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Seahawks Replay Booth: Packaged plays

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James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks used "packaged plays," plays that combine both a run and pass option(s), last year, but with the addition of Percy Harvin to the mix I believe the frequency of them will increase in 2014. These plays are meant to utilize great space players, and that's what Percival really is.

I wrote about how Percy Harvin changes everything for the Seahawks' offense this morning, and had originally laid out the following three plays to include in that article. However, I wanted to take a look at these separately because the "packaged play" concept is important.

The idea behind packaged plays is simple. Smart Football and Grantland's Chris Brown has broken down the concepts in great detail (here and here), but as he puts it simply, "combining a receiver screen with a running play... remains an important method to ensure that individual defenders play honest. If a linebacker or nickelback cheats in to stop a run, the quick screen to the outside equals free yards while punishing the defender for playing out of position. Once he is back in position to defend the screen, the running play has a better chance of success."

Essentially, you're reacting to defensive cues and exploiting soft spots. It helps to have a great decision maker and it helps even more to have a great playmaking receiver or air-back.

Now, the Seahawks' first-team group ran at least three packaged plays on Friday. There were several variations to this that I won't break down, but that looked similar, but I'll concentrate on these three.

The first came near the end of the first quarter.

1-10-SD 26 (2:45 1st Q) (Shotgun) R.Turbin up the middle to SD 22 for 4 yards (M.Ingram).

Here are the important points:

Russell Wilson starts in his read-option stance, flanked by Robert Turbin. The three primary options here:

1) Inside handoff to Robert Turbin
2) Keeper by Wilson to the outside 
3) Quick pass to Percy Harvin on the bubble screen

The offensive line blocks like they're expecting a Robert Turbin run. The outside receivers block like they're expecting a bubble screen to Harvin. Russell Wilson decides what to do based on the defensive formation (or simply calls it in the huddle - we'll never really know; the Seahawks do this with the read option as well -- sometimes there's a real "read" involved and sometimes it's just meant to look like Wilson is doing a read).

Below, in the first instance, Wilson hands off to Turbin, who picks up four yards. Like a normal read option, the backside defensive end is left unblocked (Zach Miller instead blocks at the second level), and even a slight hesitation from the unblocked end allows Turbin to get through the line. Note that Wilson even does a little half-hearted fake throw over to Harvin.

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Above, that defensive end (on the bottom of your screen) has to honor the threat of a Russell Wilson run, but manages to catch up to Turbin and drag him down once he sees the handoff. The hope here for Seattle would be that the defensive end honors Wilson a little bit harder and takes himself out of the play completely, but four yards isn't a terrible outcome on first down.

Early 2nd Quarter....

3-1-SEA 47 (13:01 2nd) (Shotgun) R.Turbin up the middle to SD 48 for 5 yards (M.Te'o; K.Geathers).

This is a short-yardage situation so it wouldn't surprise me if it was a called handoff all the way. Considering Russell has about 100 yards of open space on the outside (provided he beats the scraping linebacker), it's actually the incorrect read probably to hand off to Turbin. Nonetheless, it's a dive play, and Turbin gets the necessary one yard needed, plus four more after he shakes off the initial tackle attempt by that berserk defensive end (#58).

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I would guess that later that same drive, Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson noticed the way the Chargers were defending it, and used that knowledge to exploit it.

Which leads me to this play:

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Wilson fakes the handoff, and all he has to do is beat the linebacker that is "scraping" over in support. Wilson has always been pretty fast, but to my eye he actually does look to be slightly faster this year (or, at least, faster to commit to what he's doing). He beats Manti Te'o to the edge easily.

The Hawks didn't utilize the Percy Harvin option on any of these plays, but as I said this morning, I'm guessing we're only seeing a small portion of the playbook in effect thus far. Watch for the featured use of package plays over the next few weeks.

NOTE:

As Cutler reminded me, this was a very similar play to what got Seattle a touchdown in the NFC Divisional Round playoffs before Percy got hurt. Here's what I wrote at the time:

2-1-NO 15 (14:23 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle for 15 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

I made three gifs of this play because the way that Lynch moves is absurd. Early in the 2nd quarter, Seattle rolls out a 'packaged play' that sees Percy Harvin in the slot along with Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate. The New Orleans defense is frantically communicating with each other prior to the snap to get aligned correctly and so everyone knows their responsibility. This is awesome, because the ball is not going to Percy Harvin, it's going to Marshawn Lynch.

With the linebackers crowding the line to stop the dive, the backside corner respecting the read option element, and the playside safety biting on the Harvin fake, Lynch cuts back and finds himself a giant run lane. What he does once he's there is nothing short of brilliant, as he defies the physics of acceleration to break what probably should have been four tackles.

Here's another angle.

David Hawthorne fills toward the backside B-gap and Lynch cuts it back around his tight end, Zach Miller. The jump cut to get past him is cool enough, but what impresses me the most about this run is the one step he takes with his right to get back up to full speed downhill. With this burst of acceleration, Lynch eludes the oncoming corner (#24), breaks the oncoming safety's ankles (#25), then shows his patented hover step to avoid ankle tackles at the second level.

Not to pick on Robert Turbin, but since Turbin is Lynch's backup, it's apt: Lynch is important to this offense because he can do this. Turbin, from what I can tell, is not physically capable of this, and that's to be expected - Lynch was a first round pick and is one of the more talented backs in the league. I think sometimes we concentrate on Lynch's Beastmodeness though and forget about his great vision and how athletic he is in space. It would have taken me about 12 steps to get back to the speed it takes Lynch about two steps to get to.