The Seattle Seahawks are not done collecting wide receivers. I find it hard to believe they won't be adding another veteran at some point.
Head coach Pete Carroll has been fairly outspoken about Antonio Brown and/or Josh Gordon being very viable options for them at the appropriate time -- Brown is facing an eight-game suspension while Gordon is seeking reinstatement to the league -- and consider quarterback Russell Wilson fully on board as well.
I had the chance to do a one-on-one Zoom interview with Wilson this week, and came away convinced the Seahawks are not done yet trying to go all-in to win another Super Bowl this season. While Wilson generally watches his words very closely, and is never one to rock the boat, I couldn't help but come away from our conversation convinced that he's also a little taken aback by the fact he has never received an MVP vote ("Maybe one day I'll get one," he quipped at one point).
And one also couldn't help but think that Wilson has heard the pleas from oh so many in the analytics community to "Let Russ cook" more on early downs and early in games, when the Seahawks have tended be very conservative with the play calling.
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Wilson was effusive in his praise of his current group of offensive weapons -- tight end Greg Olsen might be in his final season but is earning rave reviews -- but the QB was also animated by the prospect of adding Brown and/or Gordon to the mix.
"Josh came in with us last year," Wilson told me, "and he had such an amazing energy in terms of how much he loves the game. I pray for him all the time. That's my guy and hopefully he can play in the league again, because I know he's a special, special person who has gone through a lot and he lost his brother last year. He had a pretty heavy year, and at the same time, some of the plays that he can make, man, he was one of the best receivers in the game. He was really catching fire with us early when we were able to get him the ball.
"And then Antonio, I was able to work out with him this offseason and he's one of the best receivers of all time. So anytime you can get a guy like that, you are always interested in that, for sure. We want play-makers for sure. And the more play-makers you get, the harder it is [to defend]."
With the array of options to call on to catch the football possibly expanding even further, it's fair to wonder whether the scope of Seattle's offense might be as well. Might this finally be the time where the Seahawks come out chucking the ball, using the pass to further establish the run, and show a more dynamic approach to attacking opposing defenses? Will they let Russ cook more?
"It's not just about me, it's about all the weapons we have, too," Wilson said. "We have a lot of great weapons, obviously, D.K. [Metcalf], Tyler [Lockett], Greg. Jacob Hollister had a great year last year. Chris Carson can catch. We've got a lot of players who can really play ball. [Will] Dissly had a great year last year until he got hurt.
"We were lighting up the scoreboard, and we were doing it in a lot of different ways. You know I went to Wisconsin, so I don't mind handing it off. But at the same time I also think that it's fun to have the ball in your hands and to make plays, to be honest with you."
Wilson deserves serious MVP attention every year, and perhaps this year the voting will reflect his greatness. Over the past three seasons he has thrown 100 touchdown passes (15 more than anyone else in this span) to just 23 interceptions (tied with Tom Brady for first with a 1.5 interception %) yet is just eighth in passing attempts since 2017, behind guys like Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, Derek Carr and Philip Rivers. Wilson has proven to be worth at least 10 wins a season, and never misses a snap, while being one of the most elusive QBs in NFL history. Come on, Seahawks: Let Russ cook!
Matt Rhule could surprise
This is a less-than-ideal training camp scenario for any coach, let alone any rookie NFL head coach. Even more so, perhaps, for a coach making the jump from college who hasn't been around the pro game as much in recent years.
All of this, however, will only serve to Matt Rhule look even more like a unicorn than he already is. After turning around Temple, and literally saving the football program at Baylor, he has seen tougher chores than this before. Everyone I talk to who knows him well or has coached with him or played for him raves about his ability to create a foundation and steadily build, and even this COVID-19-challenged NFL summer I believe will serve to bring out the best in the Panthers head coach.
Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins has a unique perspective on rebuilds; he was there at Temple as a player as Rhule made his mark on that program, and he ended up in the NFL with Buffalo, watching firsthand as coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane, who came from Carolina, have made the Bills go from playoff-absent afterthoughts to a contending team in short order.
I caught up with Dawkins recently after he signed his big contract extension with Buffalo, and here is what he had to say about Rhule, and the similarities with what's transpired with the Bills:
"Yes, it is so scary how similar it is, from college to the pros with my coaches," Dawkins told me. "When I look at McDermott I see Matt Rhule from college. He came in, he sorted out everything he had to sort out, he moved around pieces, he made everything fit in somewhat of a right way for it to work. And the guys who were going to buy in would be here, and the guys who weren't, weren't. It's just extremely scary how similar. Even at Temple, it took a couple of years to get this thing going, and then once it got going we were off."
Dez makes sense for Ravens
Dez Bryant could still make sense in Baltimore's tight-end heavy offense at some point, though he left his workout Thursday without any deal forthcoming. From what I gather it was a solid enough workout, but not one to where Baltimore felt a need to part with a youngster now to sign him. "Just seeing where he is at and keeping our options open," is how one team source described it.
At this stage of his career, it's about intermediate routes and boxing out and using his frame and being like a power forward getting a lob down in the paint to keep the chains moving. The Ravens dealt Hayden Hurst and are short at tight end, when they often deploy two and even three at a time. Dez is strong and willing, and they have a bunch of small twitchy guys already.
As a secondary option in the red zone and a hybrid move tight end/WR, I like it a lot. If he doesn't hold up, no big thing. No risk. Plus, Willie Snead was the dean of that position group, and he's all of 27 years old. The tight ends are pups, too. Give Lamar Jackson a legit veteran presence among the pass catchers. Dallas-based receivers coach David Robinson has worked with Bryant for years and prepared him for the workout. Robinson worked extensively with Ravens rookie receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche, as well as Ravens backup QB Robert Griffin III, and has a strong knowledge of Baltimore's offense.
"He's going to provide you with a big target across the middle," Robinson told me, "especially for a team that likes to run the ball and use a lot of tight ends like Baltimore, you'll see him in a lot of man-to-man matchups, and he's going to do a good job of winning those 50/50 jump balls, comebacks, out routes, stops -- things he was asked to do in Dallas and make a living off of. I think this is a great situation for him here in Baltimore."
More NFL insider notes
- Nobody knows receivers -- how to identify them and implement them and coach them up -- like 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, but the rate of attrition in this camp already at the position is giving me some pause. Counting too much on too many kid wideouts can be dangerous, and sometimes when injuries start running through a position group this early in the process, it doesn't stop in-season, either. Could see waiver claims and signings still to come at that spot for the reigning NFC champs ...
- Everything out of Cleveland seems to be pointing to a monster season for Odell Beckham Jr. I wouldn't bet against it in the least ...
- Not sure what Joe Judge is trying to prove in New York, but he's quickly traveling a road that is paved with past failures. Everyone knows you worked for The Hoodie. And everyone knows it doesn't really matter anymore. Uber-discipline and making coaches and players run gassers and taking the name off the practice jerseys when you haven't even had a chance to figure out who everyone is yet isn't too cute by half. Drawing attention to yourself ain't the way to go, especially not in Gotham and especially not with the Frankenstein roster you have. Less is more ...