How does Seahawks offensive personnel compare to Super Bowl teams?
Can defensive coaches mount a Super Bowl comeback?: Seaside Joe 1594
“I get sick of your blabber.” - Seasider Jim Parker
I understand! Thankfully, we only have 12 more days until the Seattle Seahawks report to 2023 training camp. Hopefully either I haven’t sickened the rest of you before then or I cut down on my blabber. I’d rather just write about the Seahawks too, so why don’t we do some more of that today?
On Wednesday’s training camp preview of the Seahawks offense, I mentioned just how important it is (to me) for Seattle to not only have a good offense or even a great offense. To win a Super Bowl, the Seahawks might need to have the best offense. I shared this tweet by Warren Sharp showing that the Kansas City Chiefs ran away with the most explosive plays in 2022, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Relatively speaking, the Seattle Seahawks aren’t far behind the most recent Super Bowl teams in terms of explosive plays. The difference of 12 explosive plays between themselves and the Eagles is less than one per game. But if you don’t have the right elements in place to catch up—which is why NFL teams hold the high-stakes draft every year, make trades, coaching changes, and participate in free agency—then it doesn’t matter if the difference is one play per game or 100 plays.
Do the Seahawks have the elements in place to be as offensively efficient (the Eagles ranked third in DVOA, first in DVOA for the NFC, and first in rushing offense DVOA in the NFL) and explosive as Philadelphia, for example?
Geno Smith vs. Jalen Hurts
First we look at quarterback, and though I don’t know if I’m the right person to say or not, but I think Geno Smith could equal or surpass Jalen Hurts as a passer. Hurts also contributed 11 runs of 15+ yards, that’s 15 more “explosive plays” depending on who’s counting (some say 20 yards, other say 15) for the Eagles and about 15 more than the typical quarterback.
Geno wasn’t that bad in this category, posting six runs over 15 yards, with five more than went for 13 or 14 yards.
So even if Geno isn’t going to be running 165 times (in only 15 games) as Hurts did in 2022, his 68 carries for 366 yards (and a higher YPC average) hints at the idea that Seattle isn’t as far behind in quarterback mobility as you might expect. It’s just not the type of offense that the Seahawks run. Hurts scored 14 touchdowns on the ground, compared to one for Geno.
But even when Russell Wilson was the quarterback, even when he was a young quarterback, Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinators rarely put him in position to score on the ground: His 12 rushing touchdowns from 2015-2021 is fewer than Hurts’ total just for last season alone.
However, if the Seahawks want to show that they have a quarterback capable of tucking it and barreling downfield for 10-20 yards, Geno Smith has proven that. As a passer, I believe he does some things even better than Jalen Hurts, although given the gap in experience it is possible that the Eagles quarterback continues to develop and pulls further away from the NFC field in 2023.
That’s why Hurts signed a contract with $179.3 million guaranteed and Geno signed one that has $40 million guaranteed.
In terms of competing with the Eagles offense on a personnel-to-personnel basis though, quarterback may not make the top-five in terms of value gaps.
What the Eagles have that the Seahawks want
At center, Jason Kelce has made the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro roster in each of the last seven seasons. Kelce has been THE first-team All-Pro center in five of the last six years. In one of the most recent Xs and Os videos I shared from a channel called Philly Film Room, the analyst helps breakdown just a small chunk of what makes Kelce so valuable to the Eagles offense.
“When Kelce gets off the ball, his eyes are on the landmark, not the linebacker. This sets his body on the right track and then he gets his eyes back on the man.”
This is just a small chunk of analysis, but really it’s a combination of so many factors, including footwork and a mix of knowing what to do+having the physical ability to execute thanks to lots of speed in a powerful package, making all of the elements of center work in harmony, that makes Jason Kelce the best center in the NFL.
The Seahawks do not have the best center in the NFL. In fact, the Seahawks have not even had a good center since they traded Max Unger in 2015 and most puzzling of all, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have shown no effort to do something like that. I can’t express how many times over the last five or six draft seasons that I’ve had to reply to another fan with something along the lines of, “Sure, and I might agree with you, but Pete just doesn’t seem to care about that position at all” whenever the topic of Seattle picking a center in the first or second round comes up.
And it comes up every year.
