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Digging deeper into issues of predictability and expectations for the Seahawks offense

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Friday here at Field Gulls, Matty F. Brown took a deep dive into the 2018 offense of Seattle Seahawks under the command of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, looking at the things the offense did well during the season and offering praise for an underappreciated job well done. I’m here to swing the hammer and lay out some more details about why the issues with the Seattle offense this past season are not with the results, but rather lie in the process.

Any quality system should have successes that are replicable, and the 2019 version of the Seahawks offense may not be able to build on the successes of 2018. Obviously, the team lost its best wide receiver in Doug Baldwin, and could face an uphill battle working to incorporate multiple athletically talented, but young and inexperienced receivers into the system.

In any case, one of the other challenges for the Hawks offense will be that opponents have had an entire offseason to review, chart and dissect the tendencies and habits of the Seattle offense. Earlier in the offseason I looked at some strong situational tendencies for the Hawks offense during the past season, and even in the face of a 100% tendency some fans felt it was justified because of situation. Well, digging into another tendency and examining outcome shifts over time reveals another potential pitfall.

Over the course of the 2018 season, the Hawks offense utilized wide receiver Tyler Lockett as a rusher 13 times. On those 13 carries Lockett gained 69 yards, for a quality 5.3 yards per carry. Further examination, however, demonstrates a couple of patterns and trends that could see that 5.3 yards per attempt dip moving forward.

For starters, Lockett’s rushes can be broken down into two categories:

  • Those that took place in Week 10 and before
  • Those that took place in Week 11 and after.

The differences are stark. Over the first ten weeks of the season Lockett carried the ball six times for 49 yards, while over the final seven weeks of the year he logged just 14 yards on seven attempts. What led to that split? What caused him to go from over eight yards per carry to dip all the way down to two yards per carry, including posting all five of his shortest rushing attempts over the final seven weeks?

Some of the answer probably lies in simple randomness, however, what also could be in play is a lack of situational awareness from the individual calling the plays. Along a similar line to what I looked at earlier in June regarding situational predictability, The Seahawks called Lockett’s number in a surprising small number of situations. For a better understanding of what is meant by this, here’s a table looking at every single rushing attempt by Lockett during the 2018 season.

Tyler Lockett 2018 Rushing Attempts

Opponent Quarter Time Remaining Down Yards to Go Score Yards Gained
Opponent Quarter Time Remaining Down Yards to Go Score Yards Gained
Dallas 4 7:11 1 10 24-13 5
Rams 1 9:00 1 10 0-0 6
Oakland 1 14:56 1 10 0-0 7
Detroit 3 0:35 2 8 21-7 3
Detroit 2 4:34 2 10 14-7 10
Rams 1 12:35 1 10 0-0 18
Green Bay 1 9:56 1 10 0-7 1
Carolina 1 15:00 1 10 0-0 -2
San Francisco 3 1:45 2 10 27-10 10
Minnesota 3 12:30 1 10 3-0 -4
Minnesota 1 0:22 1 10 0-0 1
San Francisco 1 13:00 2 8 0-0 4
Arizona 2 4:59 2 9 14-10 3

That’s every single one of his carries, and check out the down and distance on which the ball goes to Lockett. They’re all

  • 1st & 10,
  • 2nd & 10,
  • 2nd & 9 or
  • 2nd & 8.

There was no other situation during the entirety of the 2018 season in which the offense gave the ball to Lockett as a runner outside of those four down and distances. Looking at each of those, the Hawks ran 395 plays on 1st & 10, 61 on 2nd & 10, 24 on 2nd & 9 and 34 on 2nd & 8 per the Pro-Football-Reference.com game play finder. That’s a total of 514 plays in those situations out of 1,010 offensive plays run by the team during the year, or just a hair under 51%.

Thus, knowing the percentage of time the team found itself in that situation and when it called Lockett’s number, it is possible to use a binomial distribution to get a very rough ballpark estimate of the chances that this was random. Given 13 of 13 rushing attempts came in situations that presented themselves on 50.891089% of offensive plays, the odds are somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.01536% that this was simply randomness (or roughly 6500 to 1). I’ll be the first to admit that that number is smaller than the actual number simply because it doesn’t take into account situations where passing is far more likely than rushing. However, even if one estimates that thirty percent of offensive plays are pass first situations (two minute drill, losing in the fourth quarter) and remove those from the equation, the odds of this pattern being from randomness come in at less than two percent (1.8036%).

So, while Matty is likely to continue to sing the praises of a job well done for Schottenheimer, I’m here to dig into the issues the offense may have created for itself going forward.