Seven phases after six games: Phase I, offense

Thearon W. Henderson

Well, with 37.5% of the season complete this seems like a perfectly natural place to examine where the Seahawks are "Things I Think I Think" style. Every season has its own rhythm, and for me four games was a good "fish or cut bait" point on Russell Wilson-as-starter. To that point, I was less interested in the nuances of specific matchups and more attentive (on offense) to our ability to execute. Beginning with the fifth game I am more interested in those matchup nuances, and of course how we are situated for the playoffs.

With a little help from Football Outsiders (all FO stats are through week 6) I want to offer a few more or less random insights on the team.

I. The Offense

So much has been written about Russell Wilson. Rather than belabor points already made in very insightful posts on FieldGulls, other Seahawks fan blogs, and from the gaggle of fine journalists/bloggers associated with the team I'll just point you to them. I have nothing to add to their criticism or praise. So, I'll just concentrate on other areas.

Drives. We play slow, but faster than I thought. Through week six we had a middle-of-the-pack 62 offensive drives. Now, we rank 20th or worse on all per-drive productivity metrics which I cannot imagine shocks. We need to see some improvement, as we are past the point where we can ask the defense to carry two-thirds of the game. I suspect this group has an absolute ceiling for per-drive efficiency of maybe 13th.

A more attainable improvement into the 16-18 range would be most welcome. Not surprisingly, turnovers (19th) are a major impediment. Silver linings? Seattle is 9th in starting field position. (That ranking will certainly tumble after the NFL's worst game in that category this season vs. SF.)It's easy to take Leon Washington's combination of general reliability and occasional explosiveness for granted after another disappointment in SF. Yet Carroll's commitment to the field position game makes working on short fields a huge part of what we do offensively and defensively. We are getting good enough field position, but need to start cashing in on it more regularly.

Offensive line. The line looks good on the overall metrics, but it's got some warts. We rank 3rd (4.62) in adjusted line yards/carry (woo!), far behind San Francisco's absurd 5.25. On the other hand, we are more pedestrian (13th) in short-yardage/goal-to-go situations than you might expect. There are some memorable play call fails, but the line has been leaky in these situations. Marshawn has had to get some of the situational yards all on his own (e.g., late first down at Carolina). In passing, we rank 21st in sack rate (7.2).

With a rookie QB learning how to make adjustments in the pocket it is hard to apportion blame between he and the line. To the naked eye pass pro looks to be improving. Wilson had time to throw vs. SF's outstanding front four most of the game. It's hard not to like how things are developing from center left. The right side remains in flux at guard.

Running Backs. Marshawn Lynch is a top ten back, easy. He has everything you want: power, (enough) speed, endurance, good hands. The only thing he really needs is one of these for a touchdown celebration. (I'm looking at you Skittles. Make this happen.) Robert Turbin has been outstanding too (dropped pass on Thursday notwithstanding), and frankly it's nearing the time when we need to seriously assess his candy situation. Lynch, Turbin, and Michael Robinson have emerged as the strongest offensive unit after six games. In principle I agree with those who claim Leon needs more touches, but how do you sit Beast or Turbo?

Wide Receivers. It is worth noting that Sidney Rice has played well this year, considering Seattle's low-volume pass attack. Rice is 19th in DYAR and leads in pass interference yardage (74). I'd like to see his 61% catch rate above 65%. He's dropping the easy ones.Golden Tate ranks a solid 39th, but similarly his low catch rate (54%) belies his good hands. Still, a top two of Rice and Tate (both of whom still have some room for improvement) is plenty good for what Seattle wants to do. The problem is the rest of the group.

This offense doesn't really "work" without a healthy Doug Baldwin. It is no coincidence that when he is out the pass offense grinds to a halt. No one else on the roster can consistently work underneath. Baldwin wins at the line of scrimmage with precision and quickness, less by high-pointing the ball (though he can do that too). Charlie Martin was essentially Baldwin's understudy, but he's been injured. Rather than spending cap space and draft picks on Dwayne Bowe, who would then need to learn our offense (yadda, yadda...) the team should strongly consider bringing Deon Butler back on a minimum deal. That's a minimal investment that could pay off pretty big.

Tight Ends. I like the group in an overall sense. We are really seeing what Zack Miller can do. He is ranked 16th in DYAR among TEs. Although he has clearly improved, Anthony McCoy still needs more time in the oven before we should consider him a reliable receiver.

Theoretically, Evan Moore replicates some of the things Doug Baldwin does--or at least he works the same areas of the field. I'm trying to be patient as we continue to work him in and get him acclimated. It's hard, and should also suggest a wee bit of caution about some of the "trade for Bowe!" talk. Bowe is a categorically different kind of talent, but transition pains are often no respecters of talent.

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