Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders put together some interesting statistics recently about the prevalence and use of offensive linemen heavy sets. They charted teams' use of 6 and even 7 offensive linemen over the season and came to the conclusion that Oakland used these "jumbo" sets the most of any team in the NFL. This is important to note for Hawks fans because it stands to reason Tom Cable will bring some of that methodology here to Seattle.
FO noted, "This year's top team running 6OL sets (and occasionally 7OL sets) was Oakland, normally with Khalif Barnes as the sixth lineman. The Raiders were one of three teams that used six linemen more than 100 times. Oakland also was the best team in a 6OL formation, averaging 6.2 yards per play. The Raiders had five different plays of 40 or more yards from 6OL sets: three pass plays, a 57-yard Darren McFadden touchdown run, and a 71-yard touchdown run by Jacoby Ford on an end around. In addition, Barnes himself caught two passes as a tackle eligible, including a touchdown against Kansas City in Week 9."
Though I can't be certain the 6OL sets were more the preference of Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson (rather than Cable), it's something we could see used frequently in Seattle now that Cable is ostensibly the 'running game coordinator.' John Morgan brought up this idea here at Field Gulls earlier this year when he reported on Seattle's Caz Piurowski signing. He noted then that Piurowski is a big blocking tight end that was signed to play tackle. This could be a bit head scratching at first because, as Morgan noted, he's not really big enough to effectively anchor against 3-4 defensive ends at the tackle position, but instead he offered this idea:
"I do not think Seattle is signing Piurowski thinking he will one day start at tackle. At least, not ideally. Instead, I think Piurowski is interesting as an overall talent, could work on special teams, and could continue the legacy of Khalif Barnes. Tom Cable worked Barnes as an additional blocker in six man lines. The wrinkle was that Barnes could also release into a pattern. He caught one pass against the Seahawks for six yards, and one pass against the Chiefs for a touchdown. Barnes is pretty athletic for a 330 pound offensive linemen, but it's still a rough fit. An interesting idea tested with the best available talent that, and I am guessing here, Cable may be interested in pursuing further."
Before Cable has directed a snap in the run game here in Seattle, this looks like a very astute connection made by Morgan and I would not be surprised if it turns out to be true.
To get a picture of just how often Oakland ran their jumbo package, here are the stats that Football Outsiders compiled:
FO specifies that "Power" plays are the use of this set in short-yardage situations. As you can see, Cable's Raiders used these 6OL sets 124 times in 2010, and 98 of those plays were in non-'power', short yardage situations. This indicates that they used these sets in the normal course of a game and in many different types of situations. Most teams that appeared on this list would use the 6OL jumbo sets in short yardage 'power' situations but it appears that the jumbo set was a staple of the Raiders' offense, used on 12.1% of their total plays.
If Cable has plans to bring this philosophy to Seattle, it would have pretty big implications for the Seahawks offense.
If the Hawks' run game starts to look at all like Oakland's from 2010, we're going to see 6, and even 7OL sets with heavy use of tight ends. In these sets, Cable utilized his running backs and fullbacks frequently as well. I'll break it down for you in the next post, but it wasn't uncommon to see a 6OL, 2TE, and essentially 2FB set in use for Cable's Raiders. I say 'two fullbacks' because when you have Marcel Reese (6'3, 240) lead-blocking for Michael Bush (6'1, 245) you're looking at two guys that have 20 odd pounds on the Seahawks starting fullback from last year, Michael Robinson.
If you like power running with big, bruising (dare I say, beastmode?) style players, you'd like the 2010 Raiders' offense.
I'm especially excited to see this type of thing because the Seahawks were simply DISMAL in their power rushing in 2010. I broke down the Seahawks' impotence in short yardage and goal line situations based on some NFL stats a few weeks ago, but looking at some Football Outsiders' statistics doesn't make it any rosier of a situation.
According to their stat-collection, the Seahawks of 2010 ranked 29th in their "Power" rank, and were stuffed in those short yardage situations 26% of the time - WORST IN THE NFL. This is how FO defines getting 'stuffed': "Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32)." Seattle was ranked 32nd.
This is why you saw the Hawks resorting to passes on 3rd and short, 4th and short, and frustrating the bejesus out of us all.
Anyway, if we see Cable migrate some of the Raiders' jumbo-set mentality to Seattle, this is a statistical area that can hopefully be improved upon. Obviously, it takes a solid line and solid execution to do this, but here's to hoping Cable can find success. At the very least, these numbers point to the idea that we'll see some jumbo sets being run next season and I, for one, would love it. I've always been a fan of these 'power' formations and the idea of demoralizing your opponent with a smashmouth run game. Getting first downs. Moving the chains. Keeping leads and running out the clock. Punching your opponents in the mouth and taking what you want.
These are all theoretical hopes, but based on Cable's track record, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we could start to see a culture change in that regard happening in Seattle.