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Let your 'Riq flag fly: Woolen could pull-in Defensive Player of the Year?
Seahawks All-22 shows Tariq Woolen on verge of greatness
Though some experts have found weaknesses that were potentially exploited from Tariq Woolen’s rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks, all of them agree that Pete Carroll has once again stolen a star defensive back in the fifth round or later.
We thought those days left with Tharold Simon and Tre Flowers.
But hours after I posted my first article on Woolen this week—the most popular Seaside Joe of the week so far because that’s how much you love him—I watched and posted in the last bonus Joe, a clip about Woolen from another expert, one who clearly believes he’s now watched the next Richard Sherman.
And even Sherman has gone on record saying that he thinks Woolen is going to be better than he was. Willie McGinest said the same thing about Woolen “reminding” him of Sherman in the middle of last season and that was still before the rookie had reached his peak first-year potential at the end of his first campaign.
Well, that snippet about Woolen from the All_22_Films YouTube channel was released as a full blown 32-minute breakdown on Wednesday that is must-watch YT.
I’m not sure what to call this analyst because he doesn’t give a name, just “All_22_Films” (he could use “brand coaching” by Brett Kollmann), but from watching six games he sees Woolen as more than just a freak athlete…although being a 6’4 cornerback with ball skills who runs a 4.26 is enough on its own to make an NFL roster usually. The expert also gives credit to Woolen for having an advanced football IQ, which is mind-boggling given his background as a wide receiver out of UTSA (where would Woolen’s development be if he was recruited to play cornerback at LSU, for example?) and it was a point made by Seaside Joe readers earlier that we may only be scratching the surface of what’s possible for Riq Woolen.
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In some ways, cornerbacks are like the “ghosts” of football film because they can have the biggest impact on the field just by not being directly involved with the play. I feel like I got 20 years older in “football brain” just by watching Sherman from 2011-2014, because the most incredible stat wasn’t just that he had 24 interceptions in his first four seasons.
It was that he led the NFL in interceptions while also being the least-targeted full-time starting cornerback in the NFL.
Quarterbacks quickly learned not to throw at Sherman and yet somehow he posted eight interceptions in 2012, then led the league with another eight in 2013. As we see in the film and on the stat sheet, Woolen was targeted less often as the season went on but he still tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions.
There was the Jets game in Week 17 when Mike White threw 10 passes at Woolen, but those attempts only gained 53 yards on five catches and it was in part because of Woolen that at least one pass was poorly thrown in Quandre Diggs’ direction for an interception.
But look at how many yards Woolen allowed in the seven games before that: 69!
In the interest of calming down the giggles from the back, let’s just say that Woolen held teams to under 10 yards per game from Week 9-Week 16. The Seahawks definitely had defensive issues in their wild card loss to the 49ers (Woolen was blamed for 94 yards allowed on four receptions and it is said that his poor run defense was also a problem exploited by Kyle Shanahan) but that was last season.
What if…Riq Woolen is going to get better from that experience? From all three experiences against the 49ers. I don’t think Woolen’s pre-season candidacy as a Defensive Player of the Year nominee is anywhere near preposterous.
Maybe it’s because Seattle’s run defense was just that bad in 2022. Maybe it’s because Pete hasn’t had a really good defense since 2016. Maybe it’s that we have a hard time envisioning the Seahawks as anything other than an “offensive team” because that’s sort of the side they started leaning towards since the franchise began losing their All-Pro and Pro Bowl players on the other side of the ball.
But I don’t see anyone talking about the Seattle Seahawks secondary as potentially being the best in the NFL this season.
I see the Seattle Seahawks secondary as potentially being the best in the NFL this season.
What could happen if teams start to gameplan away from 2022’s leader in interceptions and now they’re throwing the ball at Seattle’s highest-drafted defensive back since Shawn Springs in 1997? Or the cornerback who Pete cited as “the standout” of OTAs this offseason?
I don’t intend to put too much pressure on Devon Witherspoon and Mike Jackson, but that might be a better 2-3 than most defense’s 1-2.
I can’t find the exact link to the research, but I might be the only writer who has been covering the fact that teams just aren’t taking very many shots at cornerback in the draft and especially not in the NFC. Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys, a second round pick in 2020, is one of the few standouts in the conference.
