Monday, March 2, 2009

Cole Was Seattle's Number One Priority

by: William P. Tomisser

As the story breaks about our signing Colin Cole, some interesting things are emerging about the signing. Most of us had concluded that the Cole signing was Ruskell missing on the Canty sweepstakes and taking Cole as a second option.

Now, it appears as if that's an incorrect conclusion to draw from yesterday's signing of the big defensive tackle from Green Bay.

It appears that Cole was Seattle's number one priority in free agency according to Clare Farnsworth who has written an article suggesting that Seattle had Cole targeted all along. Green Bay tried hard to re-sign him before free agency started and they apparently had figured him to be a part of their change to a 3 - 4 defense. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy listed retaining his services as the team's top priority in free agency. Nice touch to spoil Green Bay's day for once.

To Continue . . .

Seattle, on the other hand, wanted a big body to anchor the middle of their defensive line and apparently weren't sold yet on Red Bryant being that guy. Also, even though Chris Canty was younger and maybe even a better all-around player, he's only a shade over 300 lbs and Seattle wasn't buying into any more smallish run pluggers so they elected to pursue Cole first. While it's not absolutely clear what the sequence of events were, it's been reported that the Seahawks were the ones who called off the Canty visit after signing Cole, showing they were not intending on signing both.

Along with Eric William's revelation in the Seahawks Insider that perhaps the Seahawks plan to move Mebane over to the the three-tech position as our primary internal pass rusher/disruptor, it's beginning to become clear that the Cole signing was much more than Ruskell just signing who was left over on the defensive tackle market. It appears as if that was the plan from the outset of free agency and Seattle is sitting just where they want to be with respect to their defensive line.

Farnsworth talks about McCarthy's assertion that Cole is a versatile player who could play nose tackle for them as well as having the ability to bounce outside and play defensive end:

Cole, 28, now brings that versatility to a Seahawks defense that ranked 30th in the NFL last season and a line that had problems keeping blockers off middle linebacker and leading tackler Lofa Tatupu.

As one league scout put it when asked about Cole, "Not overly athletic, but athletic enough. He keeps the linebackers clean."

What Seattle wanted more than anything in a defensive tackle was to have someone who was big and strong enough to keep linebackers off Tatupu playing alongside a tackle who was quick enough and had the ability to mount a pass rush and disrupt the backfield of their opponent. As they say, there's more than one way to skin a cat and Tim Ruskell might have just showed again why he's the man when it comes to finding talent and fitting it together to make it effective without overspending on big-name, high-cost talent to make it work.

With everyone assuming that Seattle was searching for a three-tech tackle because they had their one-tech in Mebane and Bryant, who thought they would shop for another one-tech and move Mebane to the three-tech position? Chris Sullivan expounded on the subject in a previous piece for SA that is pretty convincing in arguing that Mebane could be that three-tech guy we've been searching for--and if that's true, it would make yesterday's signing a stroke of genius.

Although we still need to see the results on the field, at least on paper it seems as if it might work and work very well. While Cole isn't what we were looking for as an interior pass rusher, he seems very well suited to being our immovable run stopper who will clog up the middle and keep blockers off the linebackers so they can do their job. He excelled at plugging the hole and keeping Green Bay's linebackers clean when he played for the Packers and that was what he was known for, hence his value to the Packers as their nose tackle in their switch to the 3 - 4 defense.

The one-tech position doesn't require a fast player with good speed or a quick first step, it requires a big dude who can hang in there and not be moved out of the hole. Cole's a big dude at 330 lbs. While Mebane could do that too, he's capable of so much more and this move will allow us to use his explosive first step and long arms to get through the line and disrupt the opposing backfield. Mebane seems to have been underutilized at the one-tech position, and moving him to the three-tech also solves both our biggest problem and biggest need on defense if the plan is effective.

With Red Bryant and Colin Cole manning the one-tech part of the rotation and Mebane manning the three-tech position with an occasional spell from Terrill and/or whomever we sign or draft as our fifth defensive tackle, we could have a pretty good group of defensive tackles to enter the season with despite not signing a big name or even someone known to us much before yesterday. It also means that we'll probably be looking for a different type of defensive tackle in the draft if we do draft one and we're much less likely to look at someone like Raji.

From the reaction of Green Bay's coaches, they are pretty disappointed that they couldn't re-sign Cole and that's a pretty fair testimonial that he's at the very least a productive player who was valued by them. Let's not lament the fact that we got a defensive tackle for $5 million guaranteed -- instead of the $17.5 million that New York reportedly guaranteed Canty -- who will probably fit our need better as a run stuffing one-tech tackle, allowing us to move Mebane over to be the guy we thought we were looking for all along as an interior pass rusher. Like I said, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

I know some of you Addicts weren't too impressed with the Cole signing at first glance. Maybe now that more is known about the reasoning behind the signing and how we expect to utilize our defensive tackles this season, some of you might have a different take on how much Cole can help us and how good a signing this is for us.


Bill T