I’ve spent a little time this week watching some tape of the Tom Cable led Raiders of 2010 (it’s a long story), and I came across something very interesting. One of the wrinkles his offense would deploy a couple times per game is the use of an unbalanced line.
To help explain what that means, lets start with a picture:
TE Zach Miller is lined up at as the LT. The regular LT, Mario Henderson, is on the opposite side of the line between the RG and RT. It’s called an unbalanced line because, if you look at just the offensive linemen, there is just 1 to the left of the center, while there are 3 on the right side of the center.
The advantage in doing this should be obvious. By moving one of the big uglies to the other side of the line, you have more big bodied run blockers than your opponent has big bodied run stuffers. An unbalanced line can also lead to defensive confusion, since gaps can gap responsibilities become confused when there isn’t a traditional alignment.
The disadvantages are also fairly obvious. This is clearly a one-sided formation, and one-dimensional formation. The Raiders are almost certainly going to run the ball here, and they are also almost certainly going to run the ball to the right side.
In one game I was watching with the Raiders taking on Arizona (because who doesn’t love a Derek Anderson vs Bruce Grankowski mathup) used this formation twice. The first time they ran for a big gain. The 2nd time should have gone for a big gain as well, but the RG completely whiffed on his block resulting in a 1 yard loss. The 2 big tackles, though, were both down field creating a massing whole for McFadden. The concept was working.
To make this work, a team must have a TE who handle the responsibility of blocking the DE in 4-3 defense, or the OLB when playing against a 3-4 defense. The Raiders were able to deploy this formation because of the abilities of Miller.
Seeing this got me thinking about the Seahawks and the possible usage of this type of formation in 2013. The common denominators here are Tom Cable, who’s now Seattle’s offensive line coach and running game coordinator, and TE Zach Miller. Both joined Seattle prior to the 2011 season.
Teams already have to spend time preparing for how to contain the read-option. Adding a wrinkle like an unbalanced line to the standard running game would only make preparing to face the Seahawks even more difficult.
On the other hand, Cable has been in Seattle for 2 seasons now and we’ve yet to see the Seahawks try this. That makes me curious as to why.
Perhaps Cable was only comfortable mixing up his O-line in Oakland because he had a mostly veteran group that had spent years in his zone blocking system. Perhaps he recognizes that the Seahawks can run the ball effectively without introducing these strange formations. Perhaps the unbalanced line was actually the production of Hue Jackson (the offensive coordinator in Oakland) and not Cable.
We may never see the unbalanced line in Seattle, it is fun to dream of some of the possibilities.
A couple of weeks back when it was safe to say that no one in their right mind was thinking about free agents I did a piece on free agent wide receivers the Seahawks might be interested in. This week I’m examining a new position group but revisiting the same theme. Russell Wilson’s game will only be helped by having more weapons for him to throw the ball to and getting him the weapons he needs should be a priority for the Seahawks front office. Regardless on your thoughts on Zach Miller (a guy who has Seahawks fans really feeling conflicted after his big playoff performance) the Seahawks could definitely use another tight end to threaten defenses down the seam and give Wilson a safety valve who can reliably haul in the short passes. This 2013 free agent TE class has some very intriguing names and a fair amount of talent if Seattle is interested. In no particular order:
Tony Gonzalez: This soon to be 37 year old is still an impressive force in the passing game as he demonstrated in the NFC divisional round, hauling in a very difficult TD pass to help Atlanta top the Seahawks. He had 930 yards and 8 touchdowns last year which is more than respectable for the greatest TE to ever play the position. It’s unclear if he’ll play again and if he does I would expect a return to Atlanta, even though Seattle is probably better situated to win that Super Bowl he so desperately craves. Don’t dare to dream on Mr. Gonzalez.
Jared Cook: Jared Cook has always struck me as an underutilized play in Tennessee’s offense as he always seems to be open but only gets the ball occasionally. To be fair I probably haven’t seen enough Titans games for that judgment to be definitive, but it is the impression I get. The 6-4 235 tight end is very quick and can stretch the field when given the opportunity. I’m inclined to believe his best football is ahead of him as he turns 26 this year and has never played with a particularly good quarterback (I’m sorry decline phase Matt Hasselbeck, you know I love you). Cook is slightly undersized for the position and not much of a blocker so he has to be utilized carefully, perhaps in the ‘move’ tight end or joker role, whatever you want to call it. I think he has potential to be an excellent value coming off a season where he had a fairly pedestrian 523 yards receiving. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll get paid, but not to an absolutely crazy extent and if the Seahawks are in the market for a tight end the young and athletic Cook would be an interesting and exciting fit.
Dustin Keller: Coming into his age 29 season Keller is an established veteran who can be a very solid starter at TE. At 6-2 248 he is a little stouter than your prototypical tight end but he is still primarily a pass catcher. Keller’s receiving yardage totals climbed from 522 in 2009 to 687 in 2010 and 815 in 2011 before plummeting to 317 last year. This can largely be forgiven as injury and the Jets’ pathetic quarterback play were the obvious culprits. He has a longer track record as a reliable receiver but nothing truly jumps off the page at you. Keller has never had more than 5 touchdowns in a season and has only 17 in 72 career games, perhaps showing the red zone limitations of a shorter TE. He also has never averaged more than 12.5 yards receiving in a season, which is absolutely fine for a TE but not indicative of explosive athleticism like Jared Cook’s 15.5 in 2011 or 13.1 career average. Keller can start for somebody but I don’t think he’s a great fit in Seattle where he would be more of a steady target than a true weapon. Add that to the fact signing Keller is buying you mainly years in his 30’s and I’d take a pass.
