It’s the final week of August, which means a very busy week for NFL calendars. For the Seattle Seahawks it means closing out the preseason with a trip to Wisconsin to take on the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, with roster cuts then looming, which will see the team move on from three dozen players prior to the 4 pm New York time deadline Tuesday afternoon. After that comes the Wednesday waiver claim flurry and the associated flurry of activity to fit in any claimed players, before the inevitable move of some players to short term injured reserve after 4 pm Wednesday.
Coming back to the first bit, though, when the Hawks face off against Green Bay it’s likely that backup quarterback Drew Lock will get to see significant playing time as the coaching staff continues to work on his development. One of the key questions will be whether the team will continue to use the rollout and play action heavy version of the offense to simplify the reads of the defense when Lock is under center. That’s the version of the offense they have used through the first two preseason games, and so it bears watching whether they will take the training wheels off and see how things go, similar to what they did against the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason finale of 2022 when Lock struggled to the tune of a trio of interceptions in three quarters of action.
For those curious how much of a difference the simplified offense can make, here’s a simple look at how PFF grades Lock when using play action versus when he drops back to pass without the benefit of play action so far this preseason.
Drew Lock running the Jared Goff offense versus Drew Lock running the Geno Smith offense. pic.twitter.com/tXcXnTRHcD— John P Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) August 20, 2023
Obviously PFF grades come with a giant grain of salt, so for those wanting to know the difference in performance statistically through the first two preseason games, here it is by game.
Preseason Week 1 versus the Minnesota Vikings:
- Play Action: 7-7 (100%) for 65 yards
- Without Play Action: 10-17 (58.8%) for 126 yards
Preseason Week 2 versus the Dallas Cowboys:
- Play Action: 5-5 (100%) for 119 yards
- Without Play Action: 0-1 (0.0%) for 0 yards
Small sample sizes apply to all of these, of course, but the divide between the two is telling, and is not all that dissimilar from his performance during the pair of games in which he played during the 2022 preseason:
- Play Action: 10-12 (83.3%) for 176 yards
- Without Play Action: 14-27 (51.9%) for 97 yards
Driving the difference between the two is a combination of factors, not the least of which is that Lock entered the NFL having played in college in an offense that did not translate well to the NFL in terms of what he was asked to do, which is key for a position that is just as much - if not more - mental than physical. Certainly there is a requisite threshold of physical abilities for a player to even make it to the NFL, but it’s hard to argue that the greatest quarterbacks in league history were the best athletes. Guys like Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning didn’t get to where they were by being the most physically gifted.
That said, there is no questioning Lock’s physical talent. He’s got a cannon for an arm and is a high level athlete, even among NFL quarterbacks. What he lacks, though, is experience playing in an offense where he has to make reads and execute in real time, something that is no small undertaking, given the complexity and speed of the modern game.
Thus, the use of tools like rollouts and play action to move defenders and simplify the reads necessary to make the correct decision. Shane Waldron has experience using such tricks to develop quarterbacks, as it’s what they did in Los Angeles with Jared Goff during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, as during Goff’s tenure as a starter the Rams were never outside the top five in play action utilization. In contrast, after Matthew Stafford arrived in 2021 the Rams fell to bottom ten in play action, as Stafford brought a materially different skillset to the team.
With all that in mind, the questions ahead of the matchup Saturday against the Packers become whether the Seahawks take the training wheels off and ask Lock to execute consistently without the benefit of play action, and if that is indeed what they do, how will he perform?