When the Seahawks kick off training camp next month, one of the biggest storylines will be what the offense looks like under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was hired earlier this offseason after previously serving as the passing game coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams.
With fans, media and yes, opponents, curious to see how the Seahawks offense has changed under Waldron, the Seahawks will of course try to give away as little as possible prior to the regular season, particularly in practices open to the public and in preseason games. But while specifics such as formations, personnel groupings, routes and play-calling tendencies will likely be kept under wraps until September, comments made by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive players have provided some insight into what Seattle's offense might look like from a big-picture perspective.
With that in mind, here is, in the words of Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson and receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, some of what we know about Waldron's offense so far:
1. Shane Waldron is making a very strong first impression.
While it will take a full season, at least, to really judge Waldron's impact on Seattle's offense, what he has been able to do right away is impress his new boss, as well as Seahawks players, with his football mind and not just his command of what he and the Seahawks want to do on offense, but also his ability to teach it.
"His command of the entire notebook, and his sense for creating the system, it's really accessible to the players where we can do a ton of stuff, but yet they are understanding the principles and understanding the continuity of how things fit together in marriage, that's really talking about the run game, the pass game, the perimeter game, the tempo stuff that we do, he just knows it really well," Carroll said. "He knows it really well and he's packaged the teaching part of it. I say that because there's a lot of code things that they have to know and there are a lot of systems that are within the format that's in advance of where we've been in years past. And the reason we're able to do it is because he knows it so well, he can teach it really well. Some of the guys say this seems easier than it was in the past, and we're doing more."
Carroll did add, however, that doing more on offense only works if they can do more while still doing things well: "Let me say this too though, it's really important, Coach Walsh said a long time ago, it's not you know how many things that you can do, it's how many things you can do well. So we have to be careful of trying to do too much, because he's got a big notebook and I love it, I love the style of it, the compliment of the run and the pass game off it, the actions, and also the rhythm of it. Russ has just totally embraced it too, so. What will look different to you is maybe just the tempo in general, just our tempo overall."
Said Russell Wilson, "Shane brings a great versatility. 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."
Asked to describe the 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."
Receiver Tyler Lockett described Waldron as "very brilliant," and has been excited to learn from and share ideas with Waldron.
"I think the things that he brings to our team are going really help us out a lot," Lockett said. "And when it comes to just learning his offense, once you study it, you're able to see exactly what type of offense we're going to be. You're able to see everything that we're going to do. Since I've been, here I've been really excited about it. Just kind of picking his brain understanding that he's also a coordinator that wants to learn, and it's really cool when you have that. I've had that with the others as well. And so when you have people that are willing to learn, that are willing to continue to get better each and every day with you, you're able to grow with that person. As soon as Shane came in everybody's been picking it up, everybody's been doing a great job."
2. It's not a carbon copy of the Rams' offense.
While everyone expects that Waldron will bring some elements of what has been a very successful Sean McVay offense with him to Seattle, no one is expecting it be exactly the same. For starters, Waldron is his own man who had his own ideas about offense before he worked with McVay, and the Seahawks have also had a ton of success with Wilson at quarterback over the years in the offenses run by Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer. So just as there was some carryover after the last coordinator change, there will be this time as well in order to stick with some of the things that work best with Wilson, Lockett, DK Metcalf and others.
"I wouldn't say it's a massive departure," Wilson said. "I think that we have a lot of the core concepts and things that we've done over the years that have been extremely, extremely successful. I think that we also have some nuances across the board that really challenge the defense. Like I said, using the whole field and really expanding the offense and just using everybody as much as possible with different formations and different looks and different tempos and all that. I think that obviously the tempo part of it is something that's real. Shane brings a really, really cool thought process to it all. I think the best part is we get to go out and practice it and work at it and get better as much as possible. Guys are prepared, they're smarter than ever, I think it we're really ready to roll and I felt really confident about it, so I'm excited."
Metcalf described the offense as "very intricate," and added "He's a hungry coach, and that's what I like about him. He's always trying to learn something new, not only about the players, but about the game of football and about offense, and always coming up with new ways to try to get his playmakers the ball. It's a lot of different kinds of routes that people haven't seen from either team that he's coached, so I'm just excited to get to work with him and get to hone in on those other skills."
