Offense

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Seahawks Look Unchampionship-Like in Week 1

Photo courtesy of Panthers.com

Photo courtesy of Panthers.com

The 2013 football season is potentially the one in which the Seattle Seahawks earn their first Super Bowl championship.

On Sunday, though, the ’Hawks were anything but championship-caliber for at least the first three quarters of the game.

And, yet, we all sit here delighting in Quarterback Russell Wilson’s 320-yard, one-touchdown game in which Seattle defeated the Carolina Panthers a meager 12-7.

Yes, it was a battle of defenses. Yes, the offensive lines of both teams generally looked pretty horrendous (Seattle’s far more than Carolina’s). Yes the Panthers have a great front seven on the offensive line and the Seahawks won’t see that every week. Yes, it was only Week 1 and folks were rusty. Yes, it was really hot and humid (how could we forget, having heard Fox Sports’ Tim Ryan and Chris Myers repeat this ad nauseum throughout the game?!).

Except, the team is likely to see great football teams in the playoffs, and they’re going to see the best of the best if they reach the Super Bowl. They may even see some horrendously-adverse weather conditions in an outdoor championship game that will be in New Jersey this season.

And so, I guess, I hoped that the Seahawks would start a bit stronger on offense than they did last year. It was anything but a good start, and while one game a pattern does not make, having seen the offensive line collapse in on itself like a black hole throughout the pre-season as well shows there may be some cause for concern.

The Seahawks must find solutions to the offensive guard position, where Paul McQuistan was frequently out-manned Sunday, including getting flat-backed at least once. The argument for McQuistan is that he is a utility player who can step into any line position. The problem is that playing shitty at every position doesn’t really make his service worth it for me. It’s almost pointless to single McQuistan out, too, because overall they sucked for most of the game.

This team again racked up too many penalties, with nine for 109 yards.

Wilson looked lost against the Panthers defense frequently, seemingly having no idea where pressure would come from or where he might get hit from. He continued to show a maturity most young players are devoid of, however, by generally not panicking and continuing until the last whistle. That right there earned the Seahawks the victory, and if there is any person who can bring this team to a Super Bowl victory, it’s Robot Russell.

Wilson the Android simply looked like he needed a disk defrag and a virus scan for the first three quarters.

Yes, I’ve focused on the negative. I tend to do that, because I want to recognize a deficiency and see it corrected. When I write about offensive line play or penalties or Wilson’s shoddy early play, it’s because I hope to see those things corrected in successive games. And I believe that this team must remain strong throughout the season to have the best chance for championship success. That’s what we want, is it not?

2013 can still be the Seahawks’ Super Bowl season. They just need to show us they can earn it.

The Steel Curtain Nightmare

 

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Las Vegas odds makers were wrong! Ha! Take that! Apparently the 14 1/2 point spread was a touch too conservative. That was one of the worst Seahawk games I’ve witnessed in a while, and considering the last few years, that is saying something. I’m not into the sky is falling talk, because I never really thought we could win a ton of games this year, but it’s hard to watch something as ugly as today without a sick feeling in your stomach.

Noteworthy Stats:

OFFENSE:
Leading rusher: Tarvaris Jackson with 3 attempts for 12 yards
Passing: Tarvaris Jackson 159 yards
Receiving: Ben Obamanu 4 catches 35 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jon Ryan: 8 Punts

DEFENSE:
Brandon Browner vs Mike Wallace: Allowed 8 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Run Defense: Gave up 124 yards on the ground

There was very little to hang our hat on today. Some would say the highlight of the game was Ben Roethlisberger laying on his back, after a shot in the knee. I don’t share that sentiment, but I do think that is the only time we actually inflicted any semblance of pain on the Steelers. The only silver lining for us was that we were able to escape the phone booth beating without any injuries to speak of.

Top 5 questions I have going forward:

1. When does Darrell Bevell create a game plan that utilizes our offensive weapons?
2. How many games will Tarvaris Jackson get to prove himself?
3. When will the Seahawks try to run to the weak side behind their best two blockers in Okung and Gallery?
4. I’ve been stating that Brandon Browner has been grabbing receivers and playing fast and loose with technique. Do we stick with Browner, or move him to the nickel?
5. Will Gus Bradley figure out a way to get Chris Clemons going?

