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The Seahawks passing offense continues to lack YAC

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have a low-volume, high-efficiency passing offense that head coach Pete Carroll has surely been craving after seeing what happened in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. It’s a run-first offense that thrives off of play-action, and Russell Wilson is tasked to make the most out of his limited attempts.

Thus far, the results have been positive under Brian Schottenheimer. Seattle currently ranks 6th in pass offense DVOA, which is lower than only the 2012 and 2015 Seahawks, the gold standards for offense under Carroll. Wilson is on pace to set a career-high for touchdown passes, and could have a career-low in interceptions.

But while the numbers suggest this is one of the top passing offenses in the NFL, they sure as hell aren’t among the best in every aspect of the aerial attack. In fact, the Seahawks could stand to significantly improve its woeful “Yards After Catch” (YAC) statistics.

NFL Team YAC Stats (as of Week 15, 2018 NFL Season)

Team Passing Yards Yards After Catch YAC Percentage YAC/Reception
Team Passing Yards Yards After Catch YAC Percentage YAC/Reception
San Francisco 3724 2102 0.564 7.35
Kansas City 4543 2338 0.515 6.76
Miami 3013 1642 0.545 6.36
Pittsburgh 4507 2503 0.555 6.34
LA Chargers 3959 1879 0.475 6.04
New England 4029 2052 0.509 6.02
LA Rams 4292 1991 0.464 6
Tennessee 2879 1502 0.522 5.82
Green Bay 4029 1936 0.481 5.76
Jacksonville 3179 1693 0.533 5.7
NY Giants 3795 1895 0.499 5.69
Oakland 3705 1928 0.52 5.69
Carolina 3491 1808 0.518 5.6
Dallas 3337 1722 0.516 5.57
NY Jets 2896 1416 0.489 5.47
Houston 3592 1589 0.442 5.46
Detroit 3409 1807 0.53 5.46
Denver 3436 1666 0.485 5.32
Cleveland 3538 1573 0.445 5.21
Cincinnati 3341 1555 0.465 5.08
Seattle 3025 1264 0.418 5.06
Philadelphia 3810 1803 0.473 5.04
New Orleans 3730 1694 0.454 4.98
Chicago 3338 1494 0.448 4.97
Atlanta 4327 1890 0.437 4.96
Washington 3036 1406 0.463 4.93
Buffalo 2641 1150 0.435 4.91
Arizona 2553 1164 0.456 4.71
Minnesota 3913 1788 0.457 4.66
Baltimore 3325 1405 0.423 4.56
Tampa Bay 4677 1598 0.342 4.54
Indianapolis 3953 1662 0.42 4.41
Info courtesy of Stats.com

The Seahawks are 27th in passing yards, which is unsurprising due to the number of attempts from Wilson, but they are 30th in YAC, 21st in YAC per reception, and 31st in percentage of passing yards coming from YAC. Only two of Russell Wilson’s 31 touchdowns have come on plays where the receiver gained at least 10 yards beyond the reception point.

YAC stats are admittedly all over the place depending on if you use ESPN.com or Stats.com or FootballDB.com, but it’s pretty jarring that Tyler Lockett is 24th in the NFL in receiving yards (800) yet 89th in YAC (211). According to FootballDB, Mike Davis is Seattle’s leading YAC receiver with 225 yards, good for 78th place. Mike Davis has 202 total receiving yards, by the way.

This obviously isn’t just a Brian Schottenheimer problem, because ESPN’s stats had Seattle’s receivers only getting 1,543 yards in YAC out of 3,979 total passing yards in Darrell Bevell’s 2017 offense, a pitiful 4.54 YAC/Reception.

Now granted, the table shows you that some YAC leading teams are also bad passing offenses, such as the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, while higher-end passing teams like the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons aren’t exactly YAC machines themselves, but they do have elite #1 options in Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. On the other hand, the Kansas City Chiefs are the #1 passing team, and double as one of the best at generating YAC, primarily due to phenomenal scheming and the individual brilliance of Tyreek Hill.

There’s no one answer as to why the Seahawks struggle to get yards after the catch. I tend to think it’s primarily a combination of talent and scheme. This stat shows you how rarely the Seahawks WRs — just WRs, not RBs or TEs — have forced the defense to miss tackles in 2018.

In other words, most play-designs are effectively resulting in immediate tackles or getting out of bounds whenever a Seahawks receiver catches the ball.

It’s also well established that the Seahawks do not dial up many screen passes, and usually when they ran those under Darrell Bevell it turned into disaster. Whether it was blown blocks, bad throws by Russell Wilson, or bad open field decision-making, they sucked at it. The “eye test” tells me Seattle actually is executing RB screens more effectively this season, but they seldom use them.

There’s also a recent statistic that shows the Seahawks throw outside the numbers more than all but a couple of teams this season, and while this number might lack context of number of throwaways, NextGenStats charts essentially confirm that Wilson rarely challenges the middle of the field outside of shorter throws.

Then there is Wilson himself. An inaccurate or mistimed pass can essentially lead to “lost hidden yards.” This heroic game-winning throw to Tyler Lockett against the Carolina Panthers really should’ve been a touchdown — it’s a good thing it wasn’t, as Carolina not getting the ball back was better for the Seahawks — and instead of 18 yards after the catch, Lockett ends up with just three.

The Seahawks simultaneously have a great passing offense and a very limited one. They are proficient at play-action, deep passing, and frankly... not much else? Screens, pick plays, seam throws down the middle of the field, routes designed for running backs, exploiting zones, straight drop-back passing, these are simply not consistent strengths of the passing game, and that’s perhaps by design. If that’s the case, the lack of YAC is probably here to stay.

What is of concern on the other side of the ball is the fact that the Seahawks defense has allowed almost 2,000 yards after catch out of 3,681 total passing yards, making them one of the worst in the NFL. Perhaps that’s what makes losses like the 49ers game last week so frustrating. An objectively inferior offense was able to get “easy extra yards” that the Seahawks offense repeatedly fails to manage. And who’s coming to town this Sunday? The team that’s 2nd in YAC and YAC per reception. Uh oh.