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Waldron Watch, Week 3: Where’s Waldron?

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Welcome to the cellar, ‘Hawks fans. Thanks to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks are not the only team in their division without a perfect record. But they are the only team in the NFC West with a losing record. But the season is young, and you don’t make the playoffs in the first three games.

The last time Seattle started 1-2 was in 2018, under first year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. As you may remember, that team dropped their first two games (Broncos and Bears) and looked on track to being unwatchable. Fast forward to the end of the season and the Seahawks finished the rest of the year going 9-4 and made the playoffs as a wild card team. But if you think this article is plunging the depths for optimism, think again.

The Seahawks dropped their second game in a row, and once again the offense went from looking unstoppable to not looking like much of anything at all. They ran a total of five plays in the third quarter (resulting in a punt) and followed that up with a five play drive (also a punt) to start the fourth quarter. Obviously, the offense looks like a hall of fame unit compared to the defense, but why does a team that seems to dominate early seems to fall apart late? And three games in, I think it is fair to question why this trend seems to be consistent week in and week out.

But before I dig in to Waldron too much, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. This offense has actually been really good, by many accounts. In total fairness, they have been at least good enough to get this team to 2-1 if the defense wasn’t so consistently soiling the bed at every opportunity. But the reality of the situation appears to be this: The Seahawks are an offensive-oriented team and as such they will continue to lose games until they stop relying on their defense to get stops, because it simply isn’t going to happen with any regularity. This team isn’t going to function with a “safe” offense with a great punter who can pin their opponents deep. If they are going to win games, they are going to need to score a lot of points. And so far, they have only been doing that intermittently.

But enough wallowing. In this article, I want to focus on how this offense can adjust and get back on track in FOUR SIMPLE WAYS. While this team currently looks like a sub-.500 squad, they still have moments where they look unstoppable.

Get the Tight Ends More Involved

It is absolutely no surprise that some of the Seahawks best plays this season have come under the feet of their two talented Tight Ends. But so far through three games, Dissly and Everett have caught four passes for 76 yards and eight passes for 77 yards, respectively. Strictly resorting to a higher volume isn’t necessarily the answer, but I would like to see these numbers come up a bit, as both of these players can be electric with the football in their hands.

Will Dissly shook the football world in week one with a jaw-dropping (jaw-shattering?) stiff arm that reminded us that Beast Mode isn’t a person, it is a state of being. Not to let this be his pinnacle, he once again made a defender pay for thinking they could take him one on one yesterday.

This play serves as a great reminder how special of a talent Dissly is. He is rare proof that top-flight speed is only a tertiary to success at his position when you have his unique combination of power, route-running-savvy, and excellent field vision.

And for the first time in a long time, he isn’t the only consistently talented player at the position group. Gerald Everett has displayed poise and athleticism as a Move Tight End, while Dissly continues to find success as the more traditional in-line TE. Plays like the one below are examples of where his chemistry with Wilson can continue to improve and lead to big plays up the seam as the season progresses.

Gerald Everett also had one of the only positive plays of the fourth quarter, as he took a pass over the middle and fought for the first down on what was more or less Seattle’s only meaningful drive of the final quarter of play.

Run Smarter, Not Harder

Chris Carson is one of my favorite Seahawks. He quietly persists as one of the most talented and hard working players on an offense full of talented players. He is currently tied for the league lead with three rushing TDs, but is only 15th in carries. He doesn’t need to get 20 touches every game to be effective. While he won’t make the splash plays we see from Lockett and Metcalf with the same frequency, and he may not have the top flight speed of some running backs in the league, his tenacity is something to behold. But that all barely even matters when the offensive line can open holes like they did on his touchdown.

Damien Lewis does an excellent job to put his body on his man and seal him to the inside. But the real star here is Duane Brown. While watching this live, my first reaction on seeing the replay was “wow, Damien looks great, but where is Duane Brown?” Then I realized that Duane drove his man so far out of the play that they escaped the replay cameras. I’m not anointing Damien Lewis the new Steve Hutchinson, but the combination of him and Duane Brown is easily the best LG/LT combo Seattle has had since Hutch and Walter Jones. For the first time in many seasons, the Seahawks’ offensive line doesn’t seem like “the problem.” They aren’t perfect, sure, but I would put them far down the list of issues on this current squad. I’ve actually been relatively impressed with Waldron’s use of the ground game thus far; his playcalling seems to be a welcome break from the ‘run-run-pass’ formula, and his use of draws and play action (and dare I say, passing to set up the run?) look to be a recipe for success. Continuing to get Carson the ball as a runner and a receiver is going to be necessary if this team wants to dig itself out of its second half hole that it seems to fall into every week. Which leads to our next point.

Play Action, Play Action, Play Action

You may notice this is a bit outdated. Mina Kimes tweeted this following the Seahawks’ first game over the Colts. Russell Wilson has consistently found success off of play action, and the arrival of Waldron from an offense that was based around the creative use of PA speaks volumes to Seattle’s desire to capitalize on this. But the play selection in the third and fourth quarter does not.

On their single drive in the third quarter, they ran two straight running plays which netted a first down, at which point they ran a PA screen to Collins that ended in a quick throwaway, then ran two straight passes that resulted in a sack and an inconsequential gain on third and long. On their first and only meaningful drive of the fourth quarter, they ran for a minimal gain to Carson before throwing a completion to Everett, followed by the terrifying play to Lockett, a negative pass to Carson, and an incompletion to Swain, followed by a head scratching punt. From what I could tell re-watching the game, none of these plays following the failed screen to Collins utilized play action. This needs to change. But getting back to that decision to punt...

Never Punt the Ball Again

It is a damn shame that Michael Dickson is on this team. He is a rarely talented and uniquely entertaining punter to watch. His combination of accuracy and range is pretty stunning. While he has had a couple not so great punts this year, he generally has looked solid once again. However, I hope to never see him set foot on the field again until the Hawks are so far ahead that they can’t lose (which, ugh, I thought was happening in the Tennessee game...). When Seattle punted the ball in the fourth quarter of the Vikings game, Wilson’s stat line looked like this: 19 for 25, 240 yards, and a TD, and he had just very nearly hit Freddie Swain for a first down on a pass that was admittedly high, though Swain was open and could have come down with that one. But either way, when your QB is completing 76% of their passes for 9.6 YPA and the line to gain is 7 yards downfield with the team trailing by two scores in the fourth... throw the ball. This is the kind of playing-not-to-lose garbage that will continue to sink this offense.

For comparison, when I was watching the Chargers - Chiefs game, I was floored when the Chargers lined up to go for it on 4th and 4 in the fourth quarter with the game tied. And I was absolutely flabbergasted when they took a false start, backed up five, and still lined up to go for it. And they converted. Two plays later, they found Mike Williams for the go ahead score in what would be their first meaningful victory over the Chiefs in the Justin Herbert era. And they did so over the team that famously converted a fourth down in the divisional round of the playoffs with Chad Henne under center (!?) due to an injury to Patrick Mahomes. Because this is how you win football games in the 2020s.

In Conclusion...?

All this being said, I am hopeful that Seattle will adjust. Shane Waldron has had three real games to demonstrate that he may be the future for the Seahawks offense. And while the initial results have been mixed, to some degree, he is outproducing his defensive counterpart unquestionably, who himself has had years upon years to build his legacy in the Pacific Northwest. While the former has earned himself the benefit of the doubt, the latter has earned himself a trip out of town. Let’s hope that the Front Office is taking note.