“I’ve always wanted to do something more than football and play football. This has kind of been something that has become a purpose for me in my life, shedding light on the issue and sharing my story. Whatever I can do to kind of move the ball forward in the discussion.”
“He’s genuine. He works, and he backs up what he says. He’s so well regarded around here.”
Coach Ryan Wilhite
The newest Redskin
Sean Welsh, being the last of Washington’s undrafted free agents to sign his contract, is the newest Redskin.
At 6’3”, 306 pounds, he is an impressive offensive lineman who is extremely versatile. He was asked to play all over the line at Iowa and did so with ease. Welsh looks and plays like those prototypical Hawkeye lineman - very well rounded both in the run and passing game. In the NFL, it is likely that Welsh could play either guard or center.
It was a bit of a surprise, when the last of 256 names had been called in April’s NFL draft, that Sean Welsh’s name was still on the board. Most pundits expected him to be drafted somewhere from the 4th to the 7th round.
Sean Welsh’s draft day disappointment may turn out to be the Redskins’ gain.
It’s very possible that Sean Welsh may turn out to be the answer to Washington’s need at an interior offensive line position. In fact, that may be why Sean Welsh decided to come to Washington.
The battle with depression
Long before the draft, Sean Welsh made headlines when he talked publicly about his battle with depression. I remember reading articles several months ago, so I think it’s fair to say that Welsh’s story went international.
Like every other player trying to impress NFL teams at the Senior Bowl this week, Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh has a mission.
Welsh has a message, too. That he’s better. That he’s grateful. That if anyone out there feels lost, lonely or down, it’s OK to speak up. It’s OK to ask for help. Welsh did it once. And this past summer, he decided it was time to encourage others to do the same.
“I figured if a big, tough Iowa offensive lineman can come out and talk about his feelings, anybody can,” Welsh said.
Welsh had struggled with depression, and instead of hiding it, he decided to open up publicly about it in an effort to support others who battle the disease.
This past summer, a few days before the start of formal preseason activities, Welsh decided to share his battle with depression via an open letter to the public. Without prior announcement, he took to a podium in front of reporters on campus and read the letter aloud.
It read, in part …
“If you know of someone struggling with depression, be understanding and caring. You will make a world of difference.”
“The bottom line is that I didn’t care about anything at all. Then it got worse.”
“Football, the driving force for many years of my life, went from a source of purpose to a source of apathy. I started to feel a myriad of negative emotions: sadness, anxiety, dread and anger. They hit me like a bombardment from the moment I woke up to when I went back to bed.”
“It was every dimension of terrible. And I kept wondering what was wrong.”
By the time Welsh decided to share his story, he’d been battling depression for three years. He’d sought professional help. He took a leave of absence from football in 2015. Spurred by conversations with a counselor who’d shared stories of other athletes going public, Welsh decided, among other things, “it was time to leave my mark, help someone else out.”
His commitment to helping people — individuals battling some of the same issues he faces — goes beyond the laudable acts of speaking out at a press conference or sponsoring a program. Welsh goes above and beyond; he does his best to reach out and touch people’s lives in a very personal way.
Since going public, Welsh has been in contact with people from all around the country. Some he previously knew, but most he didn’t. They’ve reached out via social media, handwritten letters and email to thank Welsh for coming forward and to share stories of their own.
He tries to write every one of them back.
“I want my message to resonate with college-aged kids. Especially males,” Welsh said. “I forget the exact fact or stat, but males are least likely to seek counseling. But when they do get counseling the numbers show they need it most. There’s just a macho problem with guys talking about their feelings.
“And that’s why I came out and brought it into the open the way I did. It’s something that in the future I’d really like to be an advocate for. If (an NFL team) gives me the opportunity I’d love to use that platform being on a team would afford me … continue trying to make good change.”
Of course, there’s a huge risk involved in speaking out this way just a few months before the NFL draft. GMs and personnel people who are making multi-million dollar decisions about the future of their franchises get nervous for a lot of reasons. In this age of concern over concussions and CTE, a related brain condition, teams could get understandably skittish in the face of making a draft decision on a guy who already suffers from depression.
But Sean Welsh doesn’t see himself as a risk to a team. He sees himself as a resource.
“Everybody has been very receptive,” Welsh said. “I think I’ve been very forthright with my experience. It’s something, I think is a real crisis in this country.
I’d like to be someone who can bring that kind of perspective to a locker room because people are sensitive talking about it and guys, it’s something that I’ve had teammates at Iowa talk to me.
“I’d like to be kind of a resource for a team, in a way.”
Welsh has been completely open with NFL teams.
“I basically give them a full rundown of my history,” Welsh said. “The list of medication I’m on, what I do to manage it. Just to show them I’m on top of it and it’s something that I do manage and have managed for some time.”
