor picks, but the Cardinals have done well over the last few years with picks like Dansby, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Deuce Lutui, Campbell, Boldin, Wilson, Dockett and last year's pick Daryl Washington.
They must find an answer at quarterback, but with the fifth overall pick that may be to rich given this year's group of quarterbacks. They could also use a tight end, but that is likely to come from the later rounds as well.
Defensively they have to go about totally rebuilding, both up front and in the back end, to better staff the style of defense they want to play.
They get a break by being in the anemic NFC West, but their out-of-division opponents in 2011 are out of the stacked and physical NFC East and AFC North.
Rodgers a strong inside runner
Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers is only 5-foot-5 7/8, but carries the majority of his 196 pounds in his legs. His thick trunks give him that bowling ball effect on the field and often times, it takes multiple tacklers to bring him down. He is drawing obvious comparisons to Maurice Jones Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Surprisingly enough, Rodgers may be a better inside runner than outside. His 4.64 speed is not extraordinarily fast, but he has excellent quickness and acceleration that make him a great inside back. Additionally, he uses his lack of height to his advantage as the defense often loses him behind the offensive line, and before they know it, Rodgers has shot through a hole and is speeding down the open field. He shows excellent start/start jukes and rarely takes a hit square on.
In pass protection, he often tries to cut down rushers with a chop block, but in the NFL he will want to establish a counter block or defenders will anticipate and jump over his blocks on their way to the quarterback. He does show adequate hands out of the backfield to be an impact in the passing game but more in the flat and screen game than downfield.
I like Rodgers to go in a system with an established running back that will take the majority of the work load and allow him to steadily increase his responsibility — similar to MJD when Fred Taylor showed him the ropes of the NFL.
Hunter compares to Brian Westbrook
Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter had tremendous sophomore and senior seasons, but sandwiched an injury-riddled junior year between. If he can stay healthy, he may be one of the steals of the draft.
I compare Hunter to Brian Westbrook in the fact that he can be a third-down back right away and has the potential to work himself into a starting role as a featured back. When watching Hunter at the Senior Bowl, I saw a competitive player who was physical, quick and passionate.
He performed the best and showed he was possibly the most complete running back of all at the Senior Bowl. He was really quick into the hole and ran physical when needed but also was an excellent route runner out of the backfield. Like Westbrook, Hunter will be a matchup nightmare for defenses in the screen game and in man coverage for teams trying to cover him with just a linebacker.
While he may be a little undersized at 5-foot-7 1/4 and 199 pounds, Hunter proved his durability his senior year by having nine 100-yard rushing games and carrying the ball 271 times.
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