Here’s my take: The Seahawks lack the components that winning teams must have. This shouldn’t be taken as negativity, it’s simply the facts. We are a rebuilding team who overachieved last year at 7-9. It’s not our time yet, and that’s okay. When we start winning again, this feeling will be but a memory. Head up, on to the next one.

 

The Pre Season Wrap Up: Scouting the Projected Offensive Starters

Team Captain Tarvaris Jackson at the controls.

A few days ago the Match Ups Zone took a hard look at the defensive side of the ball going into the 2011 Season. Now it’s time to switch gears and take a look at our offense. All opinions are based off film study (broadcast only) of past seasons, and this years pre-season performances.  So let’s get started with the hottest issue going into the season: The Offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE QUICK NOTES: The Seahawks are going into the 2011 with more question marks on the offensive line than they would like. They have invested both draft picks and a ton of money in this group with the hopes to make this the highlight of the offense for years to come. Without a proper off-season , the teamwork, communication, and play have struggled severely in all but one pre-season game. During 2011 you can anticipate dramatic ups and downs from quarter to quarter, half to half, and game to game. Brock Huard shares his thoughts on the offensive line below (skip to 30 seconds in).

GROUP STRENGTH: RUN BLOCKING

GROUP WEAKNESS: PASS BLOCKING

NOTABLE DEPTH: Tyler Polumbus, Paul McQuistan, Jarriel King, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre

#76 LT Russell Okung 6’5, 310 LBS 2 YRS (OKLAHOMA STATE) BIAS: ALL AROUND LT, POTENTIAL ELITE PLAYER. Russell Okung has the potential to be a key fixture in the Seattle Offense. He has all you ask for in an elite left tackle. Size, arm length, strength, body control, and quick feet to name a few. He is great at keeping low in blocks and his slide steps and reach  let him easily manipulate rushers to maintain pocket integrity. He shows nice pop in his blocks, and is able to move to the second level in the run game. His only real issue has been ankle injuries that have plagued him early in his career. He could be great, but he needs to be on the field to realize that potential.

#72 Robert Gallery LG 6’7, 325 LBS 8YRS (IOWA) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING  Robert Gallery was signed this year in free agency, and is the third former Raider to join the Seahawks. He’s Tom Cable’s kind of lineman. He’s large, powerful, and excels in the run game. From what I’ve seen this pre-season, he’s very adept at pulling and either sealing or kicking out defenders.  He’s more than adequate in pass protection and can manipulate rushers well. He’s got a bit of a nasty streak which I personally prefer in lineman, and will be looked to by our very young offensive line as a mentor and leader.

#60 Max Unger C 6’5 305LBS 3YRS (OREGON)BIAS: ALL AROUND LINEMAN  Max Unger is a very versatile lineman. He originally started out as a guard and moved to the center position. Injuries in 2010 did not allow him to develop as much as the Seahawks would like, but he will get his chance in 2011. He’s not a bruiser but is he has the ability to gain leverage with low pad height, using proper footwork, and hand fit to manipulate defenders.

#74 John Moffitt, RG 6’4, 319LBS ROOKIE (WISCONSIN) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING   John Moffitt is another rookie added to this very young line. So far this pre-season he has not shown very quick feet, or the ability to manipulate rushers very well with consistency. This may be due to the limited reps in the shortened off-season, and his need for some technique improvements that come with coaching.  He’s got all the tools, so this should come with game reps, and better understanding of Tom Cable’s blocking scheme.

#75 James Carpenter, RT 6’5 321LBS ROOKIE (ALABAMA) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING   James Carpenter was considered quite the reach by the Seahawks when they selected him in the 1st round. Projected as a guard by some scouts, the former left tackle at Alabama has been moved to the right tackle position. This transition has been very difficult so far, and like Moffit, the lack of a proper off-season has hampered his readiness for the upcoming season. He’s a very large and powerful man, but he relies on this power more than utilizing proper knee bend, footwork, and hand fit. He consistently plays with a high pad level and struggles with edge rushers due to slow footwork. He is very vulnerable to set up moves, and can be bull rushed by much smaller players. Not sure what the Seahawks have with Carpenter long term, but his early struggles do not mean he is a bust. He will need a full season at right tackle before we can give him a grade of any kind.