Fred Davis: A USC alum going into his 6th year, Davis is a pretty exciting talent. The 27 year old is coming off a season in which he only played in 7 games due to injury. He was expected to excel last year but didn’t really mess with RGIII averaging 46.4 yards a game as opposed to the 66.3 he put up during his breakout year in 2011. That year Davis broke out for 796 yards and 13.5 yards per reception in 12 games. Those totals alone would have been excellent for virtually any tight end, but considering he missed four games they are truly impressive. He was on pace for 78 receptions for 1061 yards, a total that would have made Mr. Davis much more of a household name. As it sits now, Davis’s talent is undeniable, but he has only produced at an elite level in one season and he is also a fairly major injury risk. Additionally, Davis has not found the end zone with any regularity (12 career TD’s) and doesn’t offer a ton as a blocker despite his fairly solid 6-3 250 frame. He is clearly a risk, but a tantalizing risk at that. Whether Seattle should consider signing Fred Davis will really depend on the market. If Davis wants to be paid like the elite tight end he appeared to be in 2011, there are probably too many red flags for that to be a sensible deal. However, if injury risks and the lack of a consistent track record drive down Davis’s price, Seattle should consider scooping him up because he is a 27 year old with the ceiling of a 1,000 yard tight end. Guys like that don’t often become available.
Martellus Bennett: This former 2nd round pick is known as a bit of an oddball but he is also an absolute specimen physically. Standing at 6-7 248 Bennett is a mountain of a man who finally got his opportunity to start with the Giants last year. Still only 25, turning 26 in March, Bennett spent four years in Dallas as Jason Witten’s backup before getting his chance. As a 2nd tight end Bennett had more blocking assignments and was unable to spread his wings as a receiver, averaging only 211.5 yards per season with the Cowboys. Last year Bennett posted 55 catches for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns, numbers that were solid but far from astounding. Bennett doesn’t have incredible speed but he has a big wingspan and his hands are improving from earlier in his career when drops were a huge problem. A solid TE like Bennett in his prime make sense as a replacement for Miller if the plan is to cut him outright but as a complimentary piece I don’t see what he can do that Miller can’t,except maybe use his ridiculous height in the red zone. I would be surprised but not altogether disappointed if Seattle went in this direction.
Brandon Myers: Myers is a bit of a bizarre case because he produced absolutely nothing in his first three years in the NFL before breaking out last year. The former 6th round pick out of Iowa turns 28 this year and looks to build on a 2012 where he had 801 yards receiving adding to the total of 250 he had accumulated in his career to that point. Myers lacks crazy athleticism but he can clearly catch the ball, something that Carson Palmer realized last year. Myers isn’t the worst guy to have around but ultimately he’s a fairly unremarkable player and I’d rather not overpay for a guy who doesn’t have a big time track record or a big time ceiling. Pass.
There is starter quality talent available but whether the Seahawks are interested will largely be determined by their intentions regarding Zach Miller. I think guys who offer something a little different than Miller like Jared Cook or Fred Davis could be fits because they could be either a compliment or a replacement. No one here is a surefire stud but there are some options worth considering.
That was an excellent win. I can’t lie and said I felt good about it the whole time, though. During the first quarter, make that first three quarters, my tension levels were through the roof. Seattle goes down 14-0. Then blows some red zone opportunities and goes into half-time 14-13. Yes, they caught up. But place kicker Steven Hauschka was hurt and Seattle seemed inconsistent on offense. For some reason the zone-read was used intermittently for whatever reason and Russell Wilson missed a few wide open receivers downfield. Fortunately, Seattle’s defense must have smelled some coffee and decided to wake up and Washington wasn’t able to score for the rest of the game.
Michael Robinson and Zach Miller decided to have amazing games and show why they are both integral parts of the Seahawks team. In my opinion the game ball would have to go to one of those two guys. Russell Wilson did well but there were a few plays where he held onto the ball to long and scrambled for a sack instead of just throwing the ball away. I had to force images of Tarvaris Jackson out my head in those instances.
Marshawn Lynch also had a good game rushing for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he also fumbled to ball on the one yard line but at least partially made up for it with his one-handed fumble recovery and 18 yard rush after Wilson lost the ball. He must have just seen a giant Skittle bouncing around and wasn’t going to let it get away. It was so smooth it was kind of ridiculous to watch. Lynch didn’t even break stride.
I also loved watching Big Red Bryant chase after Robert Griffin. Griffin managed to scramble for a gain of a yard, but the effort put out by a man the size of Bryant to chase after Griffin was impressive. Not a fair fight but you have to love the determination.
