In small doses, you can see the change afoot. As much as the Seahawks are a championship team set in their championship ways, they’re also addicted to being different. Or maybe they’re just obsessed with getting the most out of unorthodox talent.
It’s becoming obvious during the exhibition season what their latest adjustment will be: an offense predicated on elite speed. It figures to create ideal spacing for whatever they want to do, running or passing. And it should turn a team already quite adept at creating big plays into a consistently explosive squad that still maintains its offensive efficiency.
“Our offense has evolved,” backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “What we’re doing now, it’s going to take our team to another level. We’re going to be explosive and use these guys in a special way. We’re going to create a lot of one-on-one matchups that we can win. I feel very good about our situation on offense.”
During Friday night’s 41-14 victory over San Diego at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks returned to their home stadium for the first time since the Super Bowl and unveiled an offense the Chargers could not stop, especially when the starters played in the first half. On the surface, you saw a team that gained 243 of its 403 yards on the ground and considered it a familiar look. But delve deeper, and you’ll notice a team whose speed at every skilled position put pressure on the opponent on every snap.
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This is, easily, the fastest and most diverse receiving corps the Seahawks have had under Pete Carroll. Two of their top four wideouts, Percy Harvin and Paul Richardson, can run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, and their speed amazes you every time they run. The other two members of their top four, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, can make plays down the field. Three of those four receivers are smallish, with Kearse the only one having even average size. Still, they can be a formidable group. And outside of that top four, they also have a former track star, Ricardo Lockette, vying to remain on the team.
At running back, if the Seahawks indeed attempt to vary their run game more than usual, backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael both have a burst that can complement Marshawn Lynch’s bruising style. Turbin showed what he can do in the open field during a 47-yard run against the Chargers.
The improvement of second-year tight end Luke Willson, whose 4.51 40 time is blistering for his position, adds another dimension. And Russell Wilson is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
All over the field, the Seahawks are more explosive than they’ve been under Carroll. At wide receiver, they don’t have the dominant, big target in the mold of Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson. It’s an issue, but they’ve been able to overcome it. Now, they want to thrive by being different.
They want to force teams to defend both power and finesse. After the barroom brawl, there will now be a footrace.
“Pete always talks about it: He wants guys that are unique,” Baldwin said. “You see our receiving corps is built that way.”
Consider it the Seahawks’ new cutting-edge philosophy.
Over the past four years, as the Seahawks have become the best and most creative franchise in the NFL, they have turned kooky into cutting edge. They’re always up to something different, and it’s always fodder for intense debate, but more often than not, their newfangled plan works. And the rest of the NFL scurries to make sense of them.
It started with the shockingly aggressive manner in which general manager John Schneider rebuilt the roster. Despite ample head-scratching, Schneider created the most talented team in the league.
Then came Carroll’s desire to employ basketball-tall cornerbacks and play either man-to-man or Cover 3 defense in a league full of teams copying the successful Cover 2 style perfected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It led to the Seahawks building the best pass defense in NFL history, the only true antidote to today’s high-scoring, pass-happy offenses.
There was also the decision to start 5-foot-11 rookie quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, even though the team had spent good money to nab Matt Flynn in free agency. Or the philosophy of acquiring only big, power running backs despite the success several teams have had with small, scat backs. Or the standard they have set for both speed and length on their defense, which has created a unit that has turned defense, reactive by nature, into a phenomenon that can dictate the action on occasion.
In every case, the Seahawks have been bold and unafraid to seem a little weird. The Seahawks are difficult to copy because, despite having crystallized beliefs about who they are, they’re willing to adapt to the talent they have. They have a plan, but it’s full of blank pages.
They’re not the first team to turn to smallish, speedy receivers, but they could create a new best practice. And interestingly, the Seahawks are going this route at a time when the rest of the league is copying their big-corner, press-coverage defensive philosophies.
“We’re practicing against those kinds of corners all the time, and we’re holding our own,” Baldwin said. “If a lot of people start copying it, we’ll be ahead of the league with what we’re countering with.”
The Seahawks will remain a physical, running offensive ballclub. Still, they’re evolving as an offense. And this new speed wrinkle could be their latest signature adjustment.