The Seattle Seahawks entered the 2019 season with hopes that the offensive line would continue to improve and that would allow quarterback Russell Wilson to lead the team back to the postseason behind a powerful offense. In spite of the 28-12 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football, the Seahawks are still in line for a postseason berth, but offensive predictability is leading to some of the same pressure problems that Wilson and the Hawks offense have battled for years.
In spite of changing the offensive line coach, adjusting the scheme and installing new starters at multiple positions, Wilson continues to be pressured at one of the highest rates in the league.
In 2017 Russell Wilson was the most pressured QB in the NFL, seeing pressure on 41.4% of his dropbacks.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 25, 2019
So, the team fired the o-line coach, overhauled the scheme and signed free agents to start so that Russell Wilson could be pressured on only 41.4% of his 2019 dropbacks.
That tweet is a couple of weeks old, but the idea behind it remains the same - Wilson is constantly under pressure and has been sacked a lot this season. In fact, with just three games to go he is only 11 sacks away from tying his career high, and just a half dozen sacks from reaching the second-highest sack total of his career.
If Russell Wilson takes just 6 sacks over the final 3 games of the season, both the highest and second highest sack totals of his career will have been 2018 and 2019. https://t.co/jlNAekeJaw— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) December 9, 2019
So, the sacks are bad and the pressure is high, but is there something that is driving it? As I looked at back in July, the team’s offensive predictability is leading to predictable 3rd & Long situations, and that is allowing defenses to insert their pass rushing sub package and tee off. Just as in 2018, the Seahawks sack rate increases drastically on later downs.
Sack rate by down during those four games for Wilson:— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) December 9, 2019
It's the running on 1st & 2nd that is getting Wilson killed on 3rd & Long (and 2nd & Long to a lesser extent). https://t.co/QxNHgJ0qlc
What it comes down to is that defenses appear to have developed a formula to try and stop the Seahawks offense, and that is to show multiple high safeties to get the Hawks to run on early downs, and then hope to rush Wilson and force a sack or incompletion on third down. As good as Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny have been at times this year, the median gain on a run play for the Hawks is just three yards. Thus, it doesn’t take much for a run-run or run-incompletion combination on first and second down for Wilson to find the offense in a 3rd & Long obvious passing situation.
And that is leading to Wilson taking a beating yet again. The Hawks are currently 26th in the NFL in sack rate, and fall near the bottom of the league in multiple pass blocking metrics, from ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate to PFF’s grades or Pass Blocking Efficiency. The line is falling far short of expectations, and the predictability of the offensive scheme are only exacerbating the problem.
Many fans had been happy to turn a blind eye to the problem for much of the season because the end result of the majority of games had been wins. However, the winning didn’t get rid of the issues and on Sunday things finally got to the point where it cost Seattle a game. The question now is what happens going forward, and will these same issues potentially derail the team against lesser competition from the Panthers and Cardinals?