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Sam’s Film Room: What Brian Schottenheimer’s passing scheme could look like

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the Seattle Seahawks hiring Mike Solari as their offensive line coach, Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator, and Ken Norton Jr. as their defensive coordinator, I wanted to take a look at the possible schemes that these coaches could bring to Seattle. I already looked at Solari (here), Norton Jr. (here), and Schottenheimer’s run game (here), so in this article I wanted to take a look at what his passing game could look like.

Seahawks’ Pass Game under Brian Schottenheimer

As a refresher from my previous article, Schottenheimer ran a zone stretch scheme to horizontally stretch the defense. Once the outside run got the defense flowing sideline-to-sideline, he would run “inside zone” or a “power lead” play to get the running back to the backside of the defense. He usually ran out of singleback and offset-I and rarely ran out of shotgun.

For his passing game, he used the running game to establish the threat needed to take play-action shots down the field. While he did use bootlegs, similar to a Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay offense, he mainly ran a vertical passing game. The quarterback would take seven-step drops from under center or he would take five-step drops from shotgun. This would give the receivers plenty of time to get down the field.

Schottenheimer liked using the “three verts” and “four verts” concepts. He would use this to force the defense into a three-deep or four-deep coverage and open holes underneath for his receivers to gain yards after the catch. Russell Wilson isn’t afraid to take shots down the field and that will be especially important next season. However, this offense should afford plenty of an opportunity for underneath crossing routes like mesh and drag concepts as well. I’m really excited to see what roles Doug Baldwin or a player like Amara Darboh plays next season.

From a schematic standpoint, on first down you’ll likely see a zone run as we discussed in my last article, or he’ll mix in a deep seven-step vertical concept. If the outside zone run gave him a favorable position, he’ll sometimes dial in a play-action bootleg using a flood concept to stretch the sideline defenders.

If the run went for a minimal gain or his deep pass attempt fell incomplete, he sometimes used a quick timing pattern like a slant-flare concept or even a running back screen to get the offense into a more manageable situation on third down.

Screen passes were only used once or twice a game, but they usually netted positive yards. The expectation of a deep concept forced defenses backwards and gave these throws room to operate. For players like Tyler Lockett or even C.J. Prosise out of the backfield, this should get them into a good opportunity to gain yards.

One thing I noted was that he wasn’t afraid of being aggressive on second and long to take the same shots he’d take on first down. This would be used as a tendency breaker for this offense. I typically saw them being run at the beginning of halves where risking a three and out would be less harmful to the overall game plan.

With the Rams, Schottenheimer used Jared Cook as a receiving threat in his offense. Cook ran a lot of seam routes and designed concepts to get him the ball versus a linebacker. If the Seahawks don’t cut Jimmy Graham this season, he could look really good with his opportunities down the field.

One thing that I’m truthfully nervous about is how the offensive line will block these seven step passing sets while the routes develop down the field. Obviously, this is an issue in every offense, but if you are consistently running deep play-action or have your quarterback drop to a distance of 8-12 yards, the offensive line is even more important than they would be in a pure quick-passing game.

Regardless, one of the pluses of having a quarterback like Russell Wilson is that he should be able to scramble into obvious openings in the defense. The vertical concepts should pull the underneath defenders backwards and and open running lanes for him which should help ease the pressure on the line.

Overall, there should be some carryover between Darrell Bevell’s offense and what I think Schottenheimer should bring to Seattle. Bevell ran more underneath spacing, level, and crossing concepts out of bunch sets whereas Schottenheimer’s offense used more vertical spacing concepts meant to stretch the downfield secondary.

I think one of the biggest adjustments he’ll need to make is factoring in the offensive line and how he’ll use Wilson’s scrambling and accuracy on the run. Maybe we’ll see more bootlegs and quick passing game concepts, but the identity of the “vertical” offense is what I imagine we’ll see a lot of next season.

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