The Seattle Seahawks were the “DVOA Champions” from 2012 to 2015, a remarkable feat if you actually care about DVOA. Which most of us here at Field Gulls have and still do for years, and not just when they’re in first place. The Seahawks slipped to 11th in 2016 and 14th in 2017, partly due to shortcomings on offense, but also thanks to injuries and inconsistencies on defense that made them much more average than their previously dominant days. The “bad” news is that Seattle didn’t do much better in 2018 — they finish the season ranked 12th overall — but the good news is that they did so in the season after parting ways with so many players thought to be key to their success.
We don’t need to run through that list of names once again, you know it already, but the fact that the Seahawks are 10-6 and back in the playoffs, as well as their number 12 ranking in DVOA, says quite a bit about the job done by Pete Carroll and John Schneider to keep the franchise competitive while they away for more growth and development from first and second-year starters.
Not that work isn’t left to be done in all three phases of the game.
Seattle ranked ninth on offense, 14th on defense, and 24th on special teams. A big reason for their low ranking on special teams came way of their punting debacle against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, as Michael Dickson had two kicks blocked, but the issues of course run deeper than that. The traditional stats tell one story and DVOA is only meant to tell another. Neither is good enough on its own, both are more powerful when used together, and of course with non-stat-driven devices.
Offensively, the Seahawks ranked sixth in passing and seventh in rushing. This ranking is much more telling of Russell Wilson’s highly efficient season than Seattle’s ranking of 27th in yards and 32nd in attempts, which means nothing other than a story about Brian Schottenheimer and Carroll’s game plan for the offense. Wilson set a franchise record for touchdowns (35) while attempting just 427 passes. They didn’t ask him to throw it 600 times and they didn’t want to take many shots other than the ones that would help them gain first downs and touchdowns. Wilson finished the season 11th in DYAR and 10th in DVOA.
Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett finished with the highest DVOA for a receiver ever. He also edged out DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas for the 2018 crown at DYAR. The second-highest DVOA recorded this season by a WR, though he didn’t have enough targets to qualify, was the 58% by Seattle receiver Jaron Brown.
It doesn’t tell you that they were the best receivers, just that targets to them by Wilson were extremely good at gaining important first downs and touchdowns. En total those two players were targeted 89 times and scored 15 touchdowns with 46 first downs.
On the ground, the Seahawks were second in attempts and first in rushing yards, plus fifth in yards per carry. Chris Carson had 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns. All three lead backs averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry, plus 5.6 for Wilson. Carson was 13th in DYAR and 17th in DVOA, with 51% success rate, which ranked 15th among qualified backs. For the record, that was still a better success rate than Ezekiel Elliott, Phillip Lindsay, Derrick Henry, and Joe Mixon.
This is a vast improvement from 2017, when Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls finished as the two of the three worst-rated backs in the entire NFL by DVOA, and two of the five worst by DYAR despite getting less than 100 carries each.
Another important aspect is strength of schedule, and FootballOutsiders has Seattle’s offense as facing basically a league-average schedule of defenses. By contrast, the New Orleans Saints finished with the second-easiest. (Yes, it is opponent adjusted, otherwise advanced stats like these ... wouldn’t really exist?)
Defensively, the team was average, ranking 14th by DVOA and 19th by weighted DVOA as they struggled more without free safety Earl Thomas as the year went on. They were 13th against the pass and 17th against the run. Their strength of schedule also ranked 16th. In the passing game, the Seahawks were ranked just 25th against number one receivers and 20th against number two receivers, while doing better against all other receivers, tight ends, and backs.
They did their best pass defense up the middle, which is where I hear Bobby Wagner lives.
Traditional stats back this up mostly, as Seattle ranked 11th in points allowed and 16th in yards allowed. They were 17th in net yards per pass attempt allowed, but 30th in yards per carry allowed. Part of that struggle can probably be attributed to the issues at outside linebacker with injuries to K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, though other factors certainly come into play. Wright is now healthy and looks to start against the Cowboys in the wild card round.
Despite a Pro Bowl season by Michael Dickson, the Seahawks finished below average in the punting game thanks to Sunday’s performance against Arizona. The only place they were decent by the end of the year’s total: kickoff returns, which almost don’t matter anymore thanks to the new kickoff rules.
Some are calling for a chance at special teams coordinator with Brian Schneider. Carroll made moves last year with his coaches, will he do the same in 2019?