QB QUICK NOTES:  Tarvaris Jackson was somewhat of a surprise pick up in free agency this year. While the connection to Darrell Bevell exists, I’m not sure many Seahawk fans were prepared for the departure of Matt Hasselbeck in favor of Jackson. The immediate promotion to the starting QB position without competition Charlie Whitehurst was also a bit of a head scratching moment for Seahawk loyalists. This pre-season has not given fans a real positive feel for Tarvaris Jackson due to protection issues and a myriad of other issues, so one can only trust in Pete Carroll’s judgement here.

STRENGTH: ARM STRENGTH, SPEED/AGILITY

WEAKNESS: ACCURACY, DECISION MAKING

NOTABLE DEPTH: Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis

#7 Tarvaris Jackson QB 6’2 225 LBS 6 Yrs  (ALABAMA STATE) BIAS: ATHLETICISM   Tarvaris Jackson is a very tough and gifted athlete at the QB position. He is not a prototypical pocket passer but can be successful from there with protection. He has a very strong arm, and has shown he can throw with different releases. He is very good at sensing pressure, and has the speed and quickness to evade the pocket. He has a tendency to hold the ball too long and will stare down his primary receiver. He has nice touch on passes when outside of the pocket, and has the arm strength to throw deep on the run. Accuracy is an issue at times, and seemingly more so in pressure moments. Ultimately his success will be based off the running game, and Darrell Bevell’s ability to utilize his skill set better than he did in Minnesota.

Here’s a quick video of what he’s capable of:

RB QUICK NOTES: This year more than ever, the Seahawks will need to run the ball effectively in order to keep our defense off the field. I do not anticipate our offense scoring more than a touchdown or two a weekend in the early part of the season so it will be imperative that the offense sustain drives at least.  Marshawn Lynch leads this pack of RBs and will look to build off the Beast Mode run in last years playoff victory against the Saints. The 12th Man hopes there is plenty more where that came from.

In case you’d like to watch the run again.. here it is:

NOTABLE DEPTH: Leon Washington, Justin Forsett

GROUP STRENGTH: POWER, RECEIVING, SPEED

GROUP WEAKNESS: PASS PROTECTION,

#24 Marshawn Lynch RB, 5’11 215LBS 5yrs (CALIFORNIA) BIAS: POWERBACK  BeastMode…Ask the Saints about Marshawn Lynch. He can be so devastating that a team as good as the Saints will devote an entire free agency strategy to not letting that kind of abuse happen again. He is more comfortable with running between the tackles, and shows great burst once he gets to the second level. He runs low and strong, and can be a nightmare for 2nd and 3rd level defenders.He has decent vision to identify the proper lane to attack, and sets up blocks well.  He has not shown much consistency in his career and will need to improve in that area now that he is the featured back in Seattle.

#26 Michael Robinson HB 6’1, 223LBS, 6 YRS (PENN STATE) BIAS: VERSATILITY Robinson is a very important piece to the success of the Seahawks offense. He is not a prototypical short necked FullBack who will blow you up in the running game, but he is a sound blocker who will utilize good technique and pad level. He is adequate in pass protection against LB’s but will struggle matched up on an end (as all RB’s tend to do). A former QB and RB he can give an offense a nice little weapon out of the backfield.

RECEIVER QUICK NOTES: This is the best position group on the offense in my opinion. It is also the group most dependent on the play of everyone else to have sustained success. Sidney Rice and Mike Williams highlight a very deep and diverse group of receivers who all bring something special to the game.

GROUP STRENGTH: SIZE, PLAYMAKING ABILITY

GROUP WEAKNESS: ROUTE RUNNING, SEPARATION FROM DEFENDERS

NOTABLE DEPTH: Ben Obamanu, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin

#18 Sidney Rice WR 6’4 202LBS 5 YRS (SOUTH CAROLINA)BIAS: SPEED/PLAYMAKER  Sidney Rice on paper should be one of the best receivers in the game. In fact, while playing with Brett Favre in Minnesota, he was. But if you look at what he did before and after the Pro-Bowl year with Favre it makes you wonder. He has all the tools you look for in an elite receiver. Athleticism, height, Speed, Agility, length, hands, you name it. He can stretch defenses vertically using his speed, or beat defenders with solid route running and great body positioning and hands. He is a nightmare in the red-zone due to his ability to go up and get the tough jump ball over hapless defenders. Really looking forward to seeing what he can bring to this Seattle offense in 2011.