Even I fell for it a little bit this year when the Seahawks showed a tiny bit of interest in centers who were being projected for the top-60 picks and Seattle held four selections in that range. But Seattle is once again hoping to go “value per dollar” over “value relative to talent” at the center position, signing Evan Brown to a one-year deal that ranks 22nd at the position and drafting Olu Oluwatimi in the fifth round.
And this effort is far MORE than we’ve seen from the Seahawks in the past six or seven years. In other words, at least it’s not Drew Nowak.
But if Kelce is Philadelphia’s John Lennon to Seattle’s J.C. Chasez, then Lane Johnson is their Paul McCartney to the Joey Fatone.
Whereas Nick Bosa had three sacks and eight QB hits in two regular season games against the Seahawks in 2022, he was held to 0 and 0 in the 49ers’ NFC Championship game loss to the Eagles. And he did it “on one leg”.
There are so many unknowns as to what Johnson is trying to accomplish by playing through a torn adductor muscle in his groin area that needs surgery. The injury could resurface at any point, leading to excruciating pain. And Bosa, the likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was certainly ready to take advantage.
For Johnson, it was just another day at the office. He hasn't allowed a sack in 30 consecutive games, dating back to Nov. 22, 2020, when he gave one up to Cleveland's Myles Garrett. And back then, Johnson was playing on an ankle that would require a second surgery.
Why the development of Abe Lucas is so important
Perhaps one of the most underrated moves and turning points in NFL Draft history is the moment that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman used a top-five pick on a right tackle. After the Chiefs and Jaguars picked left tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, respectively, then the Dolphins selected Dion Jordan (make two of those players former Seahawks now), Roseman picked Lane Johnson fourth overall even though the Eagles already had one of the best left tackles in the NFL, Jason Peters.
The move was mostly met with positivity, but it is was still not common at the time to pick any offensive lineman that high if he wasn’t guaranteed the left tackle position right away. Bleeding Green Nation higlighted how Johnson’s “freaky” athleticism made a perfect fit for Chip Kelly, but it turned out he was an even better fit for Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni:
Johnson is the record 3rd offensive tackle taken in the top 4 picks, but just may be the best fit for what Chip Kelly and the Eagles want to do. Johnson is 6-6, 305 pounds and was easily the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. He actually started his football career out as a quarterback, then moved to TE before settling in on the offensive line the past two seasons.
So as good as he was at Oklahoma last year, there's still a lot of room for improvement as he continues to develop in the position. Johnson started at right tackle in 2011, then moved to the left in 2012. Smart money says he'll be on the right next season with an eye toward replacing Jason Peters on the left in the very near future.
NFLN's Mike Mayock says Johnson is a perfect fit in Philadelphia.
"He's the freakiest tackle I've ever seen in my life," Mayock said of Johnson. "And because of what Chip Kelly does - up-tempo, maximize snaps, throw the bubble screens, throw the tunnel screens - he needs a great athlete at left tackle."
Though his career has been marred by injury, missing at least two games in each of the last four seasons, including nine games in 2020, Johnson is also a 1-of-1 right tackle like Kelce is at center. He was THE first-team All-Pro right tackle in 2022 and he was second team in 2021 despite missing four games. His $20.1 million average annual salary is first among right tackles and ranks fourth among all tackles.
That tells you not only how valuable he is to the Eagles, but that he’s that valuable to the Eagles in spite of the fact that they could have moved Johnson to the left side really at any point they wanted. Peters ended up playing with the Eagles until 2020, but he started missing games and falling off in 2017. Philadelphia just doesn’t want to move Johnson though, they like where he’s at and what he’s doing as the most dominant right tackle in the NFL, including against the best edge rushers in the league like Bosa.
This is where we get to Abraham Lucas.
If the combine says enough, then no, Abe Lucas is not built to be the next Lane Johnson. And that’s saying something because Lucas was one of the most dominant offensive linemen at the 2022 Scouting Combine.
There’s also the 10-yard split, with Lucas running a 1.69 and Lane a 1.61.
Seahawks fans can still be high on Abraham Lucas without having to compare him to the greatest right tackle of his generation. Johnson could have—and clearly should have—been the number one pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. That’s high praise! The accolades since then are high praise. The fact that he’s been a part of two Super Bowl rosters is high praise. The fact that every right tackle is in some way compared to Johnson is high praise.