Of the few who have been drafted by NFC teams in 2020, 2021, and 2022 in the first three rounds, most are not starters. Just start by looking at the NFC West:
If experience and draft pedigree matter, then the Rams and Cardinals will both be in contention for having the worst cornerbacks unit in the NFL. I’ll even give L.A. more credit than OurLads depth chart because Cobie Durant (not pictured) is probably their best cornerback now and he was a fourth round rookie in 2022 who had about 400 snaps.
The 49ers spent a lot of money to get Charvarius Ward, but their depth is definitely lacking, especially compared to Seattle’s depth; beyond the three mentioned, there’s Coby Bryant, Tre Brown, Artie Burns, and I’ll add Julian Love and Jerrick Reed as versatile options in the slot.
The NFC has some solid number one cornerbacks such as Marshon Lattimore (NO), Jaycee Horn (CAR), A.J. Terrell (ATL), Jaire Alexander (GB), Darius Slay (PHI), but I don’t think many that can go 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4 like the Seahawks could do if Witherspoon is even close to the player he was projected to be coming out of Illinois.
Going further, not many teams had arguably one of the top-three cornerbacks in the conference and then made a draft pick that has the potential to make him the second-best cornerback on the defense. The Cowboys paired Diggs with Stephon Gilmore, the Eagles re-signed James Bradberry next to Slay, the Bucs have Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis, but anything Seattle could do to force more throws AT their top cornerback might even propel Woolen into being a top-tier Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Sherman never came close to winning the award, only finishing with votes once when he finished fifth in 2013 as the NFL leader in interceptions. He lost to Luke Kuechly, but also ranked behind teammate Earl Thomas, who was third. However, that was a different kind of football that valued different kinds of stats…could an inside or off-ball linebacker win DPOY in the near future?
Gilmore won the award in 2019, picking off six passes as a member of the Patriots, beating out 19 sacks by Chandler Jones, 19.5 sacks by Shaq Barrett, and 14.5 sacks by T.J. Watt. Maybe those guys kind of shared too many voters and Gilmore snuck into first place. Now the voting rules are a little bit different—you don’t have to just vote for one guy, you make a top-three—and I think Woolen will get a lot of consideration if he picks off 10 or more passes.
In a 17-game season and the potential to see 550-650 passes against the defense, I don’t think double-digit interceptions is out of the realm of possibility for Riq Woolen.
That’s before I’ve talked about where Quandre Diggs, Julian Love, and Jamal Adams (if/when he happens) rank among all NFL safeties. That’s before getting into whether or not Seattle will play better defenses and make it harder for offensive coordinators to know how to beat the Seahawks. That’s before whether Seattle will have a better pass rush and if Clint Hurtt will evolve into a better defensive coordinator in year two. That’s even before we say…Pete Carroll is the greatest defensive backs coach in football history.
I butter up the Seahawks, you butter me up with a Regular Joe paid subscription. That’s the deal we make!
It’s the Seaside Joe mantra/model/mission statement that we consistently keep Seahawks coverage realistic and rational at all times. However, every time I see another expert give a glowing review of Woolen’s rookie season and know that he doesn’t have a bias towards Seattle, I eagerly accept the opportunity to be irrational and to let go of all the reasons to be skeptical of getting back to the days of the Legion of Boom.
There are six days until training camp. Do we really need to be rational?
The Seahawks went 11 years between day three draft picks that have felt as gratifying and exciting as Richard Sherman and Tariq Woolen. I don’t want to be rational. I want to be a Seahawks fan.
How to defend Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf? Hint: You Don’t
Earlier today during the 1600 Celebration Article, I promised you tips on how to throw against Lockett and Metcalf from an NFL defensive back. Well, here you go: Formre NFL safety Tre Boston talked to Steve Smith about what it’s like to plan against Lockett and Metcalf, exploring how Lockett is actually the deep threat that defenses need to worry about while DK is the 50/50 danger.
The more football content I watch on YouTube, the more suggestions I get for videos with under 1-2k views. The Woolen breakdown is at 354 views and the Smith video is at 1.9k. So I’ll keep sharing all these gems as I find them, as I think the best content is almost always the unseen content.