Improved or not? How the Seahawks’ offense changed

SEATTLE — The issues that led to the Seattle Seahawks‘ offensive collapse in the second half of last season were largely, but not exclusively, related to scheme.

The Seahawks didn’t have enough of a short and intermediate passing game to keep defenses honest once they started taking away the deep throws that were working so well early on. It’s a big reason why Pete Carroll replaced Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator with Shane Waldron.

Then again, they might have avoided those issues if they were better equipped up front to handle the strong pass-rushing units they faced down the stretch. Or if Russell Wilson had another go-to option behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.

In that sense, it’s no coincidence that the Seahawks’ top two veteran additions on offense were a lineman known for his pass-blocking (Gabe Jackson) and an athletic tight end who can create mismatches and run after the catch (Gerald Everett).

With the offseason program in the books and training camp a month away, here’s a look at Seattle’s offense by position group, with a verdict on whether each is better, worse or the same compared to 2020.

Receiver

Additions: D’Wayne Eskridge, Darvin Kidsy, Travis Toivonen, Connor Wedington (UDFA), Cade Johnson (UDFA), Tamorrion Terry (UDFA)

Losses: David Moore, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon

Returners: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, John Ursua, Cody Thompson, Aaron Fuller

Better, worse or the same? The same

Since neither Dorsett nor Gordon played last year, the changes essentially amounted to a swap of Moore for Eskridge.

The Seahawks used their first of three draft picks to take Eskridge in the second round, believing his explosiveness and versatility can make him a difference-maker. But he’s a rookie at a position that often comes with a steep learning curve, missed much of the offseason program with a bothersome toe and projects as their No. 3 receiver at best. So while Eskridge looks like a long-term upgrade, you can’t necessarily expect him to immediately top Moore’s production (35 catches, 417 yards, six touchdowns) last year.

Swain made a strong impression on the Seahawks as a rookie. Hart was a standout of the offseason program. They will battle Eskridge to be the No. 3, which should essentially be a starting role given how frequently Waldron’s system is expected to use three-receiver sets.

Here’s food for thought on the Wilson drama from earlier this offseason: the four teams on his list of acceptable trade destinations appealed to the QB because they had two things Seattle didn’t — an offensive-minded head coach and a history of big spending on their O-line. But none of those teams, and few in the NFL as a whole, have a better duo at receiver than Lockett (who got a $69 million extension in March) and Metcalf (who’s in line for a megadeal of his own next offseason). So if Wilson becomes unhappy again, the grass might not be entirely greener elsewhere.

Tight end

Additions: Gerald Everett, Cam Sutton, Dom Wood-Anderson

Losses: Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Stephen Sullivan

Returners: Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Tyler Mabry

Better, worse or the same? Better

Everett made perfect sense given Seattle’s need at tight end and his familiarity with Waldron’s system from their four years together with the Los Angeles Rams. He’s a clear upgrade over Olsen, who missed five games and produced sparingly before calling it a career.

Dissly, the team’s best blocking tight end, is coming off his first injury-free season as he enters his contract year. Parkinson is essentially another addition since last year’s fourth-round pick missed most of his rookie season with a foot injury. Among the other tight ends, Mabry has the best chance to earn the fourth spot. The Seahawks are high on the 2020 UDFA.

Running back

Additions: Josh Johnson (UDFA)

Losses: Carlos Hyde, Bo Scarbrough

Returners: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Alex Collins, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Nick Bellore

Better, worse or the same? Worse

Penny missed most of last season recovering from his 2019 ACL tear. If he was completely healthy, this group might be the same or perhaps better since his return would at least cancel out Hyde’s free-agent departure. But Penny is coming off another knee surgery that sidelined him during the offseason program. He hasn’t put together a full season since Seattle drafted him 27th overall in 2018.

Penny’s pass-catching ability was one reason the Seahawks took him over Nick Chubb. Carson, who re-signed in free agency, has as good of hands as some receivers. Yet the Seahawks haven’t thrown to their running backs nearly as often as other teams in recent seasons. Waldron needs to do a better job than his predecessors did of utilizing Carson and Penny in the passing game.

Collins filled in capably last season and returned on a minimum-salary deal. He looks slimmer and quicker than he did in his first Seahawks stint. He’ll compete with Homer and Dallas for what might be two roster spots.

Offensive line

Additions: Gabe Jackson, Stone Forsythe

Losses: Mike Iupati, Chad Wheeler, Alex Boone

Returners: Duane Brown, Damien Lewis, Ethan Pocic, Brandon Shell, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Brad Lundblade, Phil Haynes, Tommy Champion, Jamarco Jones, Jake Curhan (UDFA), Greg Eiland (UDFA), Jared Hocker (UDFA), Pier-Olivier Lestage (UDFA)

Better, worse or the same? Better

Jackson was the lone veteran the Seahawks added to their offensive line after Wilson publicly lobbied for improved pass protection. But it was a significant addition in terms of what they gave up (a fifth-round pick and a new contract averaging $7.525 million) as well as the upgrade he’s expected to be over Iupati, whose career was on its last legs.

Jackson will play right guard and push Lewis to left guard after his strong rookie season. The Seahawks brought back Pocic (one year, $3 million) despite some thought of finding an upgrade at center as well. So any improvement there will have to come in the form of Pocic growing into a position he’s only played for one season.

Brown’s contract situation bears watching, with the NFL Network reporting during minicamp that the soon-to-be-36-year-old left tackle wants a new deal. Forsythe, the Seahawks’ sixth-round pick, will compete with Ogbuehi at swing tackle behind Brown and Shell.

Quarterback

Additions: None

Losses: None

Returners: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Alex McGough, Danny Etling

Better, worse or the same? The same

Smith is back for a third season as Wilson’s backup. McGough joined Etling on Seattle’s practice squad last December as COVID insurance. So this is the same group the Seahawks had by the end of the season.

Their hope is that Waldron’s offense will make Wilson better. It’s expected to lean heavily on quick tempo, something Wilson loves. And its increased emphasis on getting the ball out quicker should reduce the number of hits he takes. Waldron’s challenge will be finding the right balance between short-to-intermediate throws that help keep Wilson clean (and happy) and the deep ones that might be his biggest strength.

Original article: https://www.espn.com/blog/seattle-seahawks/post/_/id/35091/better-worse-or-the-same-how-the-seattle-seahawks-offense-has-changed-this-offseason

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