Notes on the Seahawks offensive scheme, philosophy and 'conservative' playcalling

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

All the materials Russell Wilson needs to succeed are there; he just has to know how & when to use them effectively.

Just a few days ago, Pete Carroll mentioned that he was "raising a quarterback" in Russell Wilson and bringing in a more conservative gameplan to his offense compared to the ones we've seen in the past two years. Naturally, this raises a few questions as to what having a conservative gameplan means. An earlier article by Davis Hsu mentions the "sippy cup lid" analogy - an idea that I think serves merit not based on the idea that Wilson is handcuffed in many ways, but by the fact that he's slowly going to transition into mastering the full potential of the playbook. If the offense can truly be considered "sippy cupped", then it is up to Wilson himself to learn and understand it enough so that he can take the lid off himself.

This is evident by how the Seahawks lined-up last Monday, both formationally and in their personnel. In the 61 plays the Hawks' offense lined up in last night, 17 were in 11 personnel, or with 1 RB and 1 TE. Now, you may think that this might simply be a traditional ZBS run formation, and you would be correct. The most traditional look for this grouping would be something like this formation:

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But the Seahawks, at times, also came out into a spread-out formation like this, with Marshawn Lynch on the wing:

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In the picture above, it is interesting to note that the Seahawks came out of a few plays with Lynch out wide, rather than at RB. I think this is a slow, but continuous learning curve/growth for Wilson. As a defense, the rotations and substitutions are determined mainly by offensive personnel. For example, if the Defensive Coordinator sees two running backs and three tight ends come to the huddle, he's thinking that the offense is probably going to run the ball, and that they are going in a tight formation. Thus, the common thought is to bring in the bigger, stronger defenders that can stack the run such as DL and LB rather than overloading the secondary with coverage players. After all, what good would they do if the offense does come out in a goal-line set?

With the Carroll/Bevell offense, the Seahawks use this type of thinking against them. Danny talked last week about the inclusion of 3TE sets as pass plays rather than runs, and this development is continued here. Using 11 personnel in an empty set can create a potential mismatch on the defense for Wilson to potentially exploit simply by motioning the formation.

Consider this play, where the offense begins by lining up under a 2RB, 2TE heavy run set:

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Now you can count that 7 men are stacked in the box, probably because the Packers think that they're going to run. But upon a call by Wilson, several players go in motion:

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And now you're looking at a passing set and the Packers have to adjust. Making checks and audibles like this is the level of mastery Wilson can fulfill by the end of this season, but it's important for him to grasp the concept effectively and efficiently. I think the coaches want Wilson to see that the empty 11 personnel set I mentioned above is an example of what he can motion the offense into - so that when the play is designed to be a run, it can just as easily changed to be designed for a pass, and vice versa.

This isn't always limited to 11 personnel plays either:

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Of course, to be able to do this, the offense needs enough versatile players to be able move around. With the inclusion of Evan Moore, Robert Turbin and the improvement of Anthony McCoy, it certainly seems that the material to move things forward is there. All it needs is for a quarterback comfortable enough and confident enough to make those changes

Some other miscellaneous notes/interesting tidbits I saw:

-- The Seahawks motioned a player on 16 different plays. Now some may regard motioning players across the field as something trivial, but in fact, most defenses play to the strength of where the TE/dominant side is. Smart motioning between plays can lead to success, as evident by the (legitimate) TD pass to Golden Tate:

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-- While dominant as a whole, the Seahawks' offensive line is particularly limited/vulnerable when each guy is singled out by itself during pass blocking. By shifting, this can effectively target/stall a defensive player or a straight out pass rusher from getting the jump.

-- Continuing the conservative theme of not having Wilson or the offense turnover the ball, Bevell has only called the young rookie to pass 29 times, or 47% of the time. Within those 29 times, 5 were in short conversions (0-4), 6 were in medium conversions (5-9), and 18 were in long conversions (10+). Whether or not this was because the Seahawks were down most of the 4th quarter is beyond my knowledge, but again, this is a sign that Wilson is being gradually worked into a becoming a facet of the offensive scheme.

-- There was a fanpost regarding seeing Okung play at right tackle for a second. I looked back at the film and found this:

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This would be a overload right formation, with both of the offensive tackles on one side. This definitely shows run all the way, but at least Bevell is creative in throwing something like this in there once in a while.

--Of the 25 carries Lynch had, 6 of them were to the left, 8 thru the middle and 11 were to the right. More importantly, 20 of them ran towards the strength - more evidence in the right side OL's dominance on the ground. Prior to what I considered a disastrous start for J.R. Sweezy in the first game, I had expressed my disapproval in having him been named the starter for two main reasons: 1) he's underweight at 296 pounds and 2) while is good at run blocking, he struggles at pass blocking. Pete Carroll, always focusing on what a player can do rather than what he couldn't, came out with his formation Monday:

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Got me there Pete.

The Full Playchart:

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