Seven Phases after Six Games, Phase III - VII: Special Teams & Coaching


The coverage and games in football hide dominance (and domination) from the inattentive spectator.

In previous installments I've looked at offense and defense up through week six using football outsiders stats. Today, I'm doing the omnibus "everything else" installment in order to wrap this puppy up and look ahead to Detroit.

(Note: The Football Outsiders special teams DVOA numbers, which are broken down by return/coverage type, are now updated through week seven. So I'll use those, except for the per drive numbers which are only updated through week six.)

Phase III: Kick Returns

Seattle has done fairly well, both in raw return metrics as well as drive starts. Leon Washington is fourth in raw yards per return (31.7). Even though he has yet to take one to the house this season, Seattle gets consistently good starting field position. Although not entirely comprised of kick return yards, Seattle's average starting line of scrimmage is the 28.8, good for ninth overall.

That will decline after the SF game, but to this point Seattle has provided the offense ample field position, which is an often overlooked element of productive deep passing attacks. Football Outsiders expresses returns in "equivalent points" which is an expected points measure indexed to field position. Seattle's kick returns generate field position worth roughly four (3.9) expected points. (Buffalo leads with 10.4 points.)

Phase IV: Punt Returns

In this area, FO sees punt returns as a mildly negative -2 points. Washington has a pedestrian 8.1 yards per return (15th). Just based on what I see, Washington strikes me as a notch below elite but still explosive. I may value Washington's typical sure-handedness and tendency to get up field more than some. So even if he's not the most explosive guy in the business his combination of traits makes me feel generally secure.

Phase V: Kickoff Coverage & FG/PAT

On kickoff coverage Seattle is 2nd on FO's measure with 6 equivalent points, barely behind Chicago's 6.1. Pete's emphasis on kick off coverage should be apparent to regular readers of this site, so no need to belabor the point. The field goal/PAT game has been a very slight negative (-0.3), where Hauschka has two misses from 50+, but far more importantly Seattle has settled for some short field goals.

Phase VI: Punt Coverage

Jon Ryan has had an interesting season. His net yards per punt is a more than decent 41.4, good for 11th overall (and less than half-a-yard from 8th). On the other hand, 62% of his punts are returned (5th worst), he's had only nine downed inside the 20 and the punt return average is sixth worst. Ryan can boom 'em with the best, but his punts don't often hit the ground and opposing returners are bringing them back for decent yardage. FO sees our punt coverage as a net negative (-2.2). What's not clear is how much is on Ryan and how much is on the coverage unit. But, a team built the way Seattle is built cannot afford to be a net negative in punt coverage. That was clearly a problem in the SF game, who is typically good-not-great on punt returns (except against us, evidently).

Phase VII: Coaching

"Coaching" is the most omnibus of omnibus categories. It's hard not to be excited about the basic direction of things. But it's harder to say much that's precise about game-to-game coaching with any confidence.

So much goes on in a game that the typical spectator will never know that I try not to read too much into little bits of incomplete data. Many have called for Darrell Bevell's job, but I tend to be fairly charitable to play callers unless I see play calls that are entirely incompatible with the talent. I haven't liked every call, but I've not seen that. I've seen a lot of passing downs that this offense is not designed to overcome. We have a first year starter at QB, a young offensive line that's been in flux because of injury and we've had a TON of penalties that put is in passing downs. This offense has to stay ahead of the chains to thrive.

I think the staff has done a pretty good job, but beyond that I'll leave to coaching evaluations to you guys.

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