When the Seattle Seahawks take the field this fall they will be sporting the new offense of Shane Waldron, and fans and observers alike are excited for the potential of the team in the new system. Obviously, the big question remains exactly what exactly the offense will look like, as many expect Pete Carroll’s desire for a system designed around a dominant ground game to continue to bring a run first philosophy to the field.
However, the fact that Waldron has spent the past five seasons working in offensive systems in which the passing offense was built out of the West Coast offense brings the potential for Tyler Lockett to put up even more impressive numbers than he has in recent seasons. It’s no secret that Lockett has seen a decrease in yards after the catch (YAC) in the past three seasons, but the adoption of a passing system rooted in fundamentals of the West Coast offense could see Lockett, and the other receivers, getting the ball in space a lot more.
The reason for this is simple, and rooted in one of the major differences between the West Coast offense and other systems at a foundational level. To dig right to the point, when fans think of the offensive coaches who are looked at as scheming geniuses who can get their guys open and get the ball to players in space, a good majority of the names that come immediately to mind are guys like Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and so on all share one thing in common: a passing game rooted in the West Coast offense (WCO).
This is not to take away anything from what those coaches are able to do, but rather brings about an opportunity to discuss an important concept within systems built upon a WCO foundation. Specifically, it’s not just the coaching and scheming that gets these receivers open, as they are aided by a basic fundamental embedded within the offense, something that was touched upon in a 2012 Bleacher Report article by Alen Dumonjic on the system as Bill Walsh originally deployed it decades ago: (Author’s note: Bolding added for emphasis)
These include the significant use of motion, ball-control passing game (see spread offenses), timing drop-backs executed by quarterbacks and option routes that have up to 20 different patterns built in based off of the leverage of the defender. These characteristics are being executed at a very high level in the place where they once reached their pinnacle, San Francisco.
This is not to say that the Seahawks have not used option routes at all in the version of the Air Coryell offense that Brian Schottenheimer deployed the past three seasons, just that the option routes have had far fewer options embedded in them.
For fans who are wondering exactly what option routes are, they are routes that can change on the fly after the snap of the football. If one thinks back to the Seattle offense under Darrell Bevell in 2017 or prior, one can certainly recall situations that would take place where Russell Wilson would drop back into the pocket and then deliver a deep pass down the sideline, only the for receiver to stop their route well short of where the ball was delivered. This would then be followed by the announcer noting that the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page.
The reason for this is that the WCO offense requires that the receiver and quarterback read the defense and adjust the play on the fly in real time. This can certainly make the offensive system more difficult for offensive players to learn, but at the same time can make the offense more dangerous in that the receivers are not running to a pre-determined spot, and are rather running their routes in such a way that they are running to space. It then becomes the responsibility of the quarterback to get the ball to the receiver in space, throwing with anticipation based on defender positioning rather than staring down the intended target. (Author’s note: There was an absolutely fantastic comment describing the difference between how in the Air Coryell system a quarterback reads the receiver while in the West Coast the quarterback reads the defenders, but because the new commenting system can’t be searched, I’m not going to spend an entire day reading through comments on dozens of articles trying to find it.)
Getting right to the point, the new system could present Lockett with a significant number of opportunities to get the ball in open space more often. For a player who has demonstrated time and again his potential in the open field during his career, the outcome of that could be an absolute monster season. Now fans just have to wait 23 more weeks until the NFL seasons starts and see Lockett in action in Waldron’s system.