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The Seahawks Second Down Problem

Everybody likes to talk about third down, and for good reason. Performance on third down largely determines how long a team can hold onto the ball and sustain drives long enough to produce points. First down has started to get some love as people realize the best way to get an easy third down is to have a successful first down. Then there is second down. The loneliest down in football. Nobody talks about second down, but Seahawks fans should.

Second down slide

The Seahawks offense is actually ahead of where they finished last season in terms of third down conversions, but they have struggled to consistently threaten defenses. I decided to look at where the problem might be surfacing. Comparing performance on first and second down to last year’s team raised some interesting questions.
2013 2014 Chg
1st Down (Yds Gained) 5.66 5.59 -0.07
1st Down (Rank) 9 14 -5
2nd Down (Yards Gained) 5.8 5.04 -0.76
2nd Down (Rank) 6 20 -14

Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com


As you can see, the Seahawks are essentially the same team on first down as they were a year ago. They are ranked a little lower as other offense around the league have stepped forward when Seattle has remained in place. It would be ideal to see some improvement over an above average offensive team last year, but there is not a clear problem here.

Then comes second down. Oy. The team has dropped nearly a yard off their average gain on second down, and have dropped to 20th in the NFL in that category after ranking sixth last season.

And it is not just yards gained:

Offensive Penalties
1st Down 16
2nd Down 9
3rd Down 12

Source: NFLPenalties.com


Sixteen penalties on first down, and nine more on second down are often leading to unnecessarily challenging situations. That is impacting playcalling and performance.

Pointing the finger

Choosing who should shoulder the blame for this issue is difficult, but is an exercise the Seahawks should be doing in order to help resolve the problem. Russell Okung (7) and James Carpenter (5) account for the most penalties on the offense. Okung is the only player with more than two false start penalties. 
Darrell Bevell has gotten predictable at times and gotten away from who this team is at other times. Willingness to run on first and second down must increase. Having an offensive line play together for more than a couple games in a row would not hurt either. 
It is a problem worth digging in on. Keep an eye on second down when Sunday rolls around.

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