Signs of offensive improvement

Posted Sep 26, 2011

The return of wide receiver Sidney Rice wasn't the only positive development for the Seahawks' offense in Sunday’s home opener against the Cardinals.

Rushing yards? Up. To 122, from a combined total of 95 in the first two games.

Passing yards? Up. To 171, from 159 the week before against the Steelers. But also down, from 197 in the opener against the 49ers.

Points? Also up, but down. To 13, after zero against the Steelers and 17 against the 49ers.

Marshawn Lynch’s impact? Way up. To 73 yards, after a total of 44 in the first two games.

Sidney Rice’s presence? Obviously up. To eight catches for 109 yards after not even playing in the first two games.

Tarvaris Jackson’s mobility? Also up. As in, scoring the team’s only TD on an 11-yard run.

Those were the checkpoints that coach Pete Carroll checked off Monday, less than 24 hours after the Seahawks had won their home opener 13-10 over the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field.

Connect the dots between all those numbers and it still creates a picture of an offense in its infancy, but it also points to the improvement Carroll and his offensive staff have been waiting to see.

“I thought we definitely had improvement on offense, because we had some balance to it and there was a little more rhythm,” Carroll said. “It just felt better.”

That was never more apparent than in the 14-play, 72-yard drive to Jackson’s TD run in the third quarter, which provided the final margin of victory. The drive included six Jackson completions – to four different receivers – for 53 yards and four Lynch runs for 13 yards.

“I think the ability to go into a game and see Marshawn gain some yards and run the football, then get the ball thrown to Sidney and saw the quarterback move, those are all stuff that gives us things to build on,” Carroll said. “As we include other guys, too, in the production part if it then I think we can put together a solid offense.”

None of the above would have happened, of course, without an improved performance by the young offensive line of – from left tackle to right – Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, John Moffitt and James Carpenter.

“I think we did better,” Carroll said. “James played better for the second week, and that’s a good sign. He’s on the move. He played very strong and made most of his blocks.

“It was a pretty good, solid day in terms for making progress.”

Another plus is the lack of turnovers. Jackson has thrown two interceptions in three games, but they’ve come on Hail Mary chucks at the end of the first halves against the 49ers and Cardinals.

“We continue to do a nice job of taking care of the football, which is huge,” Carroll said. “That’s in big part to Tarvaris’ play, because he’s been hit and he’s been exposed and he’s taken care of it.”

After being sacked nine times in four quarters (five in the second half against the Steelers, four in the first half against the Cardinals), the line and other blockers kept Jackson clean in the second half on Sunday.

“He’s protecting the football so well,” Carroll said of Jackson. “We’re learning and we’re growing.”

It’s a learning and growth process that needs to be accelerated this week, when the Atlanta Falcons visit CenturyLink Field.

“We just have a long ways to go until we really feel like we’re in full stride and really rolling,” Carroll said.