If only because the football gods clearly have a sense of humor, new Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron met with the media on Wednesday, his first press conference of training camp, immediately after a practice that might have been the worst of camp for the offense thanks to four fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
For Waldron, whose new boss, Pete Carroll, emphasizes winning the turnover battle over just about everything, a sloppy practice in the first week of August served as a good teaching moment for his offense, even if it's hardly a cause for huge concern give that it came on a Wednesday afternoon a week into camp and not in a meaningful game.
"There was my first test right there," Waldron said with a smile. "We know nothing is more important than the ball, but there's those ebbs and flows in the practice. Like I said, the defense is doing a great job. They're making us better by their approach every single day. These guys chasing us 50-yards down the field, punching at the ball, just making us work so hard throughout the course of every practice. They've had a few tips, and sometimes those tips, you never know which way they'll go. Today, they went their way, but we'll bounce back the next day and be ready to take care of the ball knowing that it's the number one priority, and it's the number one priority in the league."
And besides, one subpar practice from the offense is hardly going to dampen the excitement about Waldron's offense, not after all the early rave reviews that have been coming from Carroll and players dating back to offseason workouts and continuing into camp.
"He has just seamlessly taken over," Carroll said earlier in the week. "He has pictured himself in this role, he's assumed the position just very comfortably. He's really good in front of the team. One of the real assets that Shane has is his understanding of what goes on across the board. He's he knows the running game up front, he knows pass protection up front from a lineman's perspective, he coached tight ends for a long time. He really has all of that where he can communicate that; he doesn't have to turn it over to (offensive line coach Mike Solari), he can fill in and make sure he's expressing the emphasis that we need on stuff. That's a big asset, he has a really well-versed background, and you can tell."
For Waldron, this will be his first time in charge of an offense—though Rams head coach and offensive play-caller Sean McVay did have Waldron call plays at times when he was L.A.'s passing game coordinator—and it's a challenge Waldron has been preparing for throughout his career.
"I love it," Waldron said. "This has been a goal of mine for a long, long time. I've been lucky enough to be in some places, especially my most recent stop with Sean McVay, who did such a great job letting me continue to grow and develop as an assistant coach when I was there and getting some different opportunities along the way to help me prepare for this moment. I've been preparing for this moment my whole life and I'm excited to get the opportunity."
And while Seattle's offense won't be the same as what the Rams have run in recent years, Waldron does hope to benefit from working under McVay, one of the NFL's top young offensive minds.
"Being around him and seeing how fast he can see the game, how quickly he's able to react to situations and he had such a great trust in his coaches and his preparation that he was able to—I always feel like he was always one step ahead of the defense, one step ahead of the game," Waldron said. "Being able to learn that and learn how his mind operated and he did such a great job, I thought it was so great to be around him because he let me do so many different things to prepare for this role that I'm in today as we're going through different offseasons and different things that way, just letting his assistants grow as coaches."
When it comes to knowing what the 2021 Seahawks offense will look like under Waldron, it's probably safe to assume there will be element's of McVay's offense in L.A. along with things the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have done well over the years, not to mention wrinkles Waldron brings that differ from what either team has done. But ultimately the Seahawks will do everything they can to keep the offense under wraps until the regular season, keeping in play the element of surprise for early-season games before there's much film on Waldron's offense. But a couple of things we do know hearing from players and Carroll is that the Seahawks will have balance—not necessarily a particular run/pass split, but an emphasis on the running game that allows the Seahawks to be explosive on the ground and through the air—that the offense will use tempo to try to keep defenses on their toes, and that Seattle will also have balance within it's passing game so Wilson and his receivers can take advantage of whatever a defense is giving them.
When it comes to tempo, Waldron echoed Carroll's comments from earlier in the offseason when he noted that tempo doesn't mean hurry-up or no-huddle all the time, but rather that it has to do with everything that happens from the end of one play to the start of the next one.
"It's just part of everything we do," Waldron said. "Tempo means a lot of different things but to me, it's the tempo in which we're practicing, how fast we're transitioning in and out of drills, how quickly we're getting in and out of our routes, how quickly we're getting in and out of the huddle, how fast we can play, how much pressure can we put on ourselves in practice to be in that up-tempo mindset all the time."
When it comes to getting the ball of out Wilson's hands quickly when a defense is making the short passing game available, Waldron said, "To me, it's just a part of having a balanced offense. Which doesn't mean we're conservative and say dink and dunk all the time, but when are those right opportunities to take completions, having that completion-making mindset, and then moving forward to the next play. Having that good balance as a part of our system as it grows, week-to-week there's different things that present themselves from a defense. Whatever that is that we can take advantage of that week, we'll like to try and do that."
That balanced passing attack not only can help make the Seahawks offense more efficient, it can also be a factor in reducing the number of times Wilson is sacked or hit in a game. Over the past four seasons, the Rams were in the top 10 for fewest sacks allowed each year, including giving up a league-low 22 sacks in 2019 and only 25 last year, which ranked sixth. Yes, the Rams had talented offensive linemen, but they also did things, schematically that helped keep pressure off of their quarterbacks.
"To me that takes everybody," Waldron said of avoiding sacks. "It takes the play caller. It takes the scheme that we're running. It takes the players. The sacks are never just on one specific thing. We've got a lot of different things that go into it. You look at different sacks throughout the league, throughout each game, there's a lot of different things that go into it. The biggest thing we're trying to do here is limit the times that we're on the ground, but also not limit the explosiveness that can be created with some of these off-scheduled plays."