Iowa's Sean Welsh returns as the highest graded Hawkeye from the 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/lep37xT38x— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 21, 2017
What does the film say?
I’m no analyst. Asking me for an opinion on a player isn’t going to get you any meaningful insight.
But the Hogs Haven community is filled with incredible resources. One of those resources has appeared in the comments section, and occasionally in front page articles, under the moniker Gibbs4potus. In the week or two leading up to the draft in April, he wrote a series of draft prospect reviews, broken up by position, many of which were featured on the front page.
Gibbs4potus has agreed to help me out by writing the most important part of a player profile — the scouting of the play on the field. Let’s see what he has to say about Redskins interior offensive lineman and former Iowa Hawkeye, Sean Welsh:
I was mildly surprised that Sean Welsh wasn’t drafted. I had him ranked 10th amongst Interior offensive linemen (guards and centers), and 98th on my top 200 Big Board.
When Welsh remained undrafted, I thought I just had him ranked too high, so I checked some other popular rankings. Walter Football had Welsh at 8th amongst guards while Mel Kiper and ESPN each had him ranked 10th or 11th.
A road grader
Welsh plays with good power despite average strength (20 bench reps at the combine). His power is evident on drive blocks when he is able to get his legs moving. Welsh shows the ability to move the defender off the line of scrimmage and completely out of the play.
Welsh is good with his hands and has the strength and technique to turn the defender to seal the lane for running backs. He battles with his hands to keep back defenders without holding. I didn’t see Welsh get a single penalty in the 8 games that I watched.
Teamwork on the line
Welsh is very good on combo blocks. He works well with line mates on double teams and can help with one hand while using the other hand to contain another defender. This is very effective on stretch run plays and other outside runs.
Ability to anchor
Welsh shows a good anchor when pass blocking. In an apparently very icy field vs Boston College, Welsh was repeatedly able to maintain his block while sliding backwards and eventually halt the slide while standing up the defender.
Winning at the point of attack
When Welsh gets his hands on a pass rusher, he gains control and doesn’t allow pressure on the quarterback. With a defender lined up directly over him, this worked perfectly.
Mano a mano
Welsh struggles in pass protection when he doesn’t have a defender lined up over him. There were numerous plays in which Welsh would drop with good pass blocking form looking for someone to block and choose to help the offensive tackle to the right. Then a linebacker would come on a delayed blitz just outside the center and get to the quarterback without Welsh recognizing what happened until it was too late. Welsh seems to lack the vision and awareness to see the blitz coming as he helps the tackle.
Getting outside of the phone booth
Welsh is able to get to the second level to block linebackers quickly enough considering his below average performance in running drills at the combine (5.43 40yd and 7.90 3-come drill). Problems arise when Welsh has a longer distance to go to make the blocks. He has a tendency to get out of control and launch himself at the defender and miss completely. On one play, Welsh got out in front pulling on a run play and ran through and past 3-4 defenders as the running back was tackled behind him.
Welsh seems to come with poor technique on such plays as he runs top heavy. He ends up on the ground and out of the play. Welsh isn’t very athletic and seems to have balance issues. He sometimes fails to finish plays due to losing his balance.
The same problems arise when Welsh blocks on outside screens. He gets himself in position to make the block but misses more often than not. Coaching could help Welsh with these weaknesses if he can learn to be more in control when running. Maybe drills where he is forced to keep his torso over his legs and not out in front.
Playing history at Iowa
Welsh started for all four years at Iowa. He played mostly left guard over his first two years and right guard in his last two years. He also played six games at right tackle from his sophomore to senior seasons.
Welsh played center in spring practice early in his career at Iowa. He didn’t start any games at center though with James Daniels holding down that position.
How he would fit with the Redksins
Center is where I see Welsh fitting in best in the NFL. His short arms (32.13”) won’t be a problem there and Welsh will be in his best element inside. Welsh should also have an easier time recognizing the blitz coming.
With the Redskins, Welsh will compete at both center and guard. I think he will give Chase Roullier some competition for the starting job and end up the backup center/guard who is active each week.
What happened to his draft stock?
Welsh was rated as a 4th-6th round pick by most draft experts (I rated him as a 3rd-4th rounder). His slide out of the draft and to the Redskins as an undrafted free agent probably had to do with his balance problems and that he has no elite characteristics. He is a lunch pail type player who plays with good technique in between the tackles. The type of player who becomes a fan favorite very quickly.
Watch #79 Iowa's All-American RG Sean Welsh maintain his reach block as he climbs to the second level to cut a LB.— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 3, 2017
Incredible effort! pic.twitter.com/3b3PAGF2C4
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