#17 Mike Williams WR 6’5, 235LBS 5 YRS (USC)BIAS: POSESSION RECEIVER/PLAYMAKER  It’s funny how most people laughed off the Mike Williams signing as just a camp body, who had no chance to make the 53 man squad. I can understand where it came from though. Mike Williams was a 1st round pick of the Lions in 2005 and was not ready to play at the NFL level. He was labeled everything from fat, slow, to lazy. It just goes to show you that sometimes a little maturity and the experience of almost losing everything you thought you should have, can motivate a person. Mike Williams is a very large and powerful receiver. His size makes one on one match ups very difficult for smaller defenders. His ability to make the tough catch in traffic combined with his size and length make him a QB dream when you need a 3rd down conversion or more importantly a red zone score. His only downside is his lack of ideal WR speed. He’s not slow by any stretch, but he will not beat you on a 9 route, and has difficulty separating from defenders.

#81 Golden Tate Slot Reciever 5’10, 202LBS 2Yrs (NOTRE DAME)BIAS: PLAYMAKER Golden Tate has been a frustration to many fans since arriving in Seattle. Highly touted as the play-maker the Seahawks desperately needed, this ability has yet to materialize with any kind of consistency. Strictly from a skill set standpoint he’s fast, quick in and out of breaks, and has shown the will to battle defenders in the air for the ball. He does not play fast, and will lose focus from time to time. His biggest asset is his overall athleticism, but the mental side of the game can tend to negate that advantage. On the bright side, his performance against the Raiders in the Seahawks 4th Pre-season game has given many a snapshot of the impact playmaker he can become. From returning, to outstanding plays from the slot and split end position, this may have been the game he needed to kick off a break out season. Only time will tell.

TIGHT END QUICK NOTES: With the Free Agency addition of Zach Miller and the already succesful John Carlson,  the Seahawks were set to have a nice duo of play-making tight ends. That was before John Carlson went on IR prior to the 4th pre-season game. The good news is, the Tight position had the best pre-season overall, and it really didn’t seem to matter who suited up. They all contributed.

GROUP STRENGTH: SIZE, PLAYMAKING ABILITY

GROUP WEAKNESS: ROUTE RUNNING, SEPARATION FROM DEFENDERS

NOTABLE DEPTH: DOMINIQUE BYRD

#86 Zach Miller TE 6’5 255LBS, 5 YRS (ARIZONA STATE) BIAS: ALL AROUND ELITE TE I’ll admit, I’m still a little shocked we were able to steal the Raiders best, and honestly only receiver over the past few seasons.  Zach Miller is an elite Tight End and can carry an offense on his back (see also:Raiders passing attack). He can dominate with routes over the middle, and even pressure the secondary with speed to get deep down the seam or sideline (as seen in the video below). He’s an above average run blocker, and will work hard to finish blocks. Overall I couldn’t be happier about this addition.

#85 Anthony McCoy TE 6’5 259LBS 2Yrs (USC) BIAS: RECEIVING TE Anthony McCoy has made some very nice strides in his overall development into an NFL TE. He is a much better receiver than blocker at this point in his career. He has nice hands, and is a decent route runner for his position. He has the ability to make the tough catch and is most suited to shorter routes. So far this year the Seahawks have utilized him in a lot of play action crossing routes. Blocking has been another issue. He’s not poor, but he lacks the proper pad level and will not finish off blocks. Will struggle in pass protection against bigger defenders.

So there you have it. A pretty long winded scouting report from the Match Ups Zone team. I see a lot of potential in our young and very raw offensive squad because the tools are there. Hopefully they can put it all together and shock the NFL with yet another playoff run.

The “Team” approach to any successful passing play: A Seahawk Pre-Season problem

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.

To summarize:

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.

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