This was Seattle’s first playoff game on the road since before I was born. That is very surprising at first because I am starting to think of myself as old and second because I am used to Seattle teams that are always at least somewhat dangerous. Then I remember that there was a long stretch in there (1988-1999) where Seattle didn’t make the playoffs at all and being a Seahawks fan was more depressing than mania inducing. That weakness on the road appears to be a thing of the past now, though.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend some time pissing on the legacy of one, Daniel Snyder. (Don’t worry Dan, it’s just rain.) Dan Snyder provided the worst possible playing surface he could and when Robert Griffin decided to audition for a stunt-double role in “Thiesmann: A Football Life”, it didn’t turn out so well. Griffin ended the game throwing for just 99 yards and should have been taken out at half-time. At least Griffin can look forward to a bright future of selling yet another wiener-pill.
Chris Clemons tore his ACL. Kory Lichtensteiger re-aggravated his ankle sprain. Steven Hauschka sprained his calf. Saying that the field was anything less than complete crap would be an overstatement. I guess Snyder likes his field to match his personality. The NFL and Roger Goodell have once again demonstrated that “player safety” is on par with the NCAA’s “student athlete.” (Seriously, who doesn’t laugh during March Madness when the announcers forcibly use “student athlete” to the point that it’s insulting to your own intelligence?)
Apparently “player safety” is a way for owners and the “shield” (another garbage term turned into NFL propaganda) to regulate player-on-player infractions. Owners like Daniel Snyder, on the other hand, can’t be forced to stop counting their billions and provide the same kind of surface – FieldTurf – that is now common at many high schools. Forcing owners to provide ideal conditions for their athletes isn’t worth regulating aggressively, apparently. Sure there are “rules” but they are token at best. And after players get hurt what difference does it make? I’d love to see a report showing how many injuries occur at each field.
Soldier Field in Chicago is also a terrible field but in a different way. It’s soft, lumpy, and a borderline mud pit. FedEx field is crap-grass growing out of hard dirt with some extra dirt thrown on top for aesthetics. A cleat planted in soft lumpy dirt will give a little when the player’s foot and leg twist. A cleat planted in hard-packed dirt won’t give at all. That’s how we get to see disgusting things like knees bending 90 degrees the wrong way. The warning sign should be that players have to wear ridiculously long cleats to play on a certain field. Give me a freaking break. Hopefully Dan Snyder is taking a long walk off of a short pier right now and the waters below are filled with sharks that have laser beams attached to their heads and the Sharks are all pissed off Cowboy’s fans. I almost forgot to mention that Snyder pumps artificial noise into his stadium.
I really hope Chris Clemons’ injury is better than they are currently thinking. I feel bad that a guy who has busted his ass all year gets done in by the greed and negligence of another team’s owner in the first game of the playoffs. Never mind the fact that it hurts Seattle’s defensive line. He needs to get better because Seattle is lucky enough to play in Snyder’s joke of a stadium again next season!
I like our odds against Atlanta. Currently the Falcons are favored by about 2.5 points, but that might close to 1.5. Atlanta has yet to win a playoff game under Matt Ryan and Seattle has one under their belt already with Wilson. Hopefully Browner is better than he was yesterday because we’ll need him and Sherman to shut down Roddy White and Julio Jones. Anyway, those are topics for an article later this week.
Tags: Chris Clemons, dan snyder, featured, football, gut reaction, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Robinson, News, nfl, Popular, Recaps, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Zach Miller
Zach Miller had what was probably his most important game as a Seahawk Sunday. After a withering offensive display by RGIII and his offense resulted in two touchdown drives, Seattle’s defense looked like it was running at half-speed and the offense looked like they had left their Mojo of the last five games on the tarmac in Seattle. There was absolutely no sign of the high octane offense we had seen in recent weeks, and the vaunted Seattle defense was putting up little resistance to the Washington running attack.
Down 14 – 0 midway through the first quarter Seattle needed to get something going ASAP or risk having the game get out of control by the end of the first quarter. Enter Tight End Zach Miller who gave the Seahawks just what the doctor ordered to get them out of their funk late in the first quarter. On a third and long from his own 18 Russell Wilson hit Miller short of the marker, but Miller twisted and fought his way to a critical first down, Seattle’s first of the game. That was the first sign of life from the Seahawks offense. That drive ended in a field goal but put Seattle on the scoreboard and broke the Redskins momentum.
The next drive had some excitement from a Wilson to Lynch fumbled handoff which Lynch miraculously scooped up and carried to another key first down. That drive resulted in a Michael Robinson TD reception, and the Hawks had 10 on the board. After an Earl Thomas interception of a floated RG III pass the Seahawks added 3 more before the half. Hawks fans breathed a sigh of relief with the team being just one point down at the half.
The second half started with a lot of Beast mode and Wilson runs — getting the team down to the one yard line before Lynch fumbled the ball away. The Hawks held the Skins to a 3 and out and got the ball back with good field position, but had to punt the ball away after a near miss to Baldwin in the end zone. Even though the Hawks were moving the ball they were not able to add any points in the third quarter, reminiscent of some of the Hawks early season games. Still it didn’t seem like the Seahawks were in too much trouble, but they needed a play to break the near deadlock. Now in the 4th quarter the Hawks were on their own 46 at 3rd and long when Wilson again hit Zach Miller sneaking out of protection for a huge gain down to the Skins 32. Three plays later Lynch took the ball into the end zone from the 27 yard line with an assist block from Wilson at the goal line. And on the 2 point conversion Wilson again hit Zach Miller as he crossed the goal line on a quick slant. Miller would lead all receivers with 4 catches for the game.