Said Carroll: "We're going to use all that we know; everything we've ever done comes into play here as we put this thing together, and our coaches and the players are going to have to embrace it and make it come to life on the football field. I can't wait to see it happen."
3. Tempo is a focus.
One word that come up repeatedly in discussions about Waldron's offense is tempo, and it seems the Seahawks will try to use tempo to make life more difficult on defenses. As Carroll noted, however, going up-tempo does not mean running no-huddle offense all the time.
"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."
4. The offense will be balanced.
While Carroll doesn't sound interested in micro-managing when it comes to Waldron's offense—more on that in a moment—it is safe to assume he wasn't going to hire a coordinator with whom he didn't see eye to eye, philosophically. And for Carroll, part of that philosophy is having balance on offense, something Waldron also talked in his introductory press conference. And as a reminder, balance for Carroll doesn't mean an even split between run and pass attempts, it means having an offense capable of being good at both so it can call on any element of offense it might need in any given game due to what a defense is giving them or conditions or any number of other factors.
"I'm not sure if you asked are we going to throw the ball more, are we going to run the ball more?" Carroll said. "Every time I mention the running game everybody goes crazy. We're going to be a balanced football team again and we're going to do the things we need to do to play really good ball, and like always, that means being able to keep the ball away from the other guys and hang on to it and hold it well and not let them have it so that we can go score. So whatever it takes to get that done. But we've got a tremendous quarterback, with a great system, and he's got guys around him—I'm so excited about the tight end position to bolster the throwing and catching threats. With Chris (Carson) and Rashaad (Penny) back there running the football, and Alex (Collins) looks ready to go too, and we've got a couple of other young guys in DeeJay (Dallas) and (Travis) Homer, it's an exciting offense for us. We've always been explosive when we're at our best, and when we're at our best, we've been able to run the football and be really explosive, and that's hard to stop."
And the Seahawks don't want to only be balanced when it comes to running vs. passing, they also want to have balance and variety within the passing game so they can throw the ball successfully regardless of how they're being defended.
"The explosive part of it's not going to change, it's just the fact that we're going to learn how to be a lot more balanced, to where whatever teams decide to give us, that's what we're going to take," Lockett said. "If teams decide to play as deep, then we're going to take everything short, and we're going to be able to run our offense all the way down the field and control the clock. If teams try to take the short stuff away, we going to go deep. So at the end of the day, We're just learning how to be able to build our offense up as a hole to where we don't have to depend on one thing, but we can be able to depend on different types of phases of our offense. So whatever people give us, we're just going to take. and we're not going to be greedy, we're not going to go out there force things to happen, we're just going to naturally let the game come to us."
5. Carroll is letting Waldron run his offense.
As mentioned above, Carroll obviously wasn't going to hire Waldron if the two didn't see eye to eye, and as the head coach, Carroll will always have some say in the offense and every other facet of his team's play. But Carroll also noted following OTAs that he's not spending his time hovering over Waldron's shoulder as the new OC installs his offense.
"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."
6. There's a big emphasis on third down.
It's an obvious statement to say that every team wants to be good on third down. Succeed on third down on offense, and you keep drives going and score more points; stop teams on third down and you keep them from scoring and get the ball back to your offense. So while wanting to do well on third down is hardly a novel concept, Carroll does expect Waldron's offense to shine in that area.
"Probably the area of the game that will make the most difference will be our third-down game," Carroll said. "If we can be really good on third downs and stay on the field be around 50 percent, we're going to be really hard to deal with. So that will be a huge focus throughout camp. And what I like about it is we've got guys to go to, we've got real good targets to work in there."
7. There could be more run-after-catch opportunities.
Again, the Seahawks offense won't look exactly like the Rams' but one element of L.A.'s offense that Seattle will try to replicate is the success that Rams pass-catchers had with the ball in their hands on short and intermediate catches.
"They were really good at running with the ball after the catch, so for us it's something we're focused on, it's something I want to be better at," Lockett said. "… I think the biggest thing is Shane does a great job of being able to understand our strengths, and being able to put us in situations where we're able to utilize those strengths to our biggest capacity… He does a great job of being able to be get everybody involved. And when you can share the ball and teams can't really gameplan who to stop, that's when the sky's the limit."
Select photos from Seahawks Media Day 2021, taken by team photographer Rod Mar.