Pete Carroll made no attempt to hide his intentions around modifying the snap counts on the defensive line with an eye on helping the pass rush. What he did not say was who was going to see more time or less time, and just how much. In comparing the percentage of snaps played between the Week 7 game at St. Louis and the Week 8 game at Carolina, we can see exactly who gained and lost snaps. And it was not just the defensive line where we saw playing time shift.
Seattle has arguably its best pass rush performance of the season in the win over the Panthers. Only time will tell if it was the changes to the rotation and blitz packages or simply the opponent were responsible for the improvement.
You can see in the following table that Greg Scruggs and O’Brien Schofield gained a lot of snaps, and that Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett all played less.
DEFENSIVE LINE SNAPS
Cliff Avril, played slightly more against the Panthers (72%) than he did against the Rams (69%), so his rotation was largely unaffected. Bruce Irvin played slightly less versus Carolina (83%) than he did against St. Louis (86%), so he was also not as much a part of this.
Some of this variance could be attributed to the gameplan against this opponent. We will need to see these patterns over a few games to know how much is opponent-independent.
Tharold Simon left injured in the Rams game, but it is still worth noting how much the coaches put him on the field Sunday.
Simon played nearly every snap, and Burley played a lot less. With Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane due back in the next two weeks, this snap allotment should continue to be in flux.
Bryan Walters was out with a concussion and Luke Willson was back from injury. That had a definite impact on snaps, but there may be a more lasting change going on here.
Jermaine Kearse saw his snaps largely remain unchanged (92% this week vs. 90% in week seven), so he and Doug Baldwin are the clear starters who will be on the field in almost all situations. Ricardo Lockette got the snaps from Walters, and played well. Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood saw their snaps increase, and at least some of that came from using more three or four receiver sets.
Cooper Helfet lost most of his snaps with Willson returning, but that does not account for all of the change, especially when you factor in RaShaun Allen going from 20% of the offensive snaps last week to off the roster this week.
It may not be a given that a healthy Walters will be active on game day.
For all the talk of a running back-by-committee that happened during the off-season, we may finally be seeing that come to fruition. Marshawn Lynch saw his snaps drop to just 66% of the offensive snaps, and Christine Michael increased to 15% of the snaps. Robert Turbin got 23%, which was a drop of 19% from last week.
This also reflects in a shift toward more three receiver sets and fewer two-back sets. The way to get more Norwood and Richardson is to steal snaps from a fullback and tight end. The team is learning what they can do in a fullback-free offense. Turbin is getting some fullback snaps, as are some tight ends, but it is not quite the same. Michael’s increased reps are important as the team evaluates where they are at that position ahead of Lynch’s eventual departure next season.