Monthly Archives: May 2017

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NFL Media’s Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense — just football experiences directly from the source.

Joe Williams

Running back, San Francisco 49ers

Born: Sept. 4, 1993

Experience: Rookie

Interview by Brooke Cersosimo | May 17, 2017

[The main] reason for taking the leave [in college] was understanding my sister’s death. I didn’t have enough time to fully go through the grieving process. I’m 23 years old now and I’ve finally realized that you’ve got to put things on halt, even if it’s something that you love or are passionate about, just to be right in your life. Taking that time away from football definitely allowed me to do that.

Still, it hasn’t truly sunk in that I have this opportunity. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was 6 years old playing Pop Warner. To be in this moment right now is something I’m going to continue to cherish every day when I wake up.
It’s not just diminished in the eyes of the NFL, but in the entire world. Society always thinks of mental health as something you throw blinds at because you hear crazy and you take a step back. For me, with the help of my wife, mom and dad and close family members, it’s a strong thing. We’re a close family and just having that support allowed me to really pick up my spirits, and I really benefited for the long haul that season when I came back.

Always have a chip on my shoulder. There was a lot of scrutiny towards leaving and when I came back and through this draft process. So having that on my mind is a constant motivator to prove everybody wrong.

Just to be honest and tell my journey from start to finish. I didn’t sugarcoat anything just so [NFL teams] knew how genuine everything that I went through was. And so they didn’t have any questions or stipulations of what they’re getting in a player.

Having to learn a playbook that quick and the speed of the game. [Those were some of the takeaways from rookie minicamp], and learning just how in shape you need to be to play at a high level in the NFL.

They’re about winning championships. GM John Lynch won with the Buccaneers. Coach [Kyle] Shanahan was there last year with the Falcons. So they understand what it takes to get to a Lombardi and that stage. Now they’re trying to implement that into our class of rookies and the veterans, so we can go out there this season and do great things.

My role, bottom line, is I’m a rookie and fighting for a starting job. I’m going to take every opportunity that I can to prove to my coaches that I’m reliable and can be trusted on the field.

Someone that the quarterback and offense can rely on to make plays and protect the quarterback and run hard out of the backfield. You know, do it all.

[I most want to play the] Los Angeles [Rams], especially because of what happened in the draft and taking me off their boards.

Besides them, I’d go Seahawks. That defense is crazy. Now being able to go against them as a player as opposed to playing them on “Madden” with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett. It’s going to be such a surreal moment to go up against them on Sunday or Thursday or whatever. That’s something I look forward to.

Getting hit every play. Whether you’re carrying the ball or blocking somebody, it takes a toll on the body.
In the playoffs, we saw Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman being used a lot more with the versatility on offense. It’s an honor to be a part of the organization and be under [Shanahan’s] wing and be implemented into [the offense] that same way.

We talked about the transition process because [Devontae Booker] went through it last year. He’s always been a good mentor to me, someone that I can learn from. [The biggest thing] is just the time you have to put in to sustain your time in the NFL. Now football is your profession.

We just started going with the veterans Monday, and we watch film with the running backs coach, too. Even when I was in the hotel, I’d spend two or three hours going over film and old plays. Just knowing everything for the next day because coach is always asking questions and keeping us on our toes to own everything. I’m just trying to master the playbook right now.

To be in the Hall of Fame. To have my bust in Canton, Ohio. I always looked up to Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson when I was young watching football. I want to be that overall figure for other kids when they see me running for touchdowns on TV. That’s definitely what I want my legacy to be.

Overall, I think my favorite [movie] is “[The] Shawshank Redemption.”

[Utah-UCLA] was a good game, especially being my second game from coming back from the hiatus I took. I always watched Reggie Bush and Vince Young when they played at the Rose Bowl, and then all the other guys like O.J. [Simpson] on that field. I just wanted to leave a mark. I didn’t know I was going to set a record pre-game, but I was glad once the game was finally over that I made some history on that field.

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Much of the Seattle Seahawks offseason has been focused on building depth on their roster.

The team won the NFC West last year and lost just two starters in free agency: linebacker Mike Morgan and right tackle Garry Gilliam.

Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider talk often about finding players with unique attributes. That philosophy is part of what led them to draft 6-foot-6 defensive tackle Malik McDowell in the second round. They could have gone cornerback or offensive line with the 35th pick. But the Seahawks didn’t see another pass-rushing, three-technique defensive tackle like McDowell in the draft.

The Seahawks suffered few injuries last season, but the one to Earl Thomas proved crippling. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
The philosophy also presents a challenge in building depth. Last year, when Earl Thomas went down, the Seahawks’ pass defense fell apart. Seattle allowed 12 touchdowns with just one interception when Thomas was sidelined. His unique attributes are his range and instincts. Put simply, it’s nearly impossible to find another safety who can come close to playing at Thomas’ level in the Seahawks’ scheme.

