At the end of the Seahawks’ 2020 season, coach Pete Carroll said he has one main goal for the offense in 2021: to execute the ball well enough to prevent opponents from playing two-tier safety programs. designed to eliminate big plays in the passing game.
It was Seattle’s inability to run well in the second half of 2020 that Carroll says allowed opponents to go to both looks – that is, not having to bring one closer. line safety to play the run – which reduced Seattle’s passing game. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw 28 touchdowns in the first eight games of 2020, has thrown just 12 in the last eight games.
“Frankly, I wish I didn’t play two-depth looks all season next year,” Carroll said in January. “We have to be able to bring these guys down to whatever scheme we want to go through. “
Finally, as the 2021 season draws to a close, the Seahawks may have achieved that goal thanks to a relaunched rushing offense led by resurgent running back Rashaad Penny and an offensive line that Carroll says blocked the major well. part of the season.
When asked this week why he thought the offense had flared in recent weeks – Seattle has scored 24 or more points in four of its last five games and 30 or more in three – wide receiver DK Metcalf said said: “We are mainly seeing much higher than in the past. The racing game hasn’t really been there for us (in the past). We’ve seen a lot of two-ups that take away the passing game. Knowing that Rashaad Penny is capable of doing what he does and that DeeJay Dallas and (Travis) Homer come in and support him, it really puts a lot of stress on the defense to worry about running and passing. It just opened up a lot more for us for the big passing games. ”
Statistics confirm this.
Seattle has averaged 170.8 rushing yards per game over the past five games and 5.4 per carry. And that indeed appeared to have the effect of forcing the defenses to place another safety closer to the line.
According to TruMediaSports, Seattle faced two high safety looks on average in 52% of games in Weeks 1 through 13. But Seattle faced two safety defenses just 25% against Houston and 38% against Detroit last week. , games in which Seattle scored 33 and 51 points with Wilson throwing a total of six touchdown passes.
One caveat is that Houston and Detroit each rank in the last four teams in the NFL in passing yards, meaning they’ve given up plenty of big passes against everyone.
Carroll, however, said he believed the recovery was real, saying he believed the line blocked well all season, but Seattle’s injury issues in the backfield – Chris Carson playing just four. games, Alex Collins battling an abdominal injury for most of his seven games as a starter, and Penny really entered the mix just five games ago – it’s been tough for Seattle to enjoy. fully.
“We’ve averaged 170 yards or something in the game (on the ground) for about a month,” Carroll said. “This is the statement you are making and people have to stand up for you. They have to make their choice. Not everyone will. It’s pretty hard to let teams operate like this. Most teams will adapt and show different looks to take care of it. “
And while Penny’s impact has been glaring as he’s run for 135 yards or more in three of the last four games, Carroll said he started up front.
“I like the way the guys (offensive line) play,” Carroll said. “And you can see, we can run the football. It’s obvious.”
Which makes it all the more interesting as Seattle has had to start three different sets of offensive linemen in the last five games due to injuries and absence from COVID-19, with two young players – Jake Curhan and Phil Haynes – making the first starts of their career and playing impressively.
Curhan, an undrafted rookie free agent from Cal, started the last four games in right tackle with Brandon Shell with a shoulder injury, and will do so again on Sunday in Arizona. Carroll called Curhan a “big surprise” on Friday. (He) really helped us. ”
Haynes, a fourth-round pick in 2019 Wake Forest player who has battled a string of injuries, started left guard against Detroit with Damien Lewis on the COVID-19 roster, and with Lewis back, could start this week at the right guard with Gabe Jackson struggling with a knee injury. Haynes had only played one offensive snap in the regular season before starting against Detroit (he also played in reserve in a playoff loss to Green Bay after the 2019 season).
“Phil played a really good game of football,” Carroll said. “He played physically, he was on point with his calls and assignments, and he’s a tough guy.
Both players could play an important role in Seattle’s future on the offensive line, which is one of the squad’s more uncertain groups.
Shell will be a free agent in March, as will two other veteran starters – left tackle Duane Brown and center Ethan Pocic. Jamarco Jones is also a free agent, as is Kyle Fuller, who started the first seven games at center before Pocic took over and then started two more games at left guard. Haynes will also be a restricted free agent.
That means only four offensive linemen are under contract for next year – Jackson, Lewis, Curhan and Stone Forsythe, a sixth-round pick in 2021 who has only played one game with 14 snaps this season.
Curhan, however, could be a legitimate option to take back the right tackle point permanently, while Brown has said he would like to come back, and it looks like Seattle will try to re-sign Pocic and Haynes as well, given their recent game.
Will Dissly is also a pending free agent, whose impact on the running game as a blocker (he has 251 running block snaps this year, according to Pro Football Focus) has also been vital.
“I like the way our guys played,” Carroll said on Friday. “They played hard. We always want to keep our sack count low, better than we’ve done this year, but other than that these guys stuck the running game and worked really hard, were physical and tough. I like what we have. ”