Clearly, the Kansas City Chiefs have managed to not only win two Super Bowls without Lane Johnson, they did that last year with Andrew Wylie as the right tackle. Wylie is what is referred to as “just a guy”. Of course, the Chiefs also have the best quarterback of his generation, so the formula changes when that’s the case, and yet…
And yet the Chiefs signed Jawaan Taylor to a contract that pays him $20 million—second in the NFL for right tackles behind Johnson—in the 2023 offseason. Even Kansas City, with Patrick Mahomes, acknowledges the need for two great offensive tackles in the modern NFL.
We all see the potential for greatness in Lucas, but at this point he hasn’t proven to be more than an oustanding rookie for a third round pick. Lucas didn’t enter camp as the team’s starter last season, he earned it. He earned it by beating out Jake Curhan though. He may have out-played top-10 pick Charles Cross in terms of total value through their rookie campaigns, which is encouraging for Lucas (less so for Cross), but Lucas still needs to prove he can out-play at least 22 or so right tackles around the NFL before he’s considered one of the best at his position.
So as Seahawks fans, generally it’s encouraged to be excited about the value of Lucas as a third round pick who is settling in as the team’s long-term answer on the right side. But in terms of this article, comparing Seattle’s personnel to Super Bowl personnel, there is definitely a gap and perhaps one that won’t be closed. Perhaps.
Again, you can go back just one year earlier and find that the Rams right tackle is Rob Havenstein. Lucas could absolutely be as good or better than Havenstein as soon as 2023.
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Where else do Seahawks and Eagles differ?
While the differences at center and right tackle could be the most dramatic, and there’s definitely a variation of style (and maybe consistency?) at quarterback, perhaps Seattle and Philadelphia aren’t separated by much at other positions.
The Eagles finished fifth in rushing yards, first in rushing DVOA, and first in rushing touchdowns in 2022, with Miles Sanders contributing 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns, followed by Hurts at 760 and 13. Philly’s two backup running backs were Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell.
The Seahawks have made interesting moves at running back, investing more draft capital in the position in the last two years than any other team, but as I noted on Wednesday they’re also spending the second-least cap space in the NFL there. Comparing Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet to Sanders and Hurts feels like comparing The Beatles to N’Sync—not because of talent but because of genre—but do the Seahawks have the run-centric talent to be as efficient as the Eagles were on the ground?
Yes. If anything, that talent deficiency goes back to offensive line, not because Seattle doesn’t have arguably the most exciting RB duo in the league.
With regards to left tackle, I am not sure if maybe Philly’s Jordan Mailata is a little overrated and that Cross couldn’t catch up or surpass him with the development curve that he’s physically capable of in year two. At guard, the Eagles found a Pro Bowl talent in the second round named Landon Dickerson and this year are switching out right guard Isaac Seumalo for third rounder Tyler Steen.
To what degree is Dickerson better than Lewis vs. “He has a better supporting cast and Pro Bowls for offensive linemen are based mostly on popularity”? I have no idea. Dickerson may well be a much better guard than Lewis, and Steen may turn out to be better than Phil Haynes and Anthony Bradford. But if the Seahawks get better seasons at offensive tackle and improved play at center (you can’t do much worse than Austin Blythe, unless you’re Drew Nowak), I think the guards will be better for it.
The Eagles may have a bigger star at tight end because Dallas Goedert has over 1,500 yards in the past two seasons, averaging over 10 yards per target since Philadelphia hired head coach Nick Sirianni in 2021. But as a whole, maybe the two units are equally measured, if not Advantage: Seattle, because Will Dissly or Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson are better than Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra.
Finally, for some reason Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf seem like a perfect mirror-match for DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown. Not that they are complete replicas—strengths and weaknesses in different ways—but I have no doubt that the Seahawks have a comparable receiving duo. The addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba may not only surpass whoever the Eagles can/will put at WR3, but he could be so valuable that it helps close the gap in other areas of the field that Seattle is “trailing” in, such as center, right tackle, and quarterback.
If Geno Smith has an immediate receiving outlet who he trusts and develops a positive relationship with right away, then: ball out faster=more completions=more first downs=shorter time to throw average=fewer sacks.