The same can be said for other unique players such as Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman.

Back in March, I asked Carroll if building depth is especially difficult for the Seahawks, given his philosophy of finding players with such unique attributes.

“If we were trying to make everybody like them, yeah because they are one-of-a-kind players,” he said. “But we see attributes from other players who play like them. We don’t expect guys to do the same as somebody else. We expect them to be who they are and then we just try to figure it out. Fortunately, our staff is very experienced and been around enough to have enough in our arsenal to I think adapt and adjust to guys.”

Thomas missed five games and the playoffs last season. Bennett missed five games but was back for the postseason. Russell Wilson didn’t miss a start but played through three injuries. Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Kam Chancellor and Tyler Lockett each missed time due to injuries.

Overall though, when compared to other teams around the league, the Seahawks were relatively healthy. Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric is described as follows:

We are able to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves (No. 3 wide receiver, nickel corner, etc.) matter more than injuries to benchwarmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is based not strictly on whether the player was active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player’s game status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable, or probable).

Based on AGL, the Seahawks were the fifth-healthiest team in the NFL last season. They are one of only two teams (the Cincinnati Bengals) to finish in the top five in terms of AGL in each of the past two seasons.

In other words, their injury luck has actually been pretty good.

The outcome of next season will be partially based on whether they can avoid injuries at key spots. And if they can’t, the Seahawks hope their depth will offer more solutions than it did in 2016.

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In the sixth round of the NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Cincinnati defensive back Mike Tyson.

Tyson played safety in college, but the Seahawks are going to first try him at cornerback. When general manager John Schneider was asked why he felt comfortable projecting a position change for Tyson, one of the first things he mentioned was arm length.

“His feet, his length,” Schneider said. “He has 32 1/2-inch arms. He’s almost 6-feet-2. He has really cool feet, really good movement skills, feel for routes. And then the ball skills, being able to reach for the ball upon contact.”

Thirty-two has become a key number for the Seahawks. Since coach Pete Carroll and Schneider took over in 2010, the team has drafted eight projected cornerbacks. All eight have had arms that are at least 32 inches long, and seven of them have been 6-foot or taller

Seahawks’ Drafted Cornerbacks Since 2010
2010 Fourth Walter Thurmond 5-foot-11 32 3/4
2011 Fifth Richard Sherman 6-foot-3 32
2011 Sixth Byron Maxwell 6-foot 33 1/2
2012 Sixth Jeremy Lane 6-foot 32
2013 Fifth Tharold Simon 6-foot-2 32 3/4
2015 Fifth Tye Smith 6-foot 32
2017 Third Shaquill Griffin 6-foot 32 3/8
2017 Sixth Mike Tyson 6-foot-1 32 1/2
What’s interesting about the group is none of the eight were taken before the third round. This year’s third-rounder, Shaquill Griffin (6-foot, 32 3/8-inch arms), was the earliest cornerback selection since Carroll and Schneider have been directing the Seahawks.

Carroll believes he has an advantage. If guys have the right measurables at cornerback, he believes he can coach them up. And as that list shows, he’s been right most of the time.

When Carroll coached the New England Patriots in 1997, he didn’t have much say with the draft, and the team took a 5-9 cornerback named Chris Canty in the first round.

“We took a corner that wasn’t very fast, that had short arms, that was about 5-foot-9,” Carroll said during an interview last year. “That ain’t the kind of guy that I like. It couldn’t be farther and more obvious that that was not representative of the way I coach. I wanted big guys back then.”

The Seahawks teach a step-kick technique and want their cornerbacks to be able to disrupt receivers within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. And given that the Seahawks are a single-high safety defense, their corners prioritize the fade down the sideline above all else. Long arms help with both of those things.
Of course, if you look at Tyson’s official combine measurements, he’s listed with 31 3/4-inch arms. Arm length can vary from the Senior Bowl to combine to pro days. But NFL teams can do their own measurements when they meet with players. That’s why Schneider said the team had Tyson at 32 1/2.

DeShawn Shead is coming off a significant knee injury, and Richard Sherman was the subject of trade talks this offseason. The Seahawks needed to add cornerbacks in this year’s draft. Griffin is one. Tyson will get a shot at being another. And Carroll said third-round pick Delano Hill (6-1, 32 1/8-inch arms), who played safety at Michigan, could get a look on the outside as well.

At other positions, the Seahawks have shown they’re willing to make exceptions on certain measurables — whether it’s height at quarterback or size at free safety.

But this year’s selections were another reminder that long arms at cornerback is a must.