Tasteful Filmography: Bradley McDougald is most excellent

Following consecutive losses to open the regular season, the buzz surrounding the Seattle Seahawks was strictly negative. The kingdom, from which once emanated a daunting aura, had fallen. The Prince of Amukamara had charged and the walls surrounding a fanbase’s psyche had crumbled.

Until we witnessed a win, of course! Oh how good it feels to be good again!

While optimism swings quicker than Pete Carroll’s throwing arm when a horrible challenge opportunity arises, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about Seattle’s offense after just three weeks. If the gameplan is conducive to the signal caller being quick and decisive, the team will move the ball. Russell Wilson is too talented for this strategy to be completely ineffective. It just remains to be seen how consistently the anthropomorphic blob of mediocrity known as Brian Schottenheimer, and his stringent overlord, will set the team up for success.

The defense is a different story.

The unit has looked (for the most part) pretty solid. Ranked 14th overall by Football Outsider’s DVOA after two weeks, the team hemorrhaged yards on the ground to the NFL’s best running back, Tavon Austin. Ezekiel Elliott had a decent day as well, racking up 127 big ones at a clip of 7.9 yards per carry, which is clearly the most telling stat when evaluating rushing success. Through the air, Dak Prescott found little success thanks to a secondary headlined by the high profile story and flexing of Earl Thomas the Third.

While Earl is my father and your father and without question Jerry Jones’ father, his running mate has been equally impressive. Bradley McDougald’s play has allowed Seattle to still boast the best safety duo in the NFL.

McDougald made some early noise with two picks and nearly a third in the Week 1 loss to the Broncos and followed up with a solid Week 2 as well. After a third straight game consisting of quality play, it is time to talk about the best Bradley that Seattle has housed since Gus (who, like Percy Harvin, only did one or two things wrong).

McDougald put on such a clinic for much of Sunday that we can create a highlight reel out of just the first quarter. So that’s what we’re going to do.

On 2nd and 5, Seattle drops back into a Cover 3 zone while Bobby Wagner and Austin Calitro cover Deonte Thompson and Geoff Swaim beyond the sticks. With nobody initially open, Dak Prescott progresses through his reads to noted guy-who-is-only-good-against-the-Seahawks Tavon Austin in the flat. McDougald begins to break on Austin right as Prescott hits the top of his drop. He flattens the wide-receivunning-back two yards behind the line of scrimmage, creating a third and long that Seattle just couldn’t wait to fuck up with a 12th man on the field. Without McDougald breaking so quickly on this throw, Austin likely picks up the first down.

The ensuing 3rd and short is our next highlight.

There are two takeaways from this play:

  1. Bobby Wagner is very good and fast but that should not make you discount McDougald easily knifing past the center and helping take down Zeke in the backfield.
  2. Why do teams so often run in tight formations against eight-man boxes in obvious rushing situations?

McDougald isn’t responsible for the run’s intended gap, but if Wagner merely redirects the run instead of entirely blowing it up, Bradley’s instant penetration will clean it up immediately.

(Also here’s a fun thing about that play: Tedric Thompson was playing single high safety with Earl Thomas and McDougald both in the box. Thompson played 21% of all defensive snaps, while both starters never left the field. Seattle is finding ways to work the sophomore DB into the lineup because you obviously don’t just sit a generational talent like Tedric Thompson.)

Two possessions later, on 3rd and 3, McDougald flashes once again.

McDougald covers Swaim on the right hash, who ends up being the Cowboys’ leading receiver on the day (which isn’t saying much). Swaim stems his route just past the first down marker and runs a shallow crosser towards the left sideline. McDougald gets his hands on the tight end right as he begins to change direction and never leaves the poor, unsuspecting oaf’s hip until reaching the opposing showers and Bradley realizing that being the second Seattle safety seen in the Cowboys locker room might not be a great look.

Prescott puts the ball in a good enough spot to convert, but McDougald dives and swats the projectile away, creating an exciting opportunity for Jaron Brown to annihilate the punter.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for McDougald. He looked a bit slow to react on one or two of Elliott’s long runs (there were several of them), but I can forgive him for that since I identify as a lazy sack of shit.

On a play where his sluggish initial reaction contributed to Zeke springing another huge gain, McDougald decided that I am the only one worthy of insults, and did this:

After breaking through an arm tackle by Frank Clark, Elliott escapes a reaching Mychal Kendricks and flies past a pancaked Jarran Reed — Zach Martin is a bad man — into the second level. McDougald is completely out of position, awarding Zeke another 20+ yards on the rush.

“Fear not!” — Bradley McDougald, probably

The determined safety regains his balance and, with a little help from Justin Coleman, catches up to the rolling runner and forces a fumble à la Byron Maxwell. What is originally an ugly play for McDougald turns into essentially a game-sealing moment.

Kam Chancellor has set the standard for strong safety play abnormally high over the better part of the last decade and it’s unreasonable for us to expect McDougald to come in and be the dominant monolith that Bam Bam was. With that said, I have no problem proclaiming that Bradley is and will continue to be one of the league’s most underrated gems. With three turnovers forced through three games and a bevy of other splash plays flying into your optical spheres on a weekly basis, the versatile defensive back deserves a hell of a lot more credit than he is receiving.