Many Seattle Seahawks fans are longtime fans of Football Outsiders, especially since this team reigned supreme as DVOA champions from 2012-2015. This also irritates the hell out of fans of certain other teams, but we don’t care. If you have the time and resources, I highly recommend buying their almanacs, which have plenty of in-depth data and other eyebrow raising statistics across the entire NFL.
Just about every year, SB Nation partners with Football Outsiders so we can pick their brains about their own data and how it relates to our respective teams. Answering Field Gulls’ questions on the Seahawks was FO’s Vincent Verhei, who also authored the Seattle chapter in this year’s almanac. Want to know what the splits were with and without Quandre Diggs on defense in 2020? What about the poor special teams play in recent seasons? We only got five questions so we made sure to touch as many important bases as possible.
1.) Few teams throw the ball as far, get sacked as often, and run the ball as frequently as the Seahawks, while also turning it over only rarely. Does Seattle’s retro offense make it simpler or more challenging to predict their performance in 2020 and beyond?
Verhei: Teams with stability at quarterback and head coach/offensive coordinator are always the easiest to project. Seattle certainly qualifies. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out who’s going to be taking handoffs or catching passes, but the pecking order for the Seahawks in those categories seems pretty clear too. Basically, as long as Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and Brian Schottenheimer are in town, the Seahawks are going to look like the Seahawks.
2.) The Seahawks consistently rank low in FO’s pass blocking ranking because the metric is based on little more than sack rate, which has been shown to be more based on QB play than on offensive line play, so are there any plans to fix that?
Verhei: I would add that pressure rate is available to FO+ subscribers, but that statistic also often tells us more about the quarterback than it does the offensive line. In truth, it’s very, very difficult to separate the two. Even measuring average time in the pocket tells us more about which quarterbacks are quick to check down than it does about how long those pockets last.
3.) From 2010-2015, the Seahawks were usually one of the best special teams units in the NFL, but they’ve been average to well below-average in DVOA rankings in each of the past four seasons. What has been the main culprit for Seattle’s recent special teams woes?
Verhei: A little bit of everything, really. The two areas where they have had negative value each of the past four seasons have been in kicking field goals/extra points and in punts/punt coverage. They have still been much better in both of those categories the last two seasons — Michael Dickson and Sebastian Janikowski/Jason Myers haven’t solved all problems, but they have definitely helped. And the return teams haven’t been anything special in recent years either.
4.) Much has been made about the state of the Seahawks’ secondary, particularly the free safety position. What were the DVOA splits before and after the Quandre Diggs trade? He figured to be a major upgrade over Tedric Thompson and with the addition of Jamal Adams, surely this should be the strongest secondary Seattle has fielded since the end of the LOB era.
Verhei: Diggs started five games for Seattle in the regular season. In those five games, their DVOA was -10.5%, which would have ranked seventh over the course of the entire season. In their other 11 games, it was 9.6%, which would have ranked 27th. Yes, having a competent free safety makes a massive difference. Between him and Quinton Dunbar, who was excellent in Washington last season, I thought this was going to be Seattle’s best post-LOB secondary even before the Adams trade. Now? If all goes well this looks like one of the best secondaries in the league.
5.) Seattle’s pass rush is likely to be without Jadeveon Clowney, who was the best player out of a poor defensive line. He commanded a lot of double teams, which affected his ability to produce sacks. Based on 2019 performances, which player is most likely to be Seattle’s most productive pass rusher in 2020?
Well, if you’re basing it only on 2019 performances, Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa combined for 15.5 sacks last season. Unfortunately, that was the anomaly. In the prior five seasons, their combined average was in the single digits. And that’s probably overstating how effective both men were last year, because when they didn’t get sacks, they usually didn’t get pressure either. Irvin had 23 pressures last year, most of anyone currently on Seattle’s roster. There were 74 players in the NFL who had more pressures than Irvin in 2019; that includes Clowney, who was in the top 20 with 41 despite all those double-teams. (Jamal Adams, if you’re wondering, had 16 in addition to his 6.5 sacks.) This was a poor defensive line in 2019, and it will probably be even worse in 2020.
Additionally, Football Outsiders will donate 10% of the proceeds from every copy of Football Outsiders Almanac 2020 to benefit United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.