With a touchdown lead the Hawks were ahead but not out of the woods yet. They needed a game sealing score with time running down. When the Redskins and RG III got the ball back Bruce Irvin nailed RG III for a sack. On the next play the right knee of RG III grotesquely gave way as he chased a bad snap and the Hawks recovered on the 5 yard line. After three unsuccessful shots to the end zone, a Hauschka field goal made it a 2 score game and pretty much put the game out of reach for the Redskins.
There were a lot of great plays made by a lot of Seahawks in this game. Rice and Tate made some incredible sideline hugging receptions of pinpoint Russell Wilson throws. Marshawn Lynch made some huge runs and had that crazy scoop of the fumbled hand off. But the key plays that got the Seahawks out of the doldrums and on their way to this win came from Mr. Zach Miller. So here’s a big “Well Done!” for Zach Miller, Seattle’s unsung hero and the spark that got the Seahawk machine going. Go Hawks!
Wow. I don’t even know what to say. That game became ridiculous somewhere near the middle of the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, the game was handed over to Matt Flynn and the rest of Seattle’s bench. There have already been a couple other “gut reaction” pieces on the site about this game, but I haven’t read them because I don’t want to have other thoughts invade my “purely responsive” weekly piece. So forgive any redundancy that may occur. I’m not going to touch on any statistics because I’m sure they’re covered and at this point they are so ridiculous as to be nearly useless in my opinion.
As a testament to the class I believe Seattle fans have, a Twitter discussion began about how to finish the game with the most class and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, when the opposing defense isn’t able to step up and make any stops it’s that much harder. I do not honestly believe that Seattle ran the score up. Larry Fitzgerald’s father, who is a journalist, feels that the Cardinals quit on the game. I don’t know if that happened, but they definitely lost any sort of fighting spirit. Outside of just handing the ball over to Adrian Wilson on every possession, I’m not sure what Seattle could have done that was “classy.”
- Punt on every first down.
- Take a knee (“victory formation”) on every down and then punt.
- Clear bench, pull starters, and take low percentage shots downfield to rookies with a backup quarterback.
- Run basic, non-gadget plays with the idea that Arizona’s defense will have to make a stop eventually.
Seattle obviously opted for decision three. Every other one would have been borderline mocking to the Cardinals. I also don’t feel like the Arizona players necessarily felt put upon because I can recall several moments in the fourth quarter when Adrian Wilson, a fierce competitor, was helping Seattle players off the field. Ken Whisenhunt was clearly upset with the game, but it didn’t seem like he was especially pissed or offended by Pete Carroll during the post-game handshake. It was just a culmination of several variants that combined into a ridiculous, unavoidable outcome.
I’d also like to point out that I don’t recall nearly as much criticism when admitted cheater, Bill Belichick, repeatedly runs up the score with quarterback Tom Brady, but it’s no big deal. Pete Carroll was actually remarkably calm and contained on the sideline. I don’t know what Seattle could have done differently. Arizona completely broke down and Seattle pulled back as much as possible without actually pointedly, humiliating Arizona.
That’s all I’m going to say on that topic.
Next, Richard Sherman played out of his friggin’ gourd. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t been shouted from every 12th Man with a Twitter, Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, or Google+ account. What a ridiculous game. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of his celebrations but in the big picture, I think it was good-natured and not intended maliciously. I think he was also out to show that he is a stud whether on PEDs or not.
I really want Russell Wilson and Zach Miller to get on the same page. I feel like this is such an under-utilized asset. Anthony McCoy had a great game but is not a starting tight end. Zach Miller is a great blocking and receiving tight end that for some reason isn’t targeted a lot and, when he is, doesn’t get very accurate throws. If Seattle can figure out this piece of the puzzle, I think it would help the offense immensely.
Now I’m going to take a slightly more conservative position on the game. Statistically, with just plane-jane numbers, (i.e. completed passes, touchdowns, yards of offense, etc.) Seattle is a goliath. These numbers however came against an opponent that was far from competitive. Is it Seattle’s best win ever? Or even best game ever? I don’t think so. For me, the best game is one that is a gut-it-out, grinding, old-school boxing match of a game. Something closer to the win in Chicago a week before that required two game winning drives by a rookie quarterback to overcome a game full of horrible officiating. Those are the games that define a team. Those are the type of games that players, in my opinion, truly earn their stripes. The game against Arizona simply became a circus. Fun to watch, but a statistical anomaly. Putting up similar or even slightly less amazing numbers against San Francisco, Chicago, Green Bay, New England, or Houston would in my mind be a “greater” game.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be celebrated though. A win is a win and Seattle needs all the wins they can get. The only path to a number two seed is for Seattle to win out and San Francisco to lose one other game on top of the game in Seattle on December 23rd which has been flexed to Sunday night. A bye and home field advantage for a game would be huge for Seattle and it’s absolutely in the realm of possibility. The hard part is keeping expectations in check.
