As we approach the beginning of the 2017 NFL campaign, we begin to wrap-up “The Breakdown” by looking at the Seattle Seahawks schematic philosophy. Quarterback Russell Wilson is quickly becoming one of the game’s elite signal callers and running back Thomas Rawls looks to return to his 2015 form after an injury-riddled 2016 season. The defense is locked-and-loaded yet again, and primed to finish as one of the league’s most dominant units. Let’s take a deeper look at Seahawks bread-and-butter on both sides of the ball.
The Breakdown: A Look at the Seattle Seahawks Schematic Philosophy
Going as Wilson Goes
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has done a tremendous job recognizing the level of Wilson’s talent and working to structure the offense around such a talent. Whether it be throwing on the run or incorporating quick throws and the zone read, Bevell has found numerous wrinkles to stress defenses via his signal-caller.
It doesn’t take an expert to watch a full Seahawks game and realize that their offensive line is completely inept, hence why the team signed former number two overall pick Luke Joeckel and drafted jack-of-all trades Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 draft. Pocic is expected to battle Germain Ifedi for the right tackle spot and look to shore up a line that struggled mightily to generate movement last season.
This has proven to be the most noticeable contributing factor to Seattle’s increased use of rollouts and quick-strike throws: both philosophies don’t place a heavy burden on an already-week offensive line. Seattle’s base offense is 11 personnel that features basketballer-turned-football-star Jimmy Graham is the backside, Y-iso option out of 3×1. Doing so was a great way to force defenses to reveal their intentions and draw potential mismatches with Graham on the backside. This spacing also plays a pivotal role in the creation of space for their zone running game to thrive.
Going three-wide allows the Seahawks to capitalize on their double-slot alignment with the likes of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and C.J. Prosise. Baldwin is generally the X-option along the perimeter and Prosise a running back, but Bevell understands how to use formations in order to efficiently utilize his route concepts.
Winning with Single-High
Seattle is a renowned single-high defense with their use of Cover 1 and Cover 3. These coverages require a tremendous, rangy safety that can man centerfield and rotate close to the middle of three-receiver sets. This act leaves uber-talented safety Earl Thomas in a compromised position to the weakside, but that’s where that ever-so-vital range is equally important.
Opposite Thomas is thumper Kam Chancellor, a big-bodied defender who handles run responsibilities closer to the line in these single-high looks. The safety duo is undoubtedly the league’s best and has opened the door to multiple Sky and Cloud looks from the Seahawks.
The addition of defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson-via a trade from the New York Jets-is a tremendous upgrade to their 4-3 Under front. Seattle spent a 2016 second-rounder on Jarran Reed to replace Brandon Mebane as the lane-clogging 1-Tech who is responsible for controlling two gaps to the strongside, while Richardson can rush the passer as a weakside 3-Tech. This is where the newest Seahawk shines and can truly wreck havoc on lesser-athletic offensive linemen.
On the outside, Michael Bennett has quietly developed into one of the game’s top 5-Techs and Cliff Avril and Frank Clark are key contributors opposite Bennett. Although Bennett is an apt strongside defender, Carroll doesn’t shy from rotating these edge defenders to confuse offenses and manufacture the desired looks; he’s even put an insurmountable amount of stress on tackles by placing Clark, Avril, and Bennett on the same side.
There’s no doubt regarding who the top team in this division is, but if the Seahawks don’t find a solution to their offensive line woes, Wilson and a potentially-lethal running game are going to suffer greatly. With the level of certainty regarding the defense, it remains to be seen just how far the offense can take this team.