Do the Seahawks have the offensive personnel to close the gap on the NFC’s best offense? Well…maybe. I will be shocked if the Seahawks have All-Pros at center and right tackle in 2023, but superstar receiving talent+high-potential offensive tackles+investment at running back+efficiency at tight end might equate to a breakout season for Geno Smith. (Again.)
It could come down to whether the coaching is prepared and capable of elevating these players to that level.
The last non-Belichick DC HC to reach the Super Bowl was…Dan Quinn
Not since Bill Belichick against Dan Quinn in 2016 has the Super Bowl featured a non-Belichick defensive-minded head coach, let alone one vs. another defensive-minded head coach. That being Belichick.
The last four Super Bowls have only featured offensive-minded head coaches (Andy Reid, Sean McVay, Bruce Arians, Zac Taylor, Kyle Shanahan, Nick Sirianni) and before that you had Belichick vs Doug Pederson (OC) and Belichick vs Quinn, but the trademark of the 2016 Falcons was Shanahan’s offense.
In my opinion, this is not just coincidence or just because there are more offensive hires than defensive hires recently. This is what the NFL wants to see happen. To me, if you’re going into a modern pro football game hoping to win by stopping your opponent’s star quarterback (Mahomes, Burrow, Stafford, Brady, Allen, Hurts, etc.) YOU’RE BETTING AGAINST THE HOUSE.
It’s the same as playing blackjack and trying to beat the casino. You will win sometimes, but you will always lose over enough time.
The general “fan” wants to see offense and the general “fan” probably wants to see passing offense. In a video I watched this week going over the history of offensive evolution, the modern passing game essentially got its start when a high school coach noticed that “playground football” (which was basically a spread offense before the invention of the spread offense) was more exciting to watch.
One of the most popular articles I wrote last year was asking fans, “If the NFL was rigged, which teams will reach the Super Bowl” and I think that goes to show that most fans know that the league will interfere as much as they possibly can when it comes to juicing their ratings. The rules make it harder to play defense against great passing offenses and that might only continue. You have to be able to play beat your opponents in the last four minutes of the game by throwing the football successfully. The Rams won their last three playoff games in 2021 by doing that. The Chiefs have had to do that, including the 2021 divisional win over the Bills that some call “the greatest game of modern times”.
The score was 26-21 midway through the fourth quarter. They combined to score 25 points in the last two minutes of regulation.
If you can’t do that, what chance do you have to beat the teams that can do that, really?
This cycle, teams hired five head coaches, three offensive and two defensive. Of the eight coaches left from 2022’s cycle, there are five offensive and three defensive. Of the five: Doug Pederson, Mike McDaniel, Kevin O’Connell, and Brian Daboll took their teams to the playoffs, while the fifth was Josh McDaniels. Of the defensive-minded, Matt Eberflus led the Bears to the number one pick, while Dennis Allen’s Saints missed the playoffs and Todd Bowles only won the division because the Bucs could do that at 8-9.
Go back to 2021’s remaining coaches and you have three offense vs. two defense, with Sirianni being among the offensive coaches. The two defensive hires, Brandon Staley and Robert Saleh, have not produced the desired results for the Chargers and Jets. If they don’t make the playoffs this year, they will likely be fired.
By my count, we have 18 offensive-minded head coaches, 13 defensive-minded, and one former special teams coordinator. Carroll is the fourth-longest tenured head coach in the NFL and interestingly, none of the four are offensive-minded. However, Belichick, Carroll, Mike Tomlin, and John Harbaugh have not had much recent postseason success. Tomlin hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016, Harbaugh has one playoff win since 2014, and Belichick is stunted since he lost Tom Brady.
Meanwhile, last season’s conference championship losers were also offensive-minded coaches (Shanahan, Taylor) and the year before that it was Shanahan, Reid, and the year before that, it was Matt LaFleur in the NFC. We have to go back to Sean McDermott’s Bills in 2020 for the last defensive-minded coach to reach the conference championship round.
Is Shane Waldron ready and capable of leading Geno Smith to places he’s never been, and Carroll to somewhere he hasn’t been since the 2014 season?
The personnel could be there. We’ll see about the coaching, the quarterbacking, and the ability to close that gap in the final four minutes.
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