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Waldron Watch, Week 7: Rashaad Penny edition

New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

At this point in the season, we can observe a trend in the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive output, and it isn’t a positive one. In their first three games, they scored 21, 24, and 17 points in the first halves, respectively. This equates to a little more than 20.5 points, on average. Since then, they have scored 7, 7, 0, and 7. This shakes out to a little less than seven first half points per game. The absence of Russell Wilson is undoubtedly a factor, but this problem goes much deeper, as he was present for the first halves of the Niners and Rams games. And this is not to suggest that he is the problem, but rather the opposite; Shane Waldron and his playcalling have cooled off considerably following a hot start.

In the two games that Russell Wilson has been out entirely, the offense seems to be caught between dialing up ineffective passes and spamming the run to the point that Alex Collins is literally bouncing comically off of linemen. But the fact is this; nobody expected that at this point in the season we would all be anxiously checking the injury report ahead of a Monday Night matchup with the Saints to see if Geno Smith would be handing the ball off to Rashaad Penny or Alex Collins. So regardless of what is happening right now, there is still reason for optimism, even if we have to strain a little bit harder with each game to see it.

Rashaad Penny being Rashaad Penny

Interesting design on this one, as both the left tackle and left guard pull to the right to sell the misdirection. The right side of the line does a good job sliding over, although Brandon Shell ends up chasing nobody around the center of the field (looks like he is going after Davis, who is way to fast for him to catch up). Rashaad Penny seemingly made something out of nothing on this play, but in reality he also left yards on the field, as it looked like he had space to cut inside Cameron Jordan. The blocking materializes and linebacker Demario Davis takes a step or two in the direction of the misdirection. Trying to split Davis and Jordan may not have resulted in a huge gain, but with no other defenders in the immediate vicinity this would likely have been a better option that trying to bounce this one. And this is an encapsulation of Penny’s time with the Seahawks; nothing about his game seems to compensate for his lack of vision and inability to find the hole. Maybe he was always a mismatch for Seattle, maybe the team failed to set him up for success, or maybe he was just never that good in the first place. But I know this much; Chris Carson or even Alex Collins could have found daylight on this run, and so I still am looking at this as positive play design for the future.

Gerald Everett doing the unexpected

Gerald Everett has continued to flash at least once per game, seemingly, and often in unexpected ways. This was a particularly fun one, as he took a carry out of the backfield for a first down. Good work by the line to wash the defense to the left as nobody expects Everett to take this carry. On the right side, Tyler Lockett sells his route well and then puts a decent block on his defender, while Will Dissly makes a great effort to drive rookie Pete Werner well out of Gerald’s way.

Travis “Homerun” Homer

While I fear that the third and long draw call isn’t going to continue to work forever, I have appreciated seeing at least one of these run effectively each week. Although these sometimes have the vibe of a “giveup” play, Waldron has been dialing them up at opportune times that effectively catch the defense off guard and eat up yards with minimal risk for a negative play. As you may recall from last week’s Waldron Watch, Travis Homer was able to take a third and seven draw for a big gain to close out the third quarter. You can see in the clip above how the Cameron Jordan and Tanoh Kpassangon (94 and 90, respectively) are lined up outside and just inside the tackles, on their respective sides. With Demario Davis as the only player holding down the middle of the field (and he drops into coverage almost immediately), this was a great way to capitalize on a defense that was selling out to stop the pass.

Homer continues to be a reliable player for Seattle in his third year with the team, especially on these third-and-long draws. He continues to lead the running backs in yards per carry with 10.2 (albeit on an extremely limited sample size), and while he is still clearly limited to a third down role, his under-the-radar production deserves some credit. Not only this, but he has also been Seattle’s best receiver out of the backfield, as he has taken his 7 receptions for 102 yards.

DK Metcalf vs Marshon Lattimore

This back-to-back sequence is a perfect example of Metcalf settling in nicely to his role in Waldron’s offense. Even though he was limited to two catches in this contest (the first being the long touchdown, of course), Metcalf looks to be stepping up on shorter targets and is finding ways to create yards after the catch. Increasing YAC and declining depth of target (aDOT) are two features of this offense that were expected with the arrival of Waldron; the Rams under McVay have done this for years with players like Cooper Kupp, among others, and this has largely masked their deficiencies at the QB position. DK Metcalf has been many things in his first three seasons in Seattle, but “consistent” has not necessarily been one of them. Now, in his third year as a pro, he looks to be changing this narrative, as he currently outpaces Tyler Lockett on Catch % and Passer Rating when targeted.

On the miss to Metcalf, Smith also failed to see that Freddie Swain had his man beat downfield, which brings us to our next highlight...

Freddie “Big Gain” Swain

Great play design by Waldron on this one. With Lockett motioning behind the formation, Seattle has four receivers flooding the right side of the field, while Metcalf runs deep on the left. Easy read that beats the zone and sets up Swain for big yards after the catch. Kudos once again to DK Metcalf for his blocking on this play. I really admire the growth of #18 this season. Freddie Swain had as many receptions (4) and targets (6) as Lockett and Metcalf combined. In his second year with the team, Swain has stepped up and proven to be reliable and periodically explosive as the third man up on the depth chart. David Moore averaged three targets per game in 2020, which is exactly what the former Florida Gator is averaging this season.

Other Notes and Food For Thought

Clock Management

After initially improving upon their relationship with the play clock, the offense seems to be getting back to what we have seen in seasons past. In both halves of the game tonight, the team had to burn timeouts while looking out of sorts and struggling to get lined up and set. Of course, this isn’t exclusively on the offense (Al Woods), but I just noticed a few non-consecutive occasions of Geno Smith struggling to get the team set and/or make adjustments prior to the snap. I am willing to consider that this could be on Smith to some extent, so I look forward to checking back on this in the weeks to come, especially if Russell Wilson really does end up returning sooner than later.

Spamming the run

Alex Collins had 16 carries for 35 yards, with nearly all of that coming in the second half. This team can’t just rely on the run in the third quarter after abandoning the ground game early. Seeing some more balanced playcalling is a must. But, as usual, how much of this is Waldron v. Carroll is hard to say.

The Tight Ends...?

I really, really, really want to see Waldron continue to get the team’s talented tight ends more involved.

Bring on the Jaguars, and Go ‘Hawks.