Former NFL scout, current director of The Scouting Academy, and ITP contributor Dan Hatman went to the film, scouting Seattle for the details that will make the difference when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Seahawks.
The Seahawks clearly understand their identity and have built everything around the zone run scheme employed by Tom Cable and executed beautifully by Marshawn Lynch. This sets up their play action passing attack with an athletic quarterback in Russell Wilson who can work in and out of the pocket, throw accurately on the move, and improvise when plays go off-schedule. Wilson has the tools to work all three levels of the field in the passing game and has done so in the Super Bowl.
With Lynch sidelined due to injury, Seattle will rely on Thomas Rawls. Rawls adds explosive lateral agility with a willingness to bounce outside more, like in the play below against the San Francisco 49ers:
The issue has always been the ability to execute in the passing game when the defense knows it is coming, and what impact the play calling/design has on the overall efficiency. This year, that problem has been exacerbated by an OL with three new starters ‒ four players in new roles ‒ who have struggled executing, both in the run and pass game. The holes have not been there consistently, forcing the Seahawks to play behind the sticks and putting Wilson in unusual positions compared to the past few years.
Furthermore, the passing concepts leave much to be desired in terms of threatening defenses. The scheme is not giving Wilson clean reads, and while the receiver group is solid overall, they lack the unique tools to consistently win vs. 1 on 1 coverage.
However, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle can utilize a handful of concepts in their passing game to scheme towards the weakness of the Steelers’ defense. This involves Wilson executing on bootlegs and short crossing routes, Pittsburgh is weakest around the short-middle and in the flats, playing with big cushions to protect the deepest parts of the field, which leaves the underneath areas exposed.
The second is a crossing route usually run by Doug Baldwin or Tyler Lockett out of a trips formation. The receiver opposite the trips runs a vertical route that acts as a natural “rub” route and clears the short-middle and flat for the crossing route:
Seattle Seahawks Offensive Notes (at DAL, vs ARI, vs SF) – 11/24/2015
Below are a collection of additional scouting notes I put together for the game, focusing on Seattle’s offense, particularly the passing game, as many have looked at the offensive line and running game:
- Run Game
- Zone based run attack that leveraged more Inside Zone runs vs. Dallas and Arizona.
- Like to attack the B gap bubble away from the tight end, and use Lead Zone to facilitate their Outside Zone concepts as they have struggled to get Reach/Seal blocks on the frontside of their runs.
- Most successful run has been Zone Rim, pulling J.R. Sweezy (#64), and cracking the outside linebacker with Jimmy Graham (#88) to execute this Rim concept and expose the B gap. This concept really helped Rawls (#34) against San Francisco.
- Neither TE (Graham or Luke Willson (#82) is a consistent point of attack (POA) player, but effective at leveraging defenders if given angles presnap.
- All three running backs execute the Zone system well. Lynch is still the best of the bunch, but Rawls adds more explosive lateral agility and a willingness to bounce more/create on his own (boom or bust type runs).
- Pass Game
- Build the vast majority of their passing game off play action from any of their personnel groups (21, 12, 11). Limited 5 step, dropback passing concepts in the game plans, leveraged occasionally from all downs and distances.
- Have not built complementary concepts that look designed to attack expected coverages, or help their receivers uncover in the intermediate or deep areas. Consistent All-Go concepts with limited layers to the passing attack.
- Seattle is a 68% passing team on 3rd down (all distances) and frequently work from 3×1 sets in the passing game out of 11 personnel.
- Graham is the main target on 3rd down with 21 targets this season. Doug Baldwin (13) and Jermaine Kearse (12) are the only other options with double digit targets. Graham is also the top target in the Red Zone (8).
- SEA loves the Slant/Flat combo to the weakside of trips, isolating Graham and any of their RBs out of the backfield.
- Wilson does not look confident in the pocket, most likely due to protections. While he is capable of working a full progression, he has tended to drop his eyes and pull the ball down after his first or second option is not immediately available.
- Will scramble through any available hole and will pass the ball while on the move.
- Leveraged on bootleg plays off the wide zone concepts, showing the ability to throw accurately to both his left and right.
- Has locked onto Graham over the past few weeks, making poor decisions and putting the ball in harm’s way. Too often Wilson is hitting Graham in the flat on hi-low concepts, even when the deeper receiver is open.
- Looks outside in during his progressions and likes to throw the ball outside the numbers, especially in the intermediate and deep areas.
- WRs are interchangeable with Paul Richardson and Kearse being locked into outside lane roles.
- Seattle leverages bunch concepts frequently. They will isolate Graham backside off this formation and will stash him behind other receivers in the bunch to provide him a free release in the spacing concepts.
- WRs have been given frequent opportunities to win in 1 on 1 situations in either man or zone coverage, and have failed to maximize those opportunities.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman
Dan Hatman is the Director of The Scouting Academy and writes for Inside The Pylon when not teaching future football scouts and coaches how to do their job.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.