The 12th Man had a collective cathartic experience on Sunday. It was long overdue and well deserved. It’s not the end of the road though, and Seattle has some tough games yet to play. I hate losing. Absolutely hate it. I hate it more than I enjoy winning, which is probably why I am taking such a reserved stance on Seattle’s beat down of Arizona. I’m a terrible loser as my girlfriend and family can attest to. I go into isolation and don’t want to talk to anybody. I’m a gracious winner and never bring it up to fans of opposing teams. I didn’t make a single post on the wall of my many friends who are Bears fans after the stressful game two weeks ago.
I make these statements not because I want to feel good about myself, but I think that the 12th Man also generally holds these feelings. We want to win. Badly. We absolutely hate losing. But as a fan base, we are gracious in victory and generally feel uncomfortable gloating after the game is over. Bragging is not something inherent in the Northwest’s nature. We hate being described with pejorative descriptions, like “South Alaska” (suck it Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw), but let the intrinsic class, dignity, and good nature of the region speak for itself. That’s why I’m proud to be a 12th Man and an ambassador for the Northwest in the other parts of the country that I have lived in.
On August 2nd 2011 the Seattle Seahawks signed a contract with a then twenty five year old player who was considered a top ten talent at his position. That contract was worth 34 million dollars over five years and half of that money was guaranteed. That player was Zach Miller. What has Seattle received for this investment? In 25 games since the Seahawks signed Miller he has produced significantly less than he did in his previous season with Oakland in 2010. Has Miller been ineffective or simply underused? As I sought the answer I found that both of those things are partially true. As it happens it has been a tale of two seasons. In 2011 Miller was brutally ineffective but this year he has been effective but not used enough. Here’s a comparison between those two years including where he ranked/ranks in these categories in terms of NFL tight ends. Keep in mind with all statistics that are totals that Zach Miller played 5 more games in 2011 than he has so far in 2012. I think that just makes the comparison starker.
Yards per Reception
Yards Per Target
Miller 2011 Edition
Miller 2012 Edition
As you can see Miller was pretty much awful last year. He ranked 37th among tight ends in three of the seven categories I used to evaluate him, which was last in the league. Perhaps he adjusted poorly to a new offense and we know that he’s had some concussion issues but whatever the reason things didn’t click in 2011. This year Miller has excelled in multiple areas but Russell Wilson has not been looking his way/Darrell Bevell has not been drawing up plays for him. Miller is a totally different pass catcher this year but that is being obscured by his lack of usage. I am aware that the run-heavy nature of the Hawks offense might always hold down Miller’s overall totals but the fact he is only the 23rd most targeted TE in terms of percentage of his team’s throws is a crime. Miller is only 26, he is not an old player winding down his career. He still has the athletic ability to be a weapon for this offence. I am aware this analysis disregards run blocking, which is a big part of Miller’s role in Bevell’s offense, but these things are difficult to quantify and ultimately I think he was signed to a deal worth almost 7 million per year with the idea that he would catch the ball as he had earlier in his career. Ultimately I think the Seahawks are game planning with Miller as if he is the non-dynamic, virtually useless, TE of 2011. It’s a new year. It’s a new Zach Miller. Throw the man the ball.
Now that we’re in the bye part of our season, I wanted to take a moment to evaluate what we know we have… and have not.
We have not: a quarterback controversy. In fact, yesterday I heard sports radio commentators remarking that the Jets switching out quarterbacks during a drive was actually disruptive and created a stall in drives. This was followed by advice to commit to your quarterback just like Seattle did with Wilson… that it would have been the height of stupidity to bring Flynn in just to see what he had. Hind sight is a wonderful thing! It hasn’t been that many weeks since Seattle sports commentators were calling for Flynn to play just to see what he had.
We have: an unseasoned quarterback. As good as Wilson is performing, he’s still a rookie and there will be mistakes. There were certainly plays in the first half of the Jets game where he struggled, holding on to the ball too long, not sliding when he ran for yardage, missing open receivers down field.
We have: A quarterback with amazing ability to implement learned information in the middle of a game. In spite of his youth and inexperience in the NFL, Wilson isn’t one to continually make mistakes. He has an amazing ability to filter information and implement it immediately.
We have not: a solid receiver corp. Although we have some excellent receivers, injury has kept us from being solid at this position. While Rice and Tate have been consistent, Edwards and Baldwin have been only spotty contributors (injuries) even though both looked great in training camp. Meanwhile Kearse remains untested after drops in the Viking game.
We have: An amazing Tight End. Zack Miller is golden. Whether blocking, running routes or catching the ball, he’s a favorite target down the middle and with his size, a difficult player to bring down.
We have: an amazing defense. Even though they have faced questions regarding how good they really are (optimus prime) they continue to be formidable opponents; opportunists with great speed, size and a desire to hold other team scoreless…
We have: a fantastic owner/front office.
We have: a much needed week off to heal injuries and prepare for the home stretch.
We have: a chance to be a 10-6 team! Or 11-5!
First off let me say that a tie is bogus. Nothing to do with the Seattle game per se, but it could have implications later on in the season. Football is the only professional sport that can still end in a tie. I get that it’s huge men slamming into each other and that sort of physical activity does not take place in basketball and baseball. However, going into multiple overtimes in the other sports, basketball especially, also runs increased risks of injury. A tie means that the game should pretty much never have been played. The Niners and Rams could have, and should have, gone at least another fifteen minutes.
