With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2021 season. Today we look at what a change at offensive coordinator could mean for Russell Wilson and the passing game, and tomorrow we'll break down the deep competition at cornerback.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made a change at offensive coordinator this offseason, hiring Shane Waldron away from Los Angeles, where for the past three season he was the Rams' passing game coordinator.
Now the question heading into the 2021 season is what will Waldron's offense look like, and how can he help improve a Seahawks offense that was spectacular in the first half of the 2020 season, but that struggled at times late in the year?
And considering the impact a quarterback has on an offense, particularly one as talented as Russell Wilson, it stands to reason that no single player will be more affected by a change at coordinator than Wilson, an eight-time Pro Bowler who is heading into his 10th season. And while it's still early in the process, Wilson likes what he's seen from Waldron's offense so far.
"Shane brings a great versatility," Wilson said last month. "Something that I love about him is that he really understands the game and all aspects of it, situationally. He's been a lot of different places, been successful places. Being at the Rams, being the (Washington Football Team), being the Patriots, he comes from great perspective. We've spent a lot of time together talking ball. He loves ball, so that's what I love about it, so I'm excited about the opportunity."
When asked to describe Waldron's offense, Wilson called it "super complex," saying, "I think that we have a lot of great things about it. We're going to be able to mix a lot of personnels, a lot of different people around, using the whole field. I think we're going to be able to do everything that we want to. I think that the thing about Shane is he's got a great understanding of the game, and for us to be together, it's going be super exciting."
Waldron's offense isn't expected to be an exact copy of Sean McVay's Rams offense, but there will be some carryover, including some elements of L.A.'s offense that could potentially make life easier on Wilson and the passing game. Midway through the 2020 season, Wilson was a leading candidate for MVP as he, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf were lighting up opposing defenses. But as teams adjusted, particularly by throwing more two-high safety looks at Seattle to take away the deep ball, the Seahawks weren't always able to counter, leading to a decrease in productivity.
As Carroll noted this offseason, tempo will be a big part of the offense—not necessarily more no-huddle offense, but speeding up everything from the end of one play to the snap of the next, putting pressure on defenses and making things easier on Wilson and the offense.
"It's everything from huddle to snap point, from just using all of the elements of the game that are available," Carroll said. "Some of it is when you get on the football, but a lot of it is going quickly and trying to maintain the edge on the defense so they can't command the time at the line of scrimmage where they can make all of the adjustments in the changes. We do move a lot with our offense, and we're challenging to the defense in that regard. If you give them time to make their checks, these guys are well-schooled all around the league, and they can make the adjustments and get everybody in the best place and feel real clear-headed about that next snap. We're trying to take that edge off that as best we can in all of the ways that are available."
There are elements of the offense that will look familiar—the Seahawks will always want to be balanced, and with a quarterback as adept at throwing the deep ball as Wilson and with receivers like Lockett and Metcalf, they'll always take their shots down field—but some of the subtle changes like tempo, like the freedom receivers will have in their route running that Lockett described earlier this offseason, and like the focus on more balance within the passing game that will allow the Seahawks to take what opposing defenses are giving them, which Lockett also discussed, those changes should help Seattle's offense avoid some of the inconsistencies it had last season.
And for all of the talk this offseason about Wilson getting hit too often and taking too many sacks, scheme changes could very well cut down those numbers more than any changes to the line could—though the addition of guard Gabe Jackson is significant. Over the past four seasons since McVay became the head coach in L.A., the Rams finished the top 10 in the league for fewest sacks allowed every year, including in 2019 when they allowed a league-low 22 sacks, and last season when their 25 sacks allowed were tied for the sixth fewest. Yes, the Rams have had talented lines, but those numbers also reflect elements of that offense that help protect a quarterback such as short-to-intermediate passes that get the ball out more quickly, play-action bootlegs that get the quarterback on the move, and the aforementioned tempo that can keep defenses and pass-rushes on their heels.
Training camp will show only glimpses of what Seattle's offense will look like under Waldron—the Seahawks will try to keep as much of their offense under wraps as possible until the regular season—but the early indications are that Waldron's offense should help Wilson and the rest of the offense be at their best this season.
"I have not gotten in his way, because he has such command of what he's doing," Carroll said. "He knows how it fits together, and he's been able to orchestrate the teaching process in a way that's allowed us to do quite a few things for this for this offseason. You can hear it from the players, they're impressed with him. He's just left them with a really good impression of his command, his verbiage that, that the style of teaching that has been accessed, these guys are really moving far. They're impressed, I'm impressed. We're ahead of where we thought we'd be right now, so it's really a tribute to him. He's done a nice job with this."
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