What We Watched – 2016 Seahawks Special Teams Review

2016 SEASON REVIEW: SPECIAL TEAMS

Special Teams is a high variance unit in the NFL. To give you an idea, the last 4 years Seattle finished with the following ranks in DVOA according to Football Outsiders: 5th (2013), 19th (2014), 3rd (2015), and 13th (2016). This is not just a Seattle thing either. For comparison, only 1 of the top 5 Special Teams units in 2015 finished in the top 5 in 2016. There are trends of being better or worse, but most teams just don’t seem to be able to stick in the top 5 multiple years in a row. Now, a 13th overall special teams rating doesn’t appear to be too bad…but how the team got there made it a good bit more ugly.

To put it in the most simple terms possible, if there is one image in your head of the 2016 Seattle Seahawks Special Teams, it probably looks something like this:

KICKER

Player

FGM

FGA

1yd – 39yd %

40yd + %

LNG

XPM

XPA

PCT

Steven Hauschka

33

37

92.3%

81.8%

53

29

35

82.9%

Looking Back:

The Seattle Seahawks kicking game experienced some difficulties in 2016. There were problems blocking and issues with long snapping. Despite all of this, Hauschka was still able to put up a well above average accuracy rate on Field Goals. Where these problems really showed was in Extra Points. Hauschka started having difficulties last year, but it was much worse in 2016. He missed a total of 6 extra points, more than the number of field goals missed on the year.

Looking Ahead:

It is looking more than likely that there will be some serious changes in the kicking game for the Seahawks in the 2017 season. First and foremost, Seattle will be entering the year with a new longsnapper. Another thing you may have noticed is a change in their blocking personnel toward the end of the year and in the playoffs. Lastly, 2016 was likely Hauschka’s final year with the Seattle Seahawks. He was the 4th highest paid kicker in 2016, and the cap is getting too tight to spend that kind of money on a kicker in Seattle. Hauschka’s $3.525 mil salary was 2.28% of the team’s cap and more than $2 mil above what players like Nick Novak, Cairo Santos, and Caleb Sturgis collected in comparable seasons. What could that $2-$2.5 mil buy the team? Well, Germain Ifedi, Paul Richardson, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, and Justin Britt all collected $1-2 mil on their rookie deals. Ahtyba Rubin was a $3.7 mil cap hit in 2016.

PUNTER

Player

Punts

Yards

Avg

Net

Blk

IN 20

TB

FC

Ret Avg

Jon Ryan

71

3126

44

39.3

1

26

3

22

8.4

Looking Back:

While the focus was largely on the struggles in the field goal kicking game, it should not be ignored that Seattle finished 26th in the NFL in Net Punting Average. They were also middle of the pack in punts dropping inside the 20, so it is not like they were shortening punts on purpose. This also appears to have been impacted by blocking as you could see Ryan getting the punt off under pressure often and his hang time appeared impacted.

Looking Ahead:

The difference between the situations at Kicker and Punter is that Jon Ryan is making a lot less than Steven Hauschka. Ryan is the 16th highest pain punter in the NFL, and with his place holding duties and what is likely a lack of desire to shake up both spots, Ryan’s salary makes it feel much more likely that this fan favorite will be with the team in 2017. Changes at Long Snapper are likely and could help, as with fixes in the blocking, but expect Ryan to be back and turning in another solid year for the team.

RETURNER

Player

KO Ret

Yds

Avg

TD

Pnt Ret

Yds

Avg

TD

FC

Tyler Lockett

23

606

26.3

0

29

243

8.4

0

22

Paul Richardson

5

105

21

0

Richard Sherman

1

6

6

0

6

Looking Back:

Coming into the season this was all Tyler Lockett’s job, and we all felt wonderful about it. Lockett was an electric returner of both kicks and punts in his rookie year. However, injuries and missed time really slowed his production this season. Furthermore, it was shown that while Paul Richardson is a functional kick returner there was a severe lack of depth behind Lockett at punt returner. When Lockett missed time, we’re talking about Seattle dropping from the player ranked 4th in the NFL in kick return average and 10th in punt return average to Richardson who had an average that, if he qualified, was outside the top 10…and lots of Richard Sherman Fair Catches…

Looking Ahead:

Clearly Lockett is the man at kick and punt returning, but as he is also stepping up to be a true Number 2 Wide Receiver to compliment Doug Baldwin in the passing game, it may be a wise time to invest in someone to help handle these reps. Don’t be surprised to see a mid-round pick or a bit of Free Agency money spent on a 3rd-4th RB or 4th-5th WR, or possibly a DB who could handle some return duties for Lockett if the game is a blowout or if Tyler is dealing with some injuries. This is definitely an icing on the cake type of pickup, but if you look over this Seahawks roster it seems like a spot they could spare a bit of wise investment. Because, let’s face it, we all want to see a lot more of this:

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