Anyways, onto the Seahawks game. It was an ugly game. Not sexy to watch and nothing big was proven. Rex Ryan has had good success at limiting rookie quarterbacks and Russell Wilson did better than the standard, but it was still ugly. If you aren’t going to throw it away, then definitely don’t fumble it……twice.
I have to say that I love the flea flicker being used with some regularity. Sidney Rice can throw, Golden Tate can throw (albeit ugly), and of course Wilson can throw. It’s a better option than any sort of wild cat formation. With that said, I know Mark Sanchez isn’t a good quarterback, but if people really think Tim Tebow would be any better, then move to Washington, because whatever you’re smoking is now legal in the Evergreen state. Tebow hardly works as a gimmick. If he got every snap, teams would watch tape on him, stack the box, and shut him down.
Kudos to Marshawn Lynch for breaking 1,000 yards in the season after only ten games. Huge milestone. Honestly, the 1,000 yard mark doesn’t mean the same thing it used to, but it’s still a big achievement. Seeing how bummed Lynch was after his fumble was honestly reassuring. I know what it feels like to think you let your team down and to see that kind of emotion, dedication, and reflection in a player means a lot. I’m not saying other players don’t get frustrated, but for Lynch it was personal. He then ran for two touchdowns.
Richard Sherman is the man. I can’t wait to get my number 25 jersey. Only question is: what color? I love his attitude and his complete ability to back it up. An interception, a sack, a forced fumble, three tackles, and three defenced passes. All while battling bronchitis! If that doesn’t scream all-pro, I don’t know what does. Seeing him cover Brandon Marshall in three weeks is going to be awesome. I anticipate Jay Cutler encountering some severe frustration with Seattle’s secondary. Hopefully, Seattle’s run defense is also rested and improved by then.
I still really want to see Zach Miller used more in the offense. I don’t like our receivers left hung out to dry over the middle, late. Seattle can’t afford to lose any more receivers. I’m also not sold on Evan Moore or Anthony McCoy. I would love to see Miller retained and get another solid tight end in the off season or draft.
Although the game was ugly, it’s reassuring to see the Seahawks gut-it-out and win. It’s more important to win than to win pretty. This is what it will take to beat teams like Chicago and San Francisco. Seattle really has to go 3-o in the remaining division games. That is critical step number one to making the playoffs. San Francisco and Chicago are the two teams left that pose serious challenges from the get-go. Arizona and Miami could also be candidates for an upset, so the Seahawks can’t afford to get complacent.
All that being said, I think Seattle tastes it. They know they are on the precipice. They can feel how close they are and it only makes them hungrier. Needless to say, I was pretty devastated with the loss to the Niners and then the Lions. After those two losses, I felt like I was staring into the abyss for the 2012 season. I believe the Seahawks players did too, yet they were able to step away from the ledge after having confronted that potential fate. Now I, the 12th Man, and the Seahawks seem poised to go “once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
How good would Marshawn Lynch have been last year had the Seahawk’s been able to field a credible two tight end set? Lynch was awfully good last year. But recall the acquisition of Zach Miller even though the Hawks already had a decent TE on the roster in John Carlson. The move puzzled the media…until they saw what New England did last year with their two tight end set featuring a pair of monster players, Hernandez and Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Carlson got hurt and a credible two TE set never really materialized for the Seahawks.
So, why am I talking about Marshawn Lynch in an article about the two TE set? That question could get us into a long discussion of X’s and O’s and defenses and O-line gaps. Since I’m not an offensive guru or an expert in defenses I’ll try to give you the “Two tight end sets for Dummys” answer to the “how good would Lynch have been” question as well as answer the question; “why do you need two giant TE’s on your roster”?
In defending against the running game, it’s all about the gaps on the offensive line. In a normal (one tight end) offensive set you have one more gap than the defense has linemen to plug it. The defense counters that by putting a linebacker or other defensive back up on the line to cover that gap. The offense would then do something like put in a big, strong fullback as a lead blocker or pull a guard to move defensive guys out of the gaps and give the running back a place to attack and hopefully break through. That’s a very Chuck Knox-y approach (did I just age myself?).
Bring on the two tight ends! What New England’s Bill Belichick figured out is with two massive tight ends and one back in various alignments, he could force the defense to use that defensive back who was supposed to close that extra gap in the O line to cover the second tight end, who can be in motion or set out wide to clear out the middle, or stacked with the other TE on one side to create an unbalanced formation. The D would have to bring up another back to cover the TE so they can still cover the extra gap. What this means for the running back is it’s like having an extra guy on offense (or one less on defense). The threat of two credible TEs who can catch the ball on short or medium depth routes means there is now an imbalance in favor of the offense. Running backs love imbalances because that means more empty space in the middle and weak side they can run around in. I use the word “credible” because it’s not good enough to just put any two tight ends on the field at the same time. It has to be two big, tall, fast tight ends with great hands who will be seen in the minds of the defensive players as a legitimate threat.
Now, think about those big empty spaces in the field caused by the imbalance created by the extra TE, and imagine Marshawn Lynch not just running through them, but also coming out of the backfield for a screen pass. If there is anyone a defense does NOT want to see in the open field with the ball, it’s Lynch. He’s is THE MAN when it comes to yards after initial contact. Once he’s past the pile-up at the line of scrimmage, he’s back there with the little guys in the defensive backfield. A couple of broken tackles and a stiff-arm later he’s going to be standing in the end zone getting pelted with Skittles.
