With the Super Bowl taking place last weekend, we are now officially into the NFL offseason, which makes this week a good time to open up the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
@Elsaucy asks, "What's Pete Carroll's main priority this offseason?"
A: In a way, the priority is the same every offseason: find ways to improve the roster so the team can be better in 2020 than it was in 2019. But if we're talking specifics, one area I'd point to is the defense, and to the pass rush in particular. Pete Carroll is a defensive coach at heart, and he wasn't happy with the overall results from that unit this season. Yes, the defense played well in spurts, but the overall numbers weren't where the Seahawks wanted them to be. That's especially true of a pass rush that recorded only 28 sacks. The Seahawks also gave up 130 explosive plays (passes of 16 or more yards or runs of 12 or more), the most a Seattle defense has allowed since Carroll took over in 2010.
"We were not consistent," Carroll said. "Too many explosive plays of various natures. For the most part, we had problems on the edge. We had containment issues. We found that the offenses really put the ball on the perimeter against us a lot. That does challenge us in some ways. You'll see some things be adjusted in the course of the offseason for that. Just the style of offense that we were up against was a little bit different than it's been."
Carroll said they'll look at everything when it comes to improving the defense. Some change in personnel is inevitable from one season to the next, but Carroll also said they'll look at things like defensive scheme and just about anything else they think could help them improve in that area.
Susan Clift from Las Vegas asks, "When will the 2020 Seahawks schedule be announced and when will tickets be available?" Russell Brevik from Norfolk, Virginia, also asks when the 2020 schedule will be out.
A: In recent years, the NFL has announced the schedule in April a week or two ahead of the draft, so while we don't yet know if that's going to be the case this year, that could very well be the timing again this spring. As for tickets, single game tickets go on sale right after the schedule comes out.
@SajKarsan asks, "How likely is it that Pete Carroll adapts a philosophy that allows Russell Wilson to throw more and not just when we are down a bunch?"
A: Carroll and the rest of the coaching staff evaluate everything in the offseason, and just as the offense changed some from 2018 to 2019, there will likely be adjustments again in 2020, some of which likely will look to highlight the strengths of Wilson, who is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career.
Will that suddenly turn into Wilson throwing 40 passes per game with the Seahawks abandoning the running game? Not likely. Carroll has always believed in a balanced offense—that is to say, one that can move the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air, not necessarily one that has an even split of run and pass plays—and he isn't likely to change his mind on that now. But it's also worth noting that the Seahawks leaned on Wilson a lot more in 2019 than in 2018, so they already started making a shift from Year 1 with Brian Schottenheimer to Year 2. In 2018, probably somewhat in response to two seasons of having a subpar running game by Carroll's standards, the Seahawks ran the ball 534 times while leading the league in rushing and had 427 pass attempts. In 2019, they had 517 pass attempts and 481 rush attempts. And really, the pass/run play calling isn't even as balanced as those numbers suggest. Wilson was sacked 48 times, obviously on pass attempts, and he is running less on designed runs than in the past, meaning most of his 75 rush attempts were scrambles on designed pass plays.
As for the notion that the Seahawks don't "let Russ cook" until they're down late, I think that is a bit of an oversimplification. Yes, the offense is frequently more productive in the second half than in the first, most notably in Seattle's playoff loss to Green Bay, but that's often a case of the offense just executing better later in the game than it is the Seahawks unleashing Wilson. As Wilson said himself during an interview with Pro Football Talk, defenses tend to wear down—his scrambling style only adds to this—so sometimes plays are there in the second half that weren't there in the first. Also, teams tend to play softer on defense if they're up big, so the defense Wilson was facing in the second half against Green Bay, for example, wasn't as aggressive as it was early in the game.
And while we're on the topic of that Green Bay game, Wilson attempted 13 passes, was sacked three times and scrambled twice for 16 yards in the first half, while he handed the ball off seven times, one of those an end around to David Moore. So that's 18 designed passes compared to six handoffs to running backs, hardly a case of not putting the game in Wilson's hands. The Seahawks weren't down big at halftime because they didn't "let Russ cook," they were down big because they didn't execute as well in the first half as they did in the second, and because they had a hard time stopping Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Green Bay's offense.
None of this is to excuse the slow starts. The Seahawks know they need to be better early in games to avoid big holes. As Carroll put it, "we need to be better" starting games. I just don't think it's as simple as saying they're holding Wilson back for half a game before letting him do his thing.
"We need to be more powerful in the early part of these games," Carroll said.
@daButcherkitty asks, "Would it be wise to go all-in utilizing the cap space for a run in 2020 or to be more methodical?"
A: The Seahawks are indeed projected to have a pretty good amount of cap space this year, so they can afford to be somewhat aggressive in free agency, though they'll also hope to use that money to re-sign some of their own free agents, most notably Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed. That being said, being aggressive doesn't mean spending money just to spend it. As general manager John Schneider likes to say, the goal is to build a consistent championship-caliber team, so even if the Seahawks have money to spend, they won't go crazy and give out bad contracts that could hurt the team down the road.
In some respects, the Seahawks are "all in" every year, because they make decisions expecting to compete for a championship every season, but on the other hand, they won't sacrifice long-term success to focus just on this season or any other.
@SeanHQuinn asks, "Positions of most need in the draft?"
A: Let's wait and see how free agency plays out first? As things stand now, the Seahawks have a lot of key agents in the trenches on both sides of the ball, including Clowney, Reed and Quinton Jefferson on defense, and Germain Ifedi and Mike Iupati on offense. Depending on who is re-signed and who leaves in free agency, one or both lines could look like priorities come draft time.
Bob Richards from North Bend, Oregon acknowledges that the Seahawks usually trade back to add picks, but ask if the Seahawks might combine their picks to trade up in the draft this year? @tzenglishmuffing also asks about the possibility of trading up in the draft?"
A: Could the Seahawks trade up? I mean, yeah, in theory they will have the draft capital to do so. But will they? Never say never, but I wouldn't bet on it. The Seahawks have either traded back in the first round or traded away their first round pick prior to the draft every year going back to 2012. That's eight straight drafts in which they not only didn't trade up, but they moved back or out of the first round all together.
That being said, the Seahawks have shown the willingness to move up to get players they liked outside of the first round, including DK Metcalf last year, Michael Dickson in 2018 and Tyler Lockett in 2015.
Photos from the 2020 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., where the Seahawks coaching staff, quarterback Russell Wilson, and cornerback Shaquill Griffin are representing the Seattle Seahawks.