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I am an emotional guy. The Seahawks win and life is lollipops and rainbows. The Seahawks lose and the rain is a little wetter and the days a bit shorter. That kind of fluctuation can make it hard to stay objective. It is why I always return to the numbers and put those numbers in context. That helps keep me honest and avoid blindly going along with the dominant narrative or my irrational feelings. Something I have done the last few years is take a snapshot of how the team is doing after each quarter of the season. It helps assess where they are relative to where they were, and often highlights some muted trends that would be hard to otherwise identify. Here we are, halfway through this 2017 season. Let’s see how the team is progressing.

 

New! Identity Check-Up

Over the off-season, I wrote a series on how the Seahawks were trending in some key statistical areas that relate to bedrock aspects of the Pete Carroll philosophy. They speak to the identity of the team Carroll wants to put on the field. I would encourage you to go back and read each part of the series, or simply read the summary here. What I found in researching that series is that the Seahawks were trending in the wrong direction almost across the board across multiple seasons on key metrics that matter. Instead of regurgitating each and every metric, I picked four that I believe represent key aspects of the team identity, and set targets based on where those numbers were during the team’s best seasons. They were:

Rush rate

This is the percentage of plays that were runs. Seattle had regularly been a team that ran the ball more than 50% of the time, but has steadily dropped off and cratered last season with runs on only 38% of their plays. Carroll preaches balance on offense, and wants a physical running game to be part of how they “complete the circle” of toughness. I set a target of 51%, which is still well below the 2012-2014 levels, but represents the type of balance Carroll strives for.

Interceptions per opponent dropback

Carroll tells everyone “It’s all about the ball.” That references both takeaways and giveaways, but my analysis was that takeaways are where things have really dropped off, and specifically, interceptions. The team was at their best in 2012-2014 taking the ball away when their interception rate was 3.2% or higher. I set a target of 3.0%, which would be their best since 2014.

Explosive play differential per game

Another point of emphasis for Carroll is explosive plays. He wants to create them and prevent them. The team has created fewer explosive plays recently and allowed more. That needs to change. I put the target at +2.5 per game, which is similar to their 2013 level, but a bit below.

Special teams DVOA ranking

The Seahawks are at their best when all three units on the team are working together. Carroll values a special teams group that can flip the field. That fell off last year. The target I set was for them to return to a top five unit overall.

 

The Seahawks have dropped from a 44% rush rate after four games to 41% after eight. Many are calling for the Seahawks to abandon the goal of balanced on offense and emphasize the pass. It won’t happen. This is as core to Carroll’s philosophy as it gets, and until the team can find enough success to drive this percentage closer to even, the team will continue to be out of whack.

Interceptions have jumped, nearly hitting the target rate of 3.0% per opponent dropback. The current level is the best Seattle has done in in the past four seasons. That’s an encouraging sign.

Explosive play differential is suffering from a defense that is surrendering far too many. A whopping 23 of the 49 explosive plays allowed by Seattle came in two games (Houston & Los Angeles). They are allowing an average of 4 in their other six games.

Special teams has been a major disappointment. Blair Walsh just blew three kicks. Tyler Lockett looks nothing like the dangerous returner he had been prior to injury. The coverage units have been okay, and Jon Ryan has just been okay. A top five finish does not seem feasible for this group. The other two phases will need to be that much more dominant to pick up the slack. That worked in 2014, so it is not a death knell.

 

Situational passer rating

Another area I will be watching this season is how Wilson is able to perform during key situations like 3rd down and in the red zone. He was at his best in 2015 when he dominated this type of situational passing. These numbers are not solely on Wilson. The offensive line, play calling, and his receivers play a large role. Still, these will be important bellwethers as we monitor his growth as a quarterback.

Third down performance has continued to trend down. Wilson was at 74.8 at the quarter mark. Red zone performance has improved slightly from 86.8 to 89.1. Both are still down from last season.

 

Comparing Seahawks at quarter mark to halfway mark

It is useful to compare one four game stretch to another. The chart below compares where the Seahawks were after four games to where they are now.  I like to look both at the absolute numbers and the relative by using NFL rankings.

 

 

As frustrated as we all are after the loss to Washington, there are signs of improvement almost across the board. The biggest areas of fallback are the running game on offense and the passing game on defense. Of the two, the pass defense is the far larger concern. That has to be a constant the team can rely on. What was a top five unit is now middling in the NFL. You would hope the leap in pass rush would assist the secondary. The improvement in both pass blocking and pass rush is nice to see. As is the improvement on 3rd down on both sides of the ball.

3 Responses

  1. dave

    Still a good, but frustrating team, no longer a dominant team. Hawks have had too many good D coordinators & assitent coaches leave & have not hired outside of the organization, the drafting has not been as good as it was when Scott McGloghlin (sp) was there, & the draft strategy of focusing on just one player & moving out of the first round almost every year has really hurt the team, its one year less we have that player on the cheap. Plus the terrible trades for Harvin & Graham cost us two first round picks, in hindsight neithor trade was beneficial. And now we no longer have a 2nd in 2018 although bringing in Brown was made necessary because of the Unger- Graham trade & the extremely poor drafting/training of OL men. I wonder how much work & study RW puts into his game, I dont live in the Seattle area, but it seems that he has a lot of outside interests & is not prepared at gametime, hence the poor offensive starts to almost every game. All his interviews seem alike, “as long as we believe we can win, we will”. Good attitude, but not very realistic.
    One change i have seen the last few weeks is in Carroll, he seems a lot more serious both during the game & in his press conferences, was quite abrupt with a couple of the questions Monday morning, which is good, means he’s pissed & changes will be upcoming. I think Hawks will be fighting for a wildcard playoff spot this year, probably one & done, hopefully PC & JS make some significant coaching changes for next year.

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  2. Rowdy Yates

    My opinion re your opinions, Dave:

    Based on the last five years, I no longer hope that PC will make any coaching changes, regardless of outcomes, stats., etc.

    I also wish they would rehire Scott McLoughlin. Maybe it isn’t Scott’s drinking, so much. Maybe PC & JS just enjoy making their own draft picks. Cuz it’s fun and everybody tends to think they know best. But Scott Mc. sure helped Washington reload.

    I don’t think the Graham trade was a catastrophe like the Percy Diva fiasco. Graham is another example of PC’s inconsistent application of his philosophy. In this case, a violation of “Always putting players in a position to succeed.” Cuz Jimmy is a flanker, not a blocker (news flash). I think that Graham’s continued misuse is on PC, more than DB. (Although, recently, they have sometimes played to JG’s strength, instead of his weakness). If PC had a problem with Graham being misused “strategies” would have changed by now.

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  3. Carroll & Co: adapt or fail

    On paper, the Hawks have the best team in the league. Our defense is very strong, our offense has the potential, and bringing in Brown will solidify the OL (our biggest weakness). The reason we tend to occasionally struggle is because of coaching. We make way too many mistakes, both from a play-calling perspective and from penalties. If Pete Carroll & Co can get their acts together and get the team fundamentally solid, we should beat every team in the league.

    I don’t think we are having an identity crisis, nor should we focus on what we did well from 2012-2014. Things change, players/teams adapt, and those not willing to do so are left behind. When the Hawks struggle, it is because the coaches are not adapting to their opposing team nor utilizing the fullest potential of our players. How does a Redskins team decimated by injuries (and using 3rd string OL players) come into the CLink and beat one of the best teams in the NFL? Because they adapted to the personnel they were given and adapted to how the Hawks were playing throughout the game.

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