The Seattle Seahawks run game has been ineffective this season to say the least. We’ve seen everything from explosive plays to its complete absence over drives or even halves.
In general, it’s not been a great year for the whole unit, with Kenneth Walker having a mediocre season and Zach Charbonnet averaging only 3.2 YPC since becoming the lead back.
A potential explanation: Seattle’s running one of the least creative schemes in the NFL.
Most and least diverse run schemes based on types of run concepts called (outside zone, inside zone, counter, power, etc.) pic.twitter.com/N6BNwfMwht— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) December 6, 2023
At 27th in the league, Seattle largely runs the same type of run plays more often than not.
Let’s start with the hilarious. The Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers are on here, meaning a team does not necessarily have to be diverse to be good. In both instances, it’s a case of stick with what works. The Niners, because give it to McCaffrey. The Eagles, because the tush push.
I’m drastically oversimplifying that, but Seattle fans should be familiar with the mentality of lining up and making the other guy beat us, as it’s what the Seahawks did on defense for three consecutive seasons while virtually never getting beat.
But we do not have their offensive lines, and what we’re doing is not working. Clearly the lack of variety comes out of the strength of Philadelphia and San Francisco, and it hurts the success of Seattle, Las Vegas, and Atlanta.
Interestingly, it’s not always the case for the Seahawks. Here’s a chart from last year showing particular running backs coming out of college, what type of run plays they were most successful in, and where they landed.
Rookie running back run-concept strengths vs. landing spot fit through Day 2 of the NFL draft— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) April 30, 2022
Breece Hall: Outside Zone ✅
Kenneth Walker: Outside Zone, Inside Zone ✅✅
James Cook: Gap ✅
Brian Robinson Jr: Inside Zone ✅ pic.twitter.com/0JwgsN5FpU
Rookie RB Class -- Advanced Rushing Stats by Run Concept— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) April 24, 2022
All: Kenneth Walker III, Isaiah Spiller
Inside Zone/Gap: Kennedy Brooks, Tyler Allgier, Ty Chandler
Outside Zone: Breece Hall, Keaontay Ingram
Inside Zone: Brian Robinson, Jerome Ford pic.twitter.com/IbYhcLiQFW
Two things of note: Kenneth Walker was good at everything in college.
But additionally, at the time of the draft, the Seahawks were particularly adept at diversity. The following quote is from friend of the site Matty Brown, evaluating the Seattle run game at the end of the aforementioned 2021 season.
Unlike the Bears game, where eight of the team’s 20 running plays featured one puller or more (40 percent) and two more of the plays were duo (50 percent gap-blocked), Seattle returned to more zone versus Detroit. The Seahawks called 29 runs and yet, just six of the runs featured one puller or more while two were duo (28 percent gap-blocked). Whatever the chosen scheme, Seattle’s combination block chemistry and execution has noticeably improved—especially on the interior.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The center and right guard spots have been the weakness in the run game for much of the year.
What makes this conversation especially complicated is what has happened to the decision-making of the RBs in particular, and no it’s not just Walker’s fault.
The funny part about Seattle's run offense is when they do hit their intended run gaps, they are have the highest success rate of any team in the league pic.twitter.com/LNmfFTTLVq— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) December 7, 2023
It is this last bit that makes where the Seahawks currently sit both amusing and baffling. Call it baffusing.
Seattle, running one of the most garden-variety run schemes in the NFL, boasts the two backs least likely to do what the concept intends, which has resulted in one of the worst yards per carry in the league, and currently getting worse.
I think people will see what they want here. Is it another sign that Shane Waldron is ineffective? Or that Pete Carroll allowed too much autonomy in his players? Or, as he’s indicated many times, are dudes just not executing?
Rumors are that Walker may return this weekend, perhaps he’s had some time to right the ship.