Welcome to Seattle, Shane Waldron. In the first real action for the first team offense after a preseason that featured almost zero starters, the Seattle Seahawks new look unit painted a vivid portrait of what we can expect to see under the first-year offensive coordinator. Russell Wilson put on a vintage performance that saw him find the endzone not once, not twice, but thrice in the first half — finishing the game with four total — and ending the day completing 78.3% of his passes at 11 yards per clip.
And if this isn’t enough, he ended the first half with a perfect passer rating. And if that isn’t enough, the team did this on the road against a playoff squad from 2020 who ranked 7th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. And they did all this with a stat line that somehow manages to make everyone happy; the team still skewed run heavy at the end of the day, featuring Carson extensively early and often, as he finished with 91 yards on 16 carries (5.7 ypc), with Eskridge adding a couple designed sweeps for 20 yards.
Of course, the Hawks started 2020 on fire, too. So what makes this offense different? While watching the game today, I noticed a few critical elements that should be reason for optimism going forward. So let’s take a look.
They put up plenty of highlights while visiting Lucas Oil stadium, for sure. But this offense doesn’t just look explosive — it looks sustainable. While Schotty’s Let Russ Cook magic in the first half of 2020 persisted longer than anyone could have realistically predicted, this new look attack appears to be much more reliable and tailored to all of the team’s strengths, not just their otherworldly size and speed at the WR position and Wilson’s downfield accuracy. Just to be clear, Waldron didn’t take the deep ball out of the Seattle aerial attack. But he refined it. We saw the team dial up plays like this that are destined to put fear into the hearts and minds of opposing Defensive Coordinators.
But beyond plays like this, we got to see the team dial up plays that forced the defense to respect the entire field. Plays like Dee Eskridge’s sweeps were a welcome addition to the playbook. While these aren’t an entirely new concept for their offensive repertoire, they certainly look like they will be lethal with a player as talented as a rookie like Dee. These kinds of plays will force the defenses to not simply cover over the top, and are a great example of using creative run calling strategically as opposed to simply “establishing the run” as a matter of course.
*As a side note, wishing Dee Eskridge a swift and full recovery from the concussion!
The Tight Ends and Running Backs got involved
On the Seahawks’ second drive, Wilson came out firing again, this time finding Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Chris Carson, and Dissly (again) in quick succession as the team marched down the field. Carson and Dissly would each finish with three receptions while Everett corralled two, one of which was a touchdown.
Even DeeJay Dallas got in on the action with a five yard catch. This kind of dynamic involvement of Seattle’s diverse and talented skill players is exactly what many of us were hoping to see when Waldron’s hiring was announced. And if week one is any indication, he shan’t disappoint. Of the team’s 18 completions, 9 went to a running back or tight end. Of the remaining 9, Lockett and Metcalf had four each, and Eskridge had one.
Effective play calling, offensive structure and play design
Brian Schottenheimer and Pete Carroll’s vanilla play calling and obsession with draining the playclock last season frustrated the lot of us. If the first game is indicative of things to come, Waldron seems to be emphasizing an offense that controls the pace of the game and establishes a tempo that puts pressure on the defense. This worked wonders today, as the Colts were getting visibly worn down in the second half, and Seattle was able to actually keep their defense off the field for stretches of time. And they did this while snapping the ball with time left on the clock. Wow.
After a slow, penalty-plagued start, DK Metcalf got back to being DK Metcalf and went out and grabbed a handful of passes, including this one.
This play design is simple but effective and creates a one-on-one mismatch between DK Metcalf and Kenny Moore II. No disrespect to Moore, who has turned into a solid defender since becoming an Undrafted Free Agent out of Valdosta State in 2017, but there is no good excuse for leaving a 5’9” defensive back on Metcalf in the red zone. That is easy money for Russ and DK. This is also an encouraging sign of things to come; up by two scores mid-way through the fourth quarter, they dialed up an aggressive pass that effectively put the game away. Keeping the foot on the gas pedal late in the game and coming away with a comfortable win is a great feeling.
Some healthy skepticism
While I have few complaints about today’s performance, a couple stats are worthy of monitoring.
- If I tracked this correctly, the Seahawks didn’t convert a 3rd down after their first drive in the third half. Even the TD to Metcalf came on 2nd down.
- Wilson took four sacks and seven hits today. While one of these was a “sack” as he was being chased out of bounds, this is still not a sustainable pace. Deforest Buckner had a sack and two hits. Containing the division’s top pass rushers will be a tall task if protection can’t improve.
Looking towards the future
Hopefully this is the first step in Waldron’s long and successful tenure as a coach in Seattle. Of course, one game does not define an entire career, and the key will be for Shane to build on this game and get Russell Wilson and the Seahawks back into offensive juggernaut territory on a weekly basis. With the team set to head back home to take on the Titans next Sunday, we will have another opportunity to get a look at the Seahawks fresh attack again soon enough. And until that point, I am going to keep watching Will Dissly’s stiff arm on Bobby Okereke on repeat.