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Why the Seahawks might be a pass-heavy offense
Seaside Joe 1208: Get the quarterback situation right, because Seattle will need to pass it more than they did last season
It would make sense that after trading the franchise quarterback, Pete Carroll would want to get back to the rush-centric offenses that helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl nearly a decade ago. Pairing Rashaad Penny with Ken Walker III, starting over at the game’s most important position, hitting reset on the gameplan to get back into serious contention again.
So many signs point to a desire to run the football.
So many roadblocks that make it apparent that Seattle will have to pass the ball more times with Geno Smith and Drew Lock than they did in the final season with Russell Wilson.
Even though the Seahawks were 27th in rushing attempts, they were also 31st in passing attempts and Wilson only threw it 400 times over 14 games. Until Penny’s surge towards the end of the season, Seattle’s offense was so anemic and the defense was so easy to grind down over long drives, that the Seahawks ran the fewest plays in the league total.
Despite entering a situation where the team could have the most dramatic downgrade at quarterback of any franchise in the league, it seems apparent that the Seahawks will have to throw the ball more than 495 times (Wilson+Smith) this season.
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Early season schedule
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy recently said that he expects the Seahawks to be a pass-heavy offense in the year in part because of their schedule.
“I think early in the year, I might see them coming out of the chutes throwing the ball more,” predicts Nagy. “I think we all know that Pete [Carroll] wants to be more of a run-heavy football team, but it would not surprise me if they were a little more pass-heavy early until they got those young guys up to speed in the run game. I think that would make sense.”
Consider the defenses that they face too: Many of them were stronger against the run than they were against the pass, or weak in defending the pass, in 2021. These rankings are by DVOA:
Broncos: 20th vs pass, 21st vs run
49ers: 15th vs pass, 2nd vs run
Falcons: 29th vs pass, 29th vs run
Lions: 30th vs pass, 27th vs run
Saints: 4th vs pass, 1st vs run
Cardinals: 5th vs pass, 6th vs run
Chargers: 19th vs pass, 30th vs run
Giants: 14th vs pass, 32nd vs run
Not until the Chargers and Giants do we see teams that were much worse against the run than they were in defending the pass.
Of course, we will see teams improve and change as compared to how they played last season; that’s kind of the point of the offseason and all the adjustments that teams intend to make. But look at how probable it appears that the Seahawks will actually get a very soft landing for the next starting quarterback with only two top-12 pass defenses over these first eight games.
There will be times when Seattle will know that they are facing such a stiff run defense (49ers, Saints ranking top-two last season) that they will have no choice but to force Geno Smith or Drew Lock to play their best football.
Pass blocking may be the OL’s strength
There is so much of a focus on the quarterback competition and outside options to be the next starting quarterback that it is kind of taking the spotlight off of an equally dramatic change that nobody is talking about: Duane Brown has been replaced by a rookie out of an air raid offense, the right tackle might be a third round rookie out of an air raid offense, there’s also a new center, and for all intents and purposes competitions at both guard spots.
The changes on the offensive line are as dramatic as the one happening at quarterback.
Though the Seahawks did draft a running back at pick 41, they also picked two offensive tackles with very little run blocking experience. As Nagy pointed out, Seattle is going to have an easier time teaching Charles Cross and Abe Lucas to come out of a two-point stance than to work in a three-point stance, consistently, so early in their NFL careers.
Maybe this is where Jake Curhan wins a job as the starting right tackle instead. But if the Seahawks expect to find themselves in a lot more passing situations than rushing situations, and I believe that is probable, then letting Lucas improve his run-blocking by throwing him into the fire is the right call.
More Air Raid?
Will the Seahawks attempt to be on the same path as the Arizona Cardinals with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray? I mean, I guess this would be good news for the Baker Mayfield enthusiasts out there.
If so, the Cardinals passed the ball 591 times last season (96 more times than Seattle) with 496 runs, and Arizona ran the third-most offensive plays in the NFL. But the Cardinals also had a good defense, something that may not happen for the Seahawks as immediately as this year, and Murray accounted for 88 of those rushing plays.
Neither Smith nor Lock will run the ball that many times.
We should not expect Seattle to consistently throw the ball downfield and we know that aspect of the offense is likely out of the gameplan unless Lock wins the starting gig and the Seahawks are forced into taking more shots. On the contrary, the fact that Seattle will probably be in more of a short-passing/screens/intermediate/shallow crossing routes type of offense will likely increase the number of passing attempts needed to more the ball downfield.
The Seahawks will likely have a less explosive passing offense and probably a less efficient and less exciting passing offense. One of the misnomers about the air raid offense, in my opinion at least, is that it is exciting. Kyler Murray is an exciting player so he makes it exciting. Patrick Mahomes is an exciting player. They just happen to have played in air raid offenses. Most of the quarterbacks, from Graham Harrell to Kingsbury, just passed the ball a lot. And it wasn’t too exciting.
I expect that we could see something like that from Geno Smith, if he’s the starter.
Though Smith didn’t throw the ball a lot with the Jets, he was over 500 passing attempts as a junior and senior at West Virginia in 2011 and 2012. He can pass the ball a lot, it just won’t be as exciting as Murray and Mahomes.
When you’re losing, you pass the ball
It’s a very simple, basic thing to say. It is also usually true.
The Steelers had the worst quarterback in the NFL last season, they had Najee Harris running the ball, and Ben Roethlisberger still ranked fourth in passing attempts.
The Chargers gave up a lot of points and ranked third in passing attempts. As great as Justin Herbert is, it would be better if LA had been able to be a balanced offense, but the defense struggled for most of the season.
The Raiders, Dolphins, and Ravens ranked seventh, eighth, and ninth in passing attempts. The Jaguars, Jets, and Panthers were three of the worst passing offenses in the NFL, maybe the worst, and ranked 12th, 13th, and 14th in passing attempts.
Even if the Seahawks don’t expect to be a top-20 passing offense, that won’t mean they aren’t top-10 in attempts. And that’s because it is fair to expect Seattle to have their share of disappointments during a season of such dramatic transition with an eye on 2023 as the real beginning of something better.
I would look to 2011 as the season to compare to right now.
The Seahawks were not going to be good that year, they still needed to find their franchise quarterback, but the building blocks were getting comfortable and in place. Seattle had some really good games that year and some of the worst games (Browns 6, Seahawks 3) that I’ve ever seen. But it was the start of something.
The Seahawks passed it 509 times that year, which again is more than they had in 2021 with Russell Wilson, then passed it 405 times when they drafted Wilson and much-improved the team in 2012. Then 420 passes when they won the Super Bowl.
Expect a lot of passing attempts in 2022, in the hopes that the Seahawks will be able to run the ball a lot more successfully (and pass it more successfully because of that) in 2023.