RENTON, Wash. - Over the course of the offseason, several of the Seahawks' offensive stars have given their respective impressions of new coordinator Shane Waldron. Across all accounts, one consistent theme has been "tempo." But what does that mean exactly?
"It's everything," coach Pete Carroll said following the conclusion of mandatory minicamp on Thursday. "From huddle to snap point, just using all of the elements of the game that are available."
It's easy to confuse "tempo" with no-huddles and two-minute drills, but that's not what Carroll and his players have been alluding to—not entirely, at least.
One of the biggest criticisms of Carroll's Seahawks has been their clock management, with the team becoming infamous for premature timeouts and delay of game penalties. It's a problem that's persisted over the course of multiple seasons, an inexcusably prolonged mental error for a team led by a seasoned coach like Carroll and an elite quarterback like Russell Wilson.
In his Wednesday press conference, receiver Tyler Lockett said one of the biggest differences he sees in the transition from former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to Waldron is a "faster huddle." But not only does that address the team's clock management woes, it keeps opposing defenses on their heels and inhibits them from reaping the benefits of a "cool-down period" in between plays.
"Some of it is when you get on the football," Carroll continued. "But a lot of it is going quickly and trying to maintain the edge on the defense so they can't command the time at the line of scrimmage, where they can make all of the adjustments and the changes. We do move a lot with our offense and we're challenging to the defense in that regard. If you give them time to make their checks, you know, these guys are well-schooled around the league and they can make the adjustments and get everybody in the best place and feel real clear-headed about that next snap.
"We're trying to take that edge off that as best we can in all of the ways that are available."
Other descriptors thrown around for Waldron's offense have been "super complex" and "smart;" Lockett says it gives the players "more freedom." Carroll's philosophy has long been about letting players be who they are and leaning heavily into their strengths, both on and off the field, and Waldron's scheme appears reflective of that.
What that ends up looking like on Sundays remains a mystery to the public eye, however, and the Seahawks have avoided delving too deep into specifics for most of the offseason. Every comment thus far has come across more as a mission statement, highlighting broad points of emphasis for the offense rather than a concise, focused glimpse at what they'll have to offer.
That's to be expected, of course. This is the NFL after all, and 31 other teams are looking for any nugget of information or competitive advantage they can get.
That said, Carroll was still able to divulge a non-schematic detail about the team's offensive overhaul.
"Probably the area of the game that we'll make the most difference will be our third down game," Carroll revealed. "If we can be really good on third downs and stay on the field, you know, and be around 50 percent [conversion rate], we're gonna be really hard to deal with."
Last year, the Seahawks converted just 38.6 percent of their third down attempts, finishing 27th in the league. Fortunately for them, they were the sixth-best team in the NFL in avoiding the down entirely, trailing only the Bills (187), Patriots (186), Titans (182), Vikings (181) and Packers (180) with 189 attempts.
But significantly raising their conversion rate is a necessity for their championship aspirations, extending drives and keeping games out of reach for their opponents. The Seahawks uncharacteristically failed to put teams away for most of the 2020 season, contributing to their whopping 11 one-score finishes, and third down success—particularly late in games—played a large role in that.
"That'll be a huge focus throughout camp," Carroll confirmed. "And what I like about it is we've got guys to go to, you know, and we've got real good targets to work in there."
In addition to the star receiving duo of Lockett and DK Metcalf, the Seahawks have bolstered their stable of pass catchers in the offseason, primarily through the arrivals of free agent tight end Gerald Everett and second-round receiver D'Wayne Eskridge. Both will be necessary for Seattle to achieve its goals on offense, but its depth runs deeper than that with a healthy pairing of Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, as well as second-year man Freddie Swain, to name a few.
While Carroll recognizes the richness of that group and the excellence of his star quarterback, that doesn't mean the Seahawks intend on straying away from running the ball when needed.
"Every time I mention the running game everybody goes crazy," Carroll joked. "But we're gonna be a balanced football team again and we're gonna do the things we need to do to play really good ball. ... But we've got a tremendous quarterback with a great system and he's got guys around him."
Noting the "chemistry already brewing" between Waldron and Wilson, Carroll listed a few impressions of his new play-caller.
"His command of the entire notebook and his sense for creating the system so it's really accessible to the players where we can do a ton of stuff, but yet they're understanding the principles and they're understanding the continuity of how things fit together in marriage," Carroll explained. "That's really talking about the run game, pass game, perimeter game, the tempo stuff that we do—he just knows it really well."
While he errs on the side of caution in regards to overwhelming his players with Waldron's scheme, Carroll is incredibly enthusiastic about what the former Rams passing game coordinator has brought to the table thus far.
As the team breaks until the start of training camp at the end of July, the line of communication between Waldron and the offense will be ongoing. With less than three months to go until the start of the regular season, there's still work to be done and issues to hammer out—both new and old.
But as Carroll and the Seahawks have made it clear, they're confident Waldron can take them where they want to go.