We’re back with another round of 3 Keys for this week as the Seattle Seahawks Offense finally showed signs of life against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, but it wasn’t enough as a clearly tired Defense yielded too many big plays to overcome. This week the Seahawks play what ought to be a fully out matched Indianapolis Colts squad that is without start Quarterback Andrew Luck and really..without a whole lot of NFL level play. This is another game, like the one against the 49ers, where the team has a chance to work on things that will benefit them down the road. Here are 3 Keys for What to Watch as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Colts in Week 4:
1. Air Raid
The first two weeks of the Season the Seattle Seahawks passing game was broken. Last week we saw parts of the game fixed as Doug Baldwin caught 10 passes and Jimmy Graham came down with 7. However, that is not the type of passing game the team wants to use. Russell Wilson threw the ball 49 times and Baldwin and Graham combined for 26 targets. That clearly displays who Russell Wilson and to some extent Darrell Bevell trust to make plays for the team. Paul Richardson had 7 targets, which is a good number, but Tyler Lockett appears lost in the shuffle early this season and only saw 3 targets against the Titans. There have been a number of plays where Russ and Richardson or Lockett clearly were not on the same page, running different options of the same route resulting in bad looking plays. Part of this could be attributed to injuries, as Richardson and Lockett have not been healthy and ready for large stretches of the last 2 seasons, which means they haven’t developed as strong of chemistry with each other as Russ has with Graham or Baldwin, or had in the past with Jermaine Kearse.
This needs to change, and the Colts Passing Defense is a great place to make those changes. Russell Wilson should be able to take some shots against the Defense and try to make some long plays to Tyler Lockett. Paul Richardson is the new 50/50 ball guy, and with a less talented and capable Defense this is another opportunity to develop that rapport with his Quarterback. It also means that Darrell Bevell is likely to employ his infuriating “throw everything out there in the first half, then do what worked in the second half” play calling, so hopefully we see some of those things testing out what his Receivers can do to help his Quarterback.
2. The Center Must Hold
Oday Aboushi showed up in Tennessee and gave us a special treat last week. He showed up and was that mythical being…competent Seattle Seahawks Offensive Lineman. If the level of play shown last week holds, which Aboushi’s career numbers and tape say it ought to, that give Seattle 3 interior Offensive Linemen that can play at an NFL level in Aboushi – Britt – Joeckel at the Guard and Center positions. Aboushi missed a block that lead to a hit on Russ last week, and Joeckel can be over-powered by a strong bullrush, but on a snap to snap basis the team can expect these players to know their assignment and at least attempt to properly execute it with some degree of success. Offensive Tackle is still a mess, and the team for some reason thinks one of their Tight Ends not named Nick Vannett can block (this is false, Vannett is the only one who can block), but there is a piece of the blocking scheme the team can trust. Advanced stats show it too, where the Seahawks actually rank 10th in Adjusted Line Yards in runs that go in the gap between the Guards and the Center, and 12th in runs going over the left side off Joeckel. I also have a sneaking suspicion we can expect that number to get better for runs over the right side riding Aboushi as well. If we run inside, stats show we can expect about 4 yards per carry, which is a respectable number.
The next step here is the team using this information. Russell Wilson has run himself into pressures and bad throwing windows too often this season, and a big part of this in my opinion is that he does not trust his Offensive Line. I can’t blame him, I don’t trust them either. However, he can now trust the middle of his line to hold up, which means being able to step up in the pocket as he buys time instead of scrambling outside and forcing himself into a foot race with an edge defender. This also means that Darrell Bevell needs to start trusting this part of his run game. The team can successfully pound the ball up the middle. If Bevell starts to lean into this it opens up more of the Zone Read game as those are interior option runs for the back, and play action both on stretch and boot as well as more traditional drop back plays. These are plays Bevell likes to use, so the hope is that his improved line means they are called, the run game can be established, drives can be sustained, and perhaps we get a real, functioning Offense. It’s about trust, and at least 3 of our Offensive Linemen have earned the benefit of some trust.
3. Depth on the Defensive Line
In the games where Seattle has struggled Defensively, it has been with a significant disadvantage in time of possession in Week 1 against the Packers, the Seahawk Defense was on the field for over 39 minutes. In Week 3 against the Titans it was closer to even in time of possession, but in the first half the Titans pounded away for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes of football. What all of this time on the field exposed was that the team really is not comfortable with their depth at key positions. This holds especially true on the Defensive Line, where in the past the team has found it’s greatest success when able to rotate a group of guys through to keep fresh bodies on the field.
With a game against a team like the Indianapolis Colts, who have struggled early in the season but still have a solid Runningback in Frank Gore, it is a chance to give some extra snaps and experience to both rest some of the key guys and give some experience to your depth. In the two losses so far this season at Green Bay and at Tennessee Michael Bennett played 130 snaps, Cliff Avril 112 snaps, and Sheldon Richardson 105 snaps. By contrast we saw Frank Clark play 77 snaps, Naz Jones 45 snaps, Marcus Smith 31 snaps, David Bass 17 snaps, and Garrison Smith 5 snaps. Now, you want your key guys getting the bulk of the snaps, and Clark and Jones are probably somewhat close to the appropriate amount, but the team needs to get fresh bodies in. That requires the team to be confident those players will know what to do, and this is a game where that can happen. Rest Bennett, Avril, and Richardson more, and get guys like Marcus Smith, David Bass, and Garrison Smith enough snaps where they can feel comfortable using them in those close games where maybe the Offense isn’t holding onto the ball as much as they should and the Defense is out there for a long time. That can start today, even if it is just mostly garbage time snaps…assuming there will be garbage time.