One last aspect of the two TE set that we should consider. I’ll call it the associative property of mathematics as applied to TE’s and RB’s. If the TE’s can open up the field for RB’s, so can a bull of a running back open things up for the two TE’s. New England used their pair of TE’s not only as TE’s but as wide receivers. Let’s say the defense just got burned by a couple of long runs from the two TE set. This time they’ll set their TE’s up in an alignment with the TE’s inside to look like a running play, then swap them into the wide receiver position just before the snap. That creates what coaches refer to as “a personnel mismatch”, i.e. a 6’5” 240lb TE against a 5’10” 190lb corner. That usually doesn’t go well for the smaller player. That kind of mismatch was something Mike Williams used to give the Hawks, but with the addition of Winslow, maybe Carroll found Williams expendable due to the flexibility of the two TE set to run one of them as a WR.
This was a really brief and somewhat incomplete summary of what the two tight end set can do. There are many more things coaches can do to further stifle and confuse defenses that we will see the Seahawks doing this year. Now that you know what to look for, try to spot some other setups using two TE’s. I’ll be watching for it because if there is going to be ONE difference between this year’s team and last year’s, it will depend upon how successfully they can deploy Winslow and Miller together.
So, the answer to the question; “how good would Lynch have been with a credible two TE set” will hopefully be answered this year. With the addition of Winslow to Pro-bowler Miller the Seahawks will have possibly one of the top 2 or 3 TE combos in the league. If you thought Lynch was good the last two seasons, this season he could make those look like a simple throat clearing before his virtuoso performance. In other words, look out league! This is gonna be fun!
We currently sit at a point of the year where the Seahawks have not played a single snap, not even a preseason snap, and yet fans are willing to make broad assumptions about how this year might go. This is reasonable for the most part as an analysis of roster construction and schedule will give some insightful clues as to where our beloved Seahawks will find themselves at the end of the year. There are a lot of things that can be gleaned from examining how these Seahawks look on paper. However, as the incredibly annoying but unfortunately true cliché goes, “the game isn’t played on paper”. In this article I will examine the validity of five assumptions that we Seahawks fans (I’m just as guilty as you) are making going into this season. Very scientifically I will be rendering my verdict as to whether these assumptions fall under the categories of Safe, Likely, Iffy or Wrong.
1. Marshawn Lynch will continue to be a beast:
Marshawn Lynch is an absolute pleasure to watch. The utter violence of his running style makes me feel as if children under 18 shouldn’t be allowed to see his carries. At the same time I wouldn’t want anyone to be excluded from enjoying his brutal grace. Marshawn was excellent last year behind an iffy (the limits of my vocabulary show themselves in a hurry) offensive line with 1204 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. While his running style seems conducive to injury, he has been fairly durable throughout his career, never playing in less than 13 games in a year. For all the punishment he seems to take and all the carries he’s had, he is only 26. That being said running backs can break down at a moment’s notice.
2. The Seahawks secondary is awesome:
When you look at the Seahawks projected starting secondary awesome is a word that comes to mind along with epic, picktastic and bonecrushing (ok so that only applies to Kam Chancellor but I think it’s fair to say he crushes enough bones for the entire quartet). The foursome of Browner, Chancellor, Sherman and Thomas are 28, 24, 24 and 23 so age related regression is hardly a concern. If anything this group is on the up and up as they hone their skills as they approach their collective prime. The picture is not entirely rosy as Browner can get himself in penalty trouble and both him and Chancellor lack elite foot speed and can be exposed in coverage from time to time. That being said Earl Thomas has Mike Trout-esque range and can often cover for the errors of his comrades. I’m also fairly sure that Walter Thurmond, Marcus Trufant or someone else on the roster can be a competent 3rd CB. Overall there isn’t a lot not to like here but Pete Caroll’s preference for big DB’s could get them burned by speedy receivers from time to time.
3. Chris Clemons will once again lead the pass rush with exactly 11.0 sacks:
I did not have especially high hopes for Chris Clemons when he was first acquired. Even when he excelled in 2010 I braced myself for a sizable regression last year but that regression never came. I think at this point we are treating Chris Clemons as a proven commodity ace pass rusher. Unless Bruce Irvin is an instant star (I’m not betting my life savings on it) the Seahawks absolutely need this to be the case. Unfortunately there are multiple causes for concern the foremost being age and size. Clemons turns 31 this year. While this isn’t ancient it is about the time when pass rushers can fall off the side of the Earth. We got a great season from Patrick Kerney at this age but none after that. Also the fact Clemons is undersized makes me worry about his durability even though that potential issue has not cropped up during his time with the Seahawks. Overall I think that Clemons has too many things working against him (not even mentioning a defensive line that lacks the pass-rushing threats to prevent him from being doubled) to replicate his previous production.
