Monday night in Chicago, the Seattle Seahawks offense looked abysmal. They ran the ball 22 times for 74 yards for 3.36 yards per carry. First round draft pick Rashad Penny ran the ball 10 times for 30 yards and that included the Seahawks longest run of the night for 10 yards. To top that off, Bill Barnwell at ESPN reported that coach Pete Carroll benched Chris Carson in the fourth quarter based on mistaken information that Carson was gassed after playing two snaps on special teams. Carson rushed just 6 times for 24 yards against the Bears.
With a limited run game, Russell Wilson was forced to throw the ball 36 times. That didn’t work out so great either. Wilson was 22 of 36 for a 61.1 completion percentage, 226 yards, 2 TD, and 1 interception. Just as in the week one loss to the Broncos in Denver, Wilson was sacked 6 times. The silver lining? Wilson “only” lost 24 yards on sacks Monday, as compared to 56 yards lost the previous Sunday.
Advanced Statistics Match the Eye Test
This week Football Outsiders unveiled their first rankings of team, unit, and player efficiencies and the advanced stats definitely match the eye test. The Seahawks offense is terrible, especially the offensive line. In overall team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), the Seahawks rank 25th. That’s both sides of the ball and special teams. When focused just on the offense, the picture becomes grimmer.
The Seahawks offense, as a whole, ranks 29th in the NFL, just ahead of the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and the Buffalo Bills. Three’s a reason all five of those teams are winless.
Among quarterbacks, Russell Wilson ranks 30th in the league, trailed by only Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford. Rashard Penny ranks highest of all the Seahawks running backs with a 33rd place DVOA and a 32nd place DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which arguably is a better measure for individual players as it attempts to filter out the offensive line’s contribution and adjusts for workload. Brandon Marshall is the highest rated receiver with a DVOA ranking of 30th and a DYAR ranking of 35th. The one bright star, so far, on the offensive side of the ball is the surprising tight end, Will Dissly. He is currently the number 3 TE according to DVOA and the number 4 TE according to DYAR.
But all these individual play makers for the Seahawks share one common plight. Their performance is inexorably tied to the efficiency of the offensive line. Wilson can’t throw accurately and go downfield when he’s scrambling for his life or lying on the turf. Penny and Carson have no where to go if the offensive line doesn’t open up holes. And Marshall or Tyler Lockett can’t make plays if the quarterback can’t get the ball to them for all the afore mentioned reasons. It makes perfectly good sense that Dissly would be the one top weapon, as his routes tend to be shorter and Wilson can get the ball out more quickly to him.
Getting Granular on the Offensive Line
Using a statistic that Football Outsiders refers to as Adjusted Line Yards, which weights runs of longer distances less for the o-line and more for the RB, the Seahawks rank 26th in the NFL. In a very small sample size, as the Seahawks haven’t faced a lot of third or fourth and short situations, the line is surprisingly good in Power Ranking, tied with seven other teams for 1st. The Stuffed Ranking, runs that go for zero yards or for losses, is OK at 18th in the league. Then the numbers go south.
In second level running, runs between 5 and 10 yards, the offensive line ranks 30th. Occasionally a back will get sprung to the open field for a run over 10 yards and the line ranks 20th there. (It’s worth noting here that a higher ranking on long runs is actually not good. It means the line is less responsible for the ranking than the backs). And finally, in what should come as little surprise, the Seattle Seahawks rank dead last in the NFL in sack percentage with 12 allowed or Russell Wilson on the ground on 15.4% of his pass attempts.
One interesting observation is that the Seahawks rarely run right behind Germain Ifedi. In the first two games of the season, the Seahawks have run the ball 7% of the time to the right tackle and 7% of the time to the right end. Adjusted sack yards won’t be available until week four, but if the eye test tells us anything, expect to see Ifedi pretty high (which is bad) in that ranking.
Can the Offense Be Better Against the Cowboys?
The Dallas Cowboys come to Seattle Sunday for the Seahawks home opener. The Cowboys are 1-1 and tied with the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins for an early “first place” in the NFC East. The Cowboys won their road opener against the Carolina Panthers by a score of 16-8 but then bounced back against the New York Giants in Dallas last Sunday Night, 20-13.
After two weeks the Cowboys rank in the middle of the pack in team efficiency, 15th in DVOA but 9th in DAVE, a metric that weights pre-season expectations pretty high at the beginning of the season, with less and less weight as the season progresses. With center Travis Frederick having been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome just before the season began, it’s obvious why pre-season expectations may be outpacing actual results.
The concern for the Seahawks offense isn’t how efficient the whole Cowboys team is, though. It’s how good is the defense. The answer is that the Cowboys are slightly more efficient than the Broncos and not nearly as efficient as the Bears. The Cowboys defense ranks 13th in DVOA, whereas the Broncos D ranks 16th and the Bears newly resurrected Monsters of the Midway ranks 4th in the NFL.
The run defense is the Cowboys primary weakness, ranking 20th in the NFL. But, they balance that out with an upper tier pass defense, ranked 9th in the league. The good news for the Seahawks is that the Cowboys lack a dominant pass rusher like Von Miller or Khalil Mack. But then again, most NFL teams lack dominant pass rushers like Miller and Mack.
Keep an eye early on the Seahawks run game and on the right side of the line on pass plays. If the ‘Hawks can run ball the better and provide Wilson a little more time in the pocket, maybe they can pick up a W and improve to 1-2. If not, it may be a very long season in the Emerald City.