I've talked a little bit here about the H-back situation with the Hawks and by extension what the Seahawks plan to do in two and even three tight end sets in 2011. It remains to be seen how different the Hawks offense will be from the one Jeremy Bates captained last season, but if we believe Pete Carroll, then it will not stray much. That means we're going to continue to see tight end heavy sets, H-backs lining up in the backfield, tight ends lining up on the wing and motioning in, and tight ends lined up in-line and motioning out.
If you take a look at some of the personnel groupings from 2010, especially late in the year, you see how prevalent the use of two tight ends was. Using Brian McIntyre's excellent and praiseworthy formation tracking from 2010, I found that in the win versus New Orleans in the Wild Card game, the Hawks used two tight ends 24 out of 61 plays, or 39% of their offensive plays. In Week 16 against the Rams, two TE sets were used in 36% of snaps (26/71), including five snaps with three tight ends. Week 15, two or more TEs were used 30 percent of the time. In Week 14 against Atlanta, the Hawks used two or more TEs in a whopping 50% of their snaps (28/56) and used three TEs five times. You see what I'm getting at.
One of the main issues the Seahawks had in their playoff loss against Chicago was that John Carlson and Cameron Morrah were injured in-game, and with Chris Baker and Anthony McCoy already out with injuries, the Seahawks offensive playsheet was whittled down to just one small corner. The Hawks ran zero two-tight end sets and were very limited in their run game because of this factor. Said Matt Hasselbeck at the time:
"We had some creative stuff [in the plan] like we had last week with John Carlson. (Carlson scored two TDs the week prior against New Orleans) Because of Julius Peppers and because of their blitz, we are a heavy leave-the-tight-end-in and leave-the-running-back-in-to-block kind of team. Obviously, in our run game, short yardage, goal line, all of those situations, we no longer had any of those."
So as you can see, the use of tight end heavy packages is a big part of the Seahawks' offense and figures to be in 2011 as well. With that in mind, I wanted to point you to a really great article over at the Turf Show Times, the Rams' SB Nation blog, about two TE sets and why they're effective; they point to their recent draftee Lance Kendricks as the object. Per that article:
"The biggest strength in utilizing a second tight end with regularity is managing possessions, killing the clock and wearing down defenses."
Those three results could encapsulate Pete Carroll's offensive philosophy.
So why have I put such an emphasis on the development of our young H-backs and tight ends? Well, 3k (the author) frames it well when he says, "the use of the H-back allows for a TE to set up at multiple spots: TE, WR, FB or RB. By pushing the player around the formation, it forces some kind of response from the defense to adjust to the switch. Complicating things even further is the possibility of motion. The H-back can play off the line next to the traditional TE and motion into another position. Conversely, he can come out of the FB spot up into a receiving spot to begin the play."
In other words, it makes things difficult for the defense and disguises what that H-back or tight end is going to do (I differentiate but really they're the same position; an H-back is simply a tight end that can move around into the backfield or out to the wing). This creates an advantage for the offense and makes a player with that skillset very dangerous. The Seahawks have a very talented and deep tight end corps in Jon Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy, Jameson Konz, and even Dominique Byrd. Don't be surprised to see four or more tight ends make the final roster because I think they're going to continue to play a large role in the offense.
Check out the article for yourself because it's a great read and a lot of the concepts he's talking about can relate directly to the Seahawks. I wanted to use this article as a little primer for a couple more I've got in the works on the way the Hawks use tight ends and what we might expect from that position in 2011.