Verdict: IFFY (I considered Wrong but I can’t muster that level of pessimism before the season even starts)
4. Nothing much should be expected of Zach Miller at this point:
After an admittedly disappointing season I feel like fan confidence in Miller is fairly low. Seahawks fans do not seem to have a great deal of optimism regarding Miller despite the fact he is a very talented player. The receiving numbers were not there last year and given what the Seahawks are paying him the results really should be there. I’m not really in the business of making excuses for Miller’s 2011 but I do think there is reason to expect a bounce back this year. Firstly he has youth on his side. Miller turns 27 this year and, without any debilitating injuries to speak of, there is no reason he should be physically diminished. Also between 2008 and 2010 Miller had no less than 685 yards in a season proving a consistent ability to produce despite playing with quarterbacks ranging from questionable to historically awful. Along with youth and history Miller will also be playing with a new quarterback this year in all likelihood. Despite the fact a great deal of his drop in production was a result of increased blocking responsibilities (which he will probably face this year as well) it was also clear that he didn’t really mesh with Tavaris Jackson. This year he will have the luxury of a new quarterback (whether it is Wilson or Flynn) and a chance to build chemistry from scratch. Miller has the potential to be an excellent weapon and hopefully his new quarterback (am I so out of line in dismissing Jackson’s chances of starting?) recognizes that. He could well be in for a big rebound. I don’t understand the lack of optimism.
5. Multiple quarterbacks will start for the Seahawks this year.
Given the lack of clarity in the quarterback situation at the moment this seems like a safe bet. People seem to think it will be Flynn and then ultimately Wilson either after the Seahawks fall out of contention or he proves himself. I wouldn’t put money on this but I have this feeling that Flynn might actually be good. Maybe even good enough to hold off a rookie 3rd round pick who is under 6 feet tall and Tavaris Jackson (is any description really required?). Call it a hunch but I think there is more of a chance that Flynn starts for the Seahawks all year than most seem to think. He is also the man getting paid. People say they haven’t invested in him fully but alternatively he makes a mighty expensive backup. Also there probably isn’t that much harm in sitting Wilson for another year. If you are a gambling man count on multiple QB’s for the Seahawks this year, due to the injury risk alone, but don’t be surprised if Flynn takes a hold of this job.
Verdict: LIKELY (I wish I was bold enough to say iffy which in and of itself isn’t exactly the boldest word).
Essentially what I’ve done here is warn you about making assumptions about the 2012 Seahawks at this point in the season and then made some assumptions of my own. If I’m a hypocrite so be it. Time will tell if my assumptions are any better than anyone else’s.
Tags: brandon browner, Chris Clemons, Earl Thomas, featured, football, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, matt flynn, nfl, Previews, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Tavaris Jackson, Zach Miller
There are lots of ways to judge receivers: yards, TDs, catches, drops, etc. Yards is the most common way of judging them, but that doesn’t take into account injuries, or if a player can’t get on the field because of a coaches decision, not to mention other variables the receiver can’t control like who their QB is.
To get around this, the guys over at Pro Football Focus have devised another way of comparing pass catchers: yards per route run. It’s not perfect, as it still doesn’t account for things like QB and offensive line play, but it’s better than simply using yards.
It turns out, that over the past 3 years, Sydney Rice is the 10th best WR in the league in yards per route run, despite having Tarvaris Jackson as his QB for about half of those games. That’s better than guys like Vincent Jackson and Greg Jennings, who play with much better QBs.
On the other end of the spectrum is SF’s Ted Ginn, who was 6th worst in the NFL. Not that it matters, but any chance to bash on the niners must be taken, right?
When it comes to TEs, the new isn’t quite so good for the Seahawks. Neither Kellen Winslow nor Zach Miller made the list as one of the league’s top 15 TEs, which is a little surprising.
Meanwhile former Seahawk TEs Chris Baker and John Carlson are among the worst TEs in the league in that regard, finishing 6th and 9th from the bottom respectfully.
Tags: 710 ESPN, Alex Smith, draft, featured, football, John Schneider, Larry Grant, linebacker, matt flynn, Melvin Ingram, nfl, Pete Caroll, Peyton Manning, Quentin Coples, robert gallery, San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, Sydney Rice, tarvaris jackson, The Colts, The Seahawks, Zach Miller
Predictions are always fun. Especially when well known bloggers make them and they end up being wrong. That’s always fun, because then everyone gets to throw them back into my face later. Ahhh… good times…
1) At least one of the … [visit site to read more]
Tags: alan branch, brandon browner, David Hawthorne, featured, football, John Carlson, Marcus Trufant, Mario Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Robinson, nfl, Red Bryant, robert gallery, Roster Moves, Seahawks, Sydney Rice, Wish List, Zach Miller
The Seahawks limp into this weeks game against Cincinnati with some major injury problems on the injured list. On the positive side of things, it looks like some key pieces are returning. On the other hand, the Seahawks lost another CB for the year when Walter Thurmond broke his leg in last week’s game. The quality of the depth on this team is definitely being tested.
- Tarvaris Jackson is practicing more, and might play this week. We wont know until after practice on Friday when he tests his injured pectoral mussel. Getting Jackson back would be a huge boost, but I don’t expect him back until next week. … [visit site to read more]
Tags: brandon browner, football, John Moffitt, Kam Chancellor, Marcus Trufant, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, nfl, Previews, Richard Sherman, Roster Moves, Seahawks, tarvaris jackson, Walter Thurmond, Zach Miller