By Will McDougle
I tend to avoid post game wrap ups because as football fans we have 2,000,000,000 different resources out there and I’m just adding to the echo chamber. However, I find it deeply troubling that the TV Broadcast failed to show what really happened last night on almost every passing play the Seahawks ran.
It’s very easy as fans to blame one player or position for the failure of a play. The NFL has a horrible problem with analysts feeding this hysteria by the way they speak on air and edit replays. Football is a TEAM sport so when something goes wrong, it’s usually a myriad of things.
For now, let’s discuss the ingredients that go into any positive passing play.
1. The QB’s Pre-snap read (PSR), Primary Key, and accurate pass.
Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst must make a Pre-Snap Read to determine the defensive coverage or shell. The purpose is to identify several things such as: safeties, weak side defender, the defensive front, and position of corners in relation to receivers i.e., depth. A QB must also focus or “key” on the primary defender based on the patterns being ran to make smart and accurate throws to open areas of the field. All of this while utilizing proper footwork, balance and pocket pressure awareness. That’s why they pay QBs the money they do. So far Tarvaris Jackson has excelled at feeling and reacting to pressure. Problem is, the pressure was getting home before receivers were finished with routes, or he was set up to throw.
2. The Offensive Line
Whether it be an area, combo, or man blocking scheme it’s simple.. If you can’t block it you can’t succeed. Our lineman have consistently lost a battle or two across the line of scrimmage and it’s making things very difficult. When an offensive line struggles in pass protection there should be an adjustment made by the offensive play caller to move the QB around and change the defensive rushing landmarks. The use of half rolls, sprint outs, and boots can help restrain a defense’s constant pressure attack. Last night against Denver it was obvious that spread formation meant primarily pass, and heavy (2 TE) meant zone run or boot action. This seemingly stubborn play calling is meant to install and work on the new offense and obviously not what we will see in the regular season.
3. The Receivers
QB’s and receivers must understand the entire concept of each play to be on the same page. Receivers must also run crisp routes at the proper depth, gain some separation, and be aware of breakdowns in protection or hot calls. I can’t speak for the first two preseason games because the NFL refuses to show the defensive coverage or route combinations in full. Against Denver I was sitting 30 rows from the Seahawks bench on the 40 yd line and it gave me a great perspective of the routes as they progressed. One thing that I noticed was the extensive use of vertical timing route combinations, and sideline comebacks without much, if any separation. Timing routes, including 3-step, 5-step, and some 7-step drop passes, require a great deal of repetition between quarterback and receiver to develop the execution level needed to move the ball. Without the normal off-season, that’s going to take several games into the regular season to achieve. I watched as play after play Tarvaris stared at the back of his receiver, was cocked to throw, and had to eat it because the receiver had not even finished the stem of his route and never looked back.
I will say that when the Seahawks went to a heavy package ( multi TE’s) they seemed to fare much better in the passing game. Not because there was more people in to block, but because most passes came from boot action which I think is a huge strength of Tarvaris Jackson.
1. You must have a QB who has made a quality pre-and post snap read so he can throw to the open area/receiver (Grade: C+)
2. You must have sound protection and an offensive play caller who will move the QB around to assist in protection issues (Grade: D-)
3. You must have the receivers and QB on the same page. (Grade: D-)
The good news? It’s just the Pre-Season. My grades matter about as much as a win would. What matters most is that this preseason is being used like a proper mini camp would. These are scrimmages where concepts are being taught, and evaluation is being done. The coaches are working through weaknesses right now by on field reps and then reviewing film for correction. The extensive use of protection schemes that isolate James Carpenter one on one with a defender is good for his development, even though he is struggling mightily.
This third game dress rehearsal stuff you hear from NFL talking heads is fine for teams with established systems. In my opinion, that just doesn’t apply in Seattle. The Seahawks are just trying to install an offensive system with tons of new players under a huge time crunch. Have faith Seahawk fans! It’s ugly right now, but it’s always darkest before dawn.