With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at some of the team’s most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2019 season. Today looks at how the offense hopes to improve as it heads into its second season under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Mike Solari. Tomorrow we’ll continue with a look at a defensive line that underwent a significant amount of change in the offseason, particularly at end.
Remember the first two weeks of the 2018 season when the Seahawks struggled on offense and lost back to back road games? No, you’d rather forget that those ever happened? Fair enough, but in the context of looking ahead to 2019, those two games in Denver and Chicago serve as a good example of what the Seahawks expect to avoid this season.
And Seattle’s offense doesn’t think it will start the season better just because the team is led by head coach Pete Carroll and quarterbacked by Russell Wilson, two of the most positive-minded people you’ll ever encounter; no, there’s a good reason to believe in the Seahawks’ 2019 offense beyond the usual optimism that comes with a new season.
For starters, there’s Wilson, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, which is an awfully good place to start in a sport where quarterback play is of paramount importance. There’s also the running game that led the NFL in rushing last season with 160.0 yards per game, and an offensive line that returns four of five starters, having added former Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati to fill the one vacant spot.
But what could make the biggest difference for the offense this year is simply the passage of time and all that happened in that time. When the Seahawks opened camp last year, players had only spent a few months’ worth of offseason workouts getting used to operating under a new offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, and a new line coach, Mike Solari.
While the end result was very encouraging—the Seahawks finished the season with the third highest-scoring team in franchise history, they averaged 30.0 points per game over the final eight weeks of the year, and they were tied for the most explosive plays in the NFL over that span—some early hiccups were probably somewhat inevitable.
“It has been so nice to sit in meetings with Russ and watch cutups from last year,” Schottenheimer said last month during OTAs. “Last year we were just trying to put plays on paper and things like that this time of year. Now we’re so much further ahead, and it’s cool to see how quickly guys are picking things up.”
Wilson agrees with his offensive coordinator that things feel quite a bit different heading into the 2019 season, which is particularly encouraging considering that he had one of the most efficient seasons of his career in 2018, posting career highs in passer rating (110.9) and touchdowns (35) while matching a career low with seven interceptions.
“Going into second year with coach Schotty and the terminology and everything else we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to attack defenses, how we’re trying to make plays is really exciting,” Wilson said. “So I think we’re doing a lot of great things. The versatility of the young guys, of the older guys too, it’s great.”
Wilson said the time he has spent working with Schottenheimer over the last year, “translates in a big way” as they head into their second season together. “We spend a lot of extra time together, but we already have the same ideas as we’re coming into the office versus this time last year—‘OK, what are we thinking here? What are we thinking here?’ As soon as we watch that film after practice, we discuss what we’re seeing and what we can keep doing better and everything else. It’s a great thing, and he’s doing a tremendous job for us.”
With the offense having had a year to develop under Schottenheimer and Solari, there are sure to be some tweaks and new wrinkles, but don’t expect the Seahawks to get away from their overall philosophy of having the type of balance that allows them to win games in a variety of styles.
“We make no apologies for how we play,” Schottenheimer said. “We want to run the football, we want to be physical, we’re going to take our shots—I think that’s evident by the production we had last year, all the points we put up. Russ had great numbers—he and Tyler (Lockett) having a perfect passer rating, that’s hard to do. And we’re always trying to evolve… Each game is different. You go into each game like, ‘Hey, what gives us the best chance to win?’ We feel like we can beat people however we need to beat them. A lot goes into each game, it’s offense, it’s defense, it’s special teams, but we have no question in our minds that we can win however we have to win.”
And when it comes to the line in particular, the fact that four starters—Duane Brown, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi—are back after making big strides under Solari last year is a big reason for optimism.
Brown, who earned second-team All-Pro honors last year, has very high expectations, saying, “Our line has a chance to be the best in the league, I think. If we keep everyone healthy, the talent we have, the mixture of youth and experience that we have, we have a chance to really be great, and Mike (Iupati) has been a really great addition for us.
“We’re very comfortable having a year with the system. You have your lumps that you get over, we ironed it out—you saw the production we had throughout the year—and this year, we’re better for it. This time of year is all about getting the information, getting back up to speed on things, and we haven’t missed a beat. We added Mike (Iupati), he stepped in and we haven’t missed a beat. We’re communicating everything well, no one is confused out there. I think once we get the pads on, the amount of physicality we will play with will be demoralizing to defenses, so I’m looking forward to it.”