Despite the hire of Shane Waldron being announced nearly four months ago, the Seahawks’ 2021 offensive scheme and identity remains murky. Guess work based on Waldron’s late-January introduction and history with Sean McVay has been possible. However, there were a lot of unanswered questions.
Now, thanks to the NFL Draft press conferences from Pete Carroll and John Schneider, further details of what Seattle’s attack will look like have emerged. Closely studying the comments from the coach and general manager proves illuminating.
D’Wayne Eskridge - Second Round Selection
“We want guys that are versatile; we like to play with good rhythm and tempo. We like to keep the guys out there on the field, so they have to be versatile and able to do all of those things. He definitely is a guy, as you can tell from just the highlights that you probably have seen, that we can hand him the football, we can flip it to him, we can do things with him behind the line of scrimmage—he’s run very effectively on reverses and stuff like that and the returns show that as well—so, all of that is, we were looking for a receiver that would have all of that kind of versatility and he was really an exciting one to get.” Pete Carroll
Carroll here is essentially emphasizing that the Seahawks will want to be in 11 personnel for the majority of the snaps, with the same trio of wide receivers out on the field - DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and D’Wayne Eskridge - and the same tight end in Gerald Everett.
Carroll talking about giving the ball to Eskridge also suggests that jet sweeps and motion will indeed be a big part of the offensive structure, keeping the player on the field because of his ability to threaten horizontally too.
Additionally, it’s interesting that Carroll mentioned rhythm and tempo. These are terms that Wilson, who reached peak disgruntlement in the offseason, has often mentioned. And throwing with rhythm is the first thing that Carroll highlighted when asked about pass protection, stating that Wilson is at his best when the ball comes out fast. So while this is about staying with the structure of plays and trusting pass protection, it also applies to not getting bogged down at the line of scrimmage and playing fast. Eskridge's ability to line up all over the formation plays well into the desire to run the offense with more tempo and for him to receive extensive snaps early.
“We’re looking for well-rounded guys that can fit and can compliment too. And when D’Wayne gets his shot, we’ll use all of that hopefully and then mix and match, and then kind of, like, hide it and disguise it as we want to. And we’ll see how that works, but it is all part of it, you know. The guys have elements that do compliment, and of course you can’t replace the speed.” Pete Carroll
Hide it and disguise it, complimentary elements... Carroll is clearly envisioning how Eskridge’s talent will fit in with the rest of the 11 personnel. It suggests that Eskridge and company will align in a lot of different spots, along with again using jet motion. The disguise could refer to series offense, with lots of different plays all looking like the same thing and all looking to exploit the defensive adjustment to a different concept in the series.
“We want real versatile guys. We want guys that can do everything because our guys do have to block, we’ll use them in splits and motions and all kinds of positions, more than we have, maybe more emphasis than we have in the past. And that calls for these guys to be able to do a number of things, and that means they’ve got to recognize fronts and who’s who, linebackers and DBs and all that kind of stuff as they carry out their assignments. So, in particular, I think you’ll see in time, as you guys get a chance to see D’Wayne, you’re gonna see that he can do a lot of all that. He’s a physical kid. And he’ll be able to be a well-rounded player.
If you look back at what they have built through the Rams system, with Cooper Kupp and Robert, they have had guys on the field that stay out there, because they can do a little bit of everything. And so we like that kind of versatility. And so I think in the first receiver that we’ve chosen, you know with our new offensive coordinator, I think it’s a little bit of a statement in that regard that’s something we like, and something we’re looking for.” -Pete Carroll
This is Carroll adding the ability to run block into the versatility equation. Clearly, the Seahawks plan to have the same personnel grouping out there and yet still want to be able to successfully execute each of their core concepts - run or pass. In terms of the run game, this requires a lot of intelligence from the receivers in terms of their blocking assignments.
It’s also further confirmation from Carroll that Seattle is going to move around their receiving talent a lot more, to the benefit of the run game and the pass. There is the obvious jet motion, but also think of how the Rams have deployed their receivers in tight splits and mixed up who is attached to the formation core in a ‘wing’ alignment. McVay has also shifted well to gain better angles in the run game and cause more problematic defensive force.
“Shane has talked since we first started talking about, you know, schematically how we’re going about, philosophically how we’re going about the offense. About having three legitimate threats, you know, in passing situations. So a defense can’t lock you down. And it was one of the reasons that Gerald was such a big get for us, was such a great acquisition for us in the offseason, to help us. But we always want to have three guys out there that they’ve got to work with and contend with so they just can’t double guys up and take them out of the offense.
So, we’ll find out how well D’Wayne fits in that regard, but we’re counting on him being a factor. And our other guys too. This is going to be a great—as I said a couple of days ago—it’s gonna be a wide open competition this camp for guys to show where they fit and we’re waiting to allow that emergence to occur and excited to see the competition bring that out, but we want the diversity, certainly.” -Pete Carroll
This is more of the same from Carroll, touching on the desire to have three legitimate threats on the field at all times. The best way to achieve this would be 11 personnel although, keen not to anoint Eskridge before he has taken an NFL practice snap, 12 personnel (Two tight ends and two receivers) would still produce a combination of Metcalf, Lockett and Everett. That, along with additional threats like run action and similar looking plays, should create one-on-one match-ups around the field.
Stone Forsythe - Sixth Round Selection
“And the guy runs the track especially well with our new offense. You can see him as a big person out there running and getting outside.” -John Schneider
Schneider communicating running the track implies outside zone run blocking. That’s backed up by him adding detail about getting outside. McVay’s attack has also used their tackle mobility in the screen game, most notably on tunnel screens where the tackle must run outside to a landmark to quickly secure an important point of attack block.
“He runs pretty well, he runs well for a big guy. So he moves alright. We’ve just got to get him where he’s coming off the football the way we want to. That means he’s got frontside blocks where he’s got to reach really flashy athletes and they also gotta cut off big defensive tackles when the ball’s going away.” Pete Carroll
This is Carroll describing a tackle blocking outside zone in more detail. McVay’s offense at its best was often blocking outside zone as mid zone, with the frontside tackle kicking out the play-side end man on line of scrimmage. However, Carroll here is describing the tackle reach blocking this defender for the run to hit in the widest hole (19/18).
The Seahawks are clearly embracing pure wide zone running, which is interesting given the make-up of their interior offensive line. Whether this remains after they have executed the basic, early offensive install remains to be seen, it could be that they are mainly mid zone blocking when it comes to game time.
Carroll provided the assignment for a tackle blocking outside zone with run away. For an offensive tackle to be able to cut off a defensive tackle, that DT would likely be in a 3-technique alignment (aligned over the guard). This hints that Seattle wants to run their outside zone towards the B-Gap bubble that defenses leave in shaded fronts—most of the NFL predominantly aligns in shaded fronts.
“He runs well, for a big man, and so he can block on the perimeter.” Pete Carroll
This is a similar to Schneider’s remark. Carroll is referring to outside zone but this also can be applied to screen game blocking.
Ultimately, it feels like we will have to wait for preseason football to really see what the Waldron-Wilson-Seattle offensive product will be in 2021 and beyond. The remaining questions generated by Waldron’s unveiling remain largely unanswered. However, Carroll and Schneider did provide some additional clues.