Some offseason moves suggest the Seahawks will do some different things, even if run-pass ratios are the same. Here are three changes that could have a big impact on the offense next season.
Running back Marshawn Lynch’s recent retirement made official a personality shift in the Seahawks’ offense that began to take effect in the second half of the 2015 season.
The face of the Seahawks’ offense, if not also its heart and soul, now is quarterback Russell Wilson.
That doesn’t mean, though, that the philosophy is changing, the Seahawks say.
“I think it’s very much the same,’’ Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last week during an interview with Pro Football Talk live when asked if the offense will look similar despite changes in personnel.
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“We are going to run the ball and play-action and take our shots (downfield). … We are going to try to run the ball, play good defense, try to smother you on defense and take good care of the football.’’
Still, some offseason moves suggest the Seahawks will do some different things, even if run-pass ratios are the same. They have been among the NFL’s most run-heavy offenses in recent years.
Here are three changes that could have a big impact on the offense next season:
1. The drafting of running back C.J. Prosise
Prosise, drafted in the third round, was a receiver his first two seasons at Notre Dame. The Seahawks view him as the likely successor to Fred Jackson as their third-down back.
His experience as a receiver gives the Seahawks some options.
“He is a guy that you could line up out of the backfield as a wide receiver,’’ coach Pete Carroll said at the end of the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp. “(His skill set can) bring us something really special, because we love being in empty (sets). It’s a great formation for the quarterback — Russell loves it — and it gives us a matchup opportunity that is very unique. That is why he was so valuable to us … and we’re just thankful we were able to pull that off.’’
As Carroll noted, the Seahawks had success toward the end of last season when they were in “empty” sets, meaning every eligible receiver is split out and only Wilson is behind center.
According to ESPN, during one four-game stretch Wilson was 19-of-22 passing for 289 yards and five touchdowns in empty formations.
Also according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Seahawks were in empty sets 10.3 percent of the time in 2015, which ranked eighth in the NFL. That percentage could increase in 2016.
Such formations can create running lanes for Wilson. They also typically favor the quick-hitting passes the Seahawks emphasized, and had success with, toward the end of last season.
Defenses often try to counter empty sets — which tip off that the play will be a pass, unless the quarterback runs — with added pressure. But last year that played into Wilson’s hands as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson had his most success when opponents blitzed, completing 111 of 181 passes for 1,633 yards and 21 of his team-record 34 touchdowns.
2. The drafting of tight end Nick Vannett
Vannett, from Ohio State, also was picked in the third round and is slated for a specific immediate role: to serve as an in-line, or blocking, tight end.
The Seahawks make liberal use of two-tight end sets, and the addition of Vannett could free up Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson to be used even more in receiving roles.
“We like those guys (Graham and Willson) in receiver spots moreso whenever we can get them there, so we are hoping that Nick will be able to pick up some good slack there,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve felt like we needed that the last couple of years, but there just weren’t guys available to get; that’s why he was really a priority.’’
3. No veteran fullback
According to FootballOutsiders.com, only six teams used a fullback more often in 2015 than the Seahawks.
But the only player on the Seattle roster listed as solely a fullback is undrafted free agent Taniela Tupou, who was primarily a defensive lineman at the University Washington.
Seattle’s two fullbacks of last season, Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu, are free agents and remain unsigned.
The Seahawks have other players who could factor into the fullback competition, such as undrafted-free-agent defensive tackle Brandin Bryant, who was also tried at fullback in rookie minicamp; tight end Brandon Cottom, a college fullback; and running back Tre Madden.
The way the Seahawks use Vannett also could replicate some of what Coleman (who played nine percent of snaps last season) and Tukuafu (19 percent) did a year ago.
But the lack of a true, veteran fullback on the roster also could indicate the Seahawks might go with more spread-type sets.