On third and very long Mike Holmgren liked to call a draw play for Mack Strong. Around Field Gulls it was colloquially known as “the give up play.” Well, Mr. Holmgren, meet Travis Homer.
It seems an odd legacy to live on for a scatback, but Homer’s role within the offense comprises three duties: running hopeless inside hand-offs to improve field position, running decoy routes, and throwing blocks. In these three duties he does not excel. Which means, with Carson out some length of time—when Carroll says “a week” I hear “after the bye”—we may be stuck depending on Carlos Hyde. There is another option, but first let’s look at Homer.
Seattle was in shotgun in every single one of Homer’s 16 snaps. Prior to Carson’s injury, Seattle was in third down in all of Homer’s snaps. Counting snaps invalidated by penalty, Wilson was sacked three times and hit three additional times in Homer’s snaps. It’s not fair to say Homer is bad but it’s fair to say he does not seem to be a particularly valuable or valued player within the Seahawks offense.
I’ll offer a few representative snaps.
3RD & 16 AT SEA 19(14:22)
(14:22) (Shotgun) T.Homer right guard to SEA 31 for 12 yards (X.Woods; J.Smith).
The give up play reborn. Homer does okay. Greg Olsen loses his block on Joe Thomas. Homer evades but his avoision is the beginning of the end of his run. The likelihood of this working was always low.
3RD & 8 AT SEA 32(05:04)
(5:04) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to T.Homer [A.Smith].
Homer stays in to block. He does not block anyone. When he releases into a route, Thomas, who had initially acted like a pass rusher, releases into coverage.
Wilson throws it five feet behind Homer to avoid being sacked.
I won’t belabor this. On six snaps Homer ran into the flat. Working from memory, I’m not sure Wilson looked at him once. On one snap he played a kind of personal protector position. On another, he ran a go up the right sideline. That was to pull coverage away from Tyler Lockett who was working from the slot. Lockett caught the pass for 16 and helped convert 3rd and 10.
Only once was Homer directly responsible for a successful play.
1ST & 10 AT DAL 36(02:18)
(2:18) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Homer right guard to DAL 29 for 7 yards (A.Smith).
Which forces an iteration of that most common question when evaluating a possibly underused football player. Is Homer a limited player with no upside as an every down back or have the coaches mis-evaluated him? As a young player, it’s also possible he hasn’t proven he can be an every down back yet, but for now we’re thinking of next week. We’re setting aside considerations of his long-term potential.
At best I can offer a qualified answer. The Seahawks, knowing what they want from a player and having the laboratory of practice to test those ideas, do not see Homer as a player who can succeed in runs where the quarterback starts from under center. It may be that he is not perceived to be durable enough, or capable of hanging onto the ball in tight spaces, or able to break the incidental tackle attempts which are so numerous in tight spaces, or it may only be that he does not provide the kind of “gravity” which allows for the essential ambiguity of a drop back which may be a run and may be a play fake. Now it may only be that Homer is simply worse than Carson and Hyde at this, but the re-signing of Marshawn Lynch last season makes me doubt this.
Which makes me think DeeJay Dallas will have every opportunity to see 15 to 25 snaps this week.
Assuming Carson does not play, and whatever his condition I think discretion is the better part of valor in such a situation, the Seahawks will have 40 or so snaps to fill. Hyde’s snaps have slowly diminished through the season from 34% to 24% to 21%. He has a spot on this team, and I would not be the least surprised if he doesn’t get first crack at taking over all of Carson’s snaps, but he’s 30, has an extensive injury history, and seemed to me to have left a lot of yards on the field in recent weeks. Homer seems stuck in his role. Even when he was pressed into regular snaps after Carson’s injury, he did not escape that role.
Whereas Dallas does seem to have potential as a near every down back. Most of what I’ve read about Dallas is that he was pressing Homer for Seattle’s third down role. It may be that Seattle shifts its offense around its personnel, and Homer and Dallas see more snaps, but snaps out of shotgun, snaps which fit their respective skill sets.
The two do not have the same skill set. Dallas weighed 217 at the NFL Combine. He isn’t a crusher. He’s not Earl Campbell or Brandon Jacobs or whoever that Packers back is that was so talked up this summer for the circumference of his thighs. He’s plenty big enough, not squatty as he has noticeably long legs, but anything but slight.
By no stretch am I trying to compare the two in terms of talent, but Dallas is built like Alvin Kamara but with shorter arms, narrower shoulders and a higher center of gravity. I mention Kamara because Kamara has excelled while never really being a three-down back. He is a medium volume back who combines the duties of an every down back and a third down back. If he does enough in practice to earn snaps, that’s what I expect of Dallas this week. Mr Hyde the between the tackles beast, Homer the utile specialist, and Dallas a little of each, and maybe a little better than either at everything.