With Seahawks training camp set to kick off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 12 of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2020 season. Yesterday we kicked things off with a look at a defense trying to bounce back in 2020. Today, we focus on the offense and how it could possibly look different in 2020, and Monday we'll turn our attention to an offensive line that will look quite a bit different this season.
As Russell Wilson heads into his ninth season as the Seahawks' quarterback, it is more evident than ever that he is unambiguously one of the NFL's best players. The Seahawks also did a little shuffling on their coaching staff this season, promoting Dave Canales from quarterbacks coach to passing game coordinator, and Austin Davis from offensive assistant to quarterbacks coach. The Seahawks are also heading into their third season under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, meaning Wilson and the rest of the offense should be even more comfortable with the offense.
So what does all of this—Wilson's greatness, the changes to the coaching staff—mean for the Seahawks offense? Seahawks Twitter has been shouting for the Seahawks to "Let Russ cook," for a while now, and depending on how you define that, that may not be in store this year or anytime soon. But while Pete Carroll will always value a balanced offense, that doesn't mean he isn't open to making some changes to highlight the strengths of his team's most valuable player.
Last year, for example, Wilson attempted 516 passes compared to 427 the year before, a pretty significant jump, and the Seahawks only ran 34 more total plays in 2019 than 2018, so that increase didn't just come from more overall offensive plays. That put Wilson tied for 12th in pass attempts, and that's before you factor in that a significant portion of his 75 rush attempts were scrambles on designed passing plays, or that his 48 sacks, tied for most of any quarterback, were also pass plays.
This isn't going to be the year where Wilson suddenly leads the league in pass attempts, but as last year demonstrated, the Seahawks are willing to put more of the offense in his hands, and there's no reason to think that trend can't continue in his third year working with Schottenheimer.
"He is the best he's ever been," Carroll said of Wilson earlier this offseason. " He came out of the season healthy. He goes into this offseason with a real opportunity to work really hard again, and all this stuff will develop to take advantage of another year under his belt, where he just gets the game, sees the game better. He did so much stuff this year, run game, pass game, protection-wise, concept-wise in the throwing game. And he just continues to grow; he's not through. He's going to keep getting better, so we want to take advantage of that as we get through this next season."
Seattle's offense was already strong last year, with the Seahawks finishing in the top 10 in total offense, scoring, rushing offense, yards-per-carry, yards-per-pass attempt, passer rating, and passing touchdowns, and the Seahawks have plenty of reasons to believe they can only get better on that side of the ball, whether through Wilson's continued growth; or a rushing attack that features Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and free-agent addition Carlos Hyde; or through Tyler Lockett's continued excellence and DK Metcalf's growth; or through a deep tight end group that added three-time Pro-Bowler Greg Olsen this offseason. If a new-look line can come together quickly, the offense should only move forward, and while the running game will always be an important part of a Carroll-coached team, there is indeed a real possibility that Wilson plays a bigger role than ever.
As mentioned earlier, Carroll believes in balance, but that doesn't mean an equal number of rush and pass attempts every week; it means having an offense that is able to move the ball both running and passing so the offense can function well in various styles of games and conditions. And there's reason to be excited about growth in both the passing and running game—recall the wrinkles in the running game the Seahawks were using last season to highlight Penny's strengths prior to his season ending injury. If the passing game is to change beyond the volume attempts, one topic already being discussed is the use of up-tempo offense, something Wilson and company have always excelled at in limited doses.
Wilson brought up the topic of up-tempo offense in an interview during Super Bowl week, and when Carroll was asked about that topic at the NFL Scouting Combine, he didn't shoot down the idea.
"He mentioned that to me, too," Carroll said. "Yeah, we've been talking about that for years. We've been in and out of tempo throughout. So you'll see what happens."
With continuity at head coach, quarterback and coordinator, a massive offensive overhaul is highly unlikely, but whether you look at the change in passing numbers from 2018 to 2019, the shuffling of the offensive staff, or just Wilson's sustained excellence, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the offense will continue to evolve in 2020, likely in ways that feature Wilson's talents more than ever.
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett from the 2019 season.