Dissecting the Seattle Seahawks' Weakest Links
Now that the Seattle Seahawks have won a couple games and can rest and regroup during their bye week, what better time could there be to examine their problem areas. Yep, I'm crazy like that.
To be honest, this Seahawks team is sitting prettier than I thought they would when the season began. Considering their very tough opening schedule and my admitted preconceived notions of weaknesses at certain position groups I had them at 5-5 at this point of the season.
No doubt Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and his staff will be scouting their players and coaching staff in the upcoming week and will attempt to put in place fixes and enhancements designed to propel them to the NFL playoffs.
In the following slides I've broken down just some of the areas I feel the Seahawks will focus on.
Penalties, Penalties, Penalties
According to www.profootballfocus.com and www.footballdb.com, the Seahawks rank fifth in the league in penalties. Not good, but when you look at where they are coming from (37 of 64 enforced penalties have come on the offensive side of the ball) it makes it that much worse.
The Seahawks are not designed to be an offensive juggernaut, but these penalties have been hurtful to the cause. Putting a very traditional run-first offense led by a rookie quarterback into predictable long-yardage situations has been a contributing factor in the Seahawks' 22 drives ending in a three-and-out.
The two biggest culprits have been starting left tackle Russell Okung (11 penalties) and starting right tackle Breno Giacomini (nine penalties).
The plethora of mental mistakes in critical junctions of games by these two talented players must be corrected if the Seahawks have any chance of making a legitimate run to the playoffs.
Statistics can be very misleading, but there are a few that can give you a glimpse of a team's success or failures.
Here's the list that Pete Carroll and his staff must improve (Courtesy of NFL.com, ESPN.com and Teamrankings.com):
Take away/Give away: plus-one
The Seahawks must improve this ratio as the season progresses. Being in the positive is always a good thing, but elite teams find a way to create turnovers and extra offensive possessions.
Offensive scoring vs. points allowed: 19.8/16.1
This is called a very slim margin for error, folks. A lack of offensive scoring such as this puts tremendous pressure on the defense and is partly to blame for the Seahawks' current record. Thankfully for Seattle, the defense happens to be really good.
Third-Down Percentage: 33.3 Percent (Tied with the Carolina Panthers for 25th.)
This is simply not going to get it done. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell must improve in this area to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.
Red-Zone Scoring: 48 Percent
The Seahawks' past few games have helped to move this number into a more respectable looking stat, but given that all that recent success only moved the number to where it is should be cause for concern.
Opponent Third-down percentage: 39.20 Percent
The top five teams in this category are Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Arizona and Dallas, and with the defense Seattle owns, it's somewhat baffling they sit in 18th place in front of the New Orleans Saints.
Chris Clemons, DE
I'll start by saying there are few players on the Seahawks' roster I enjoy watching play more than right defensive end Chris Clemons.
Even placing him in this list of "weaknesses" denotes a failure to achieve on his part, but Clemons is only on this list for the same reason I'm glad the Seahawks are on their bye week: fatigue.
Clemons, who just turned 31 on October 30th, is one of the elder statesmen on a very young roster. He's also been the primary edge pass-rusher in the Seahawks' hybrid defensive alignment and is a focus of opposing teams' pass protection schemes week to week.
Through the first six games Clemons was playing like a man possessed, racking up seven sacks, five QB hits and an impressive 19 QB pressures.
The last four games? Zero sacks, four QB hits and five QB pressures.
When you watch the film the effort is still there, but he just hasn't looked as explosive. There's a legitimate argument to be made that his early success is a big reason for recent interior lineman pressure and sacks as offenses have focused on stopping him.
There is also this argument: The man needed the bye week, and the Seahawks will need a fresh Chris Clemons.
As I discussed earlier, right tackle Breno Giacomini has a problem with mental mistakes. In my opinion, it stems from a severe and almost uncontrollable nasty streak
I'm usually a fan of big, athletic and physical offensive linemen with mean streaks. As a former high school coach I always enjoyed having guys like that as long as the attribute was confined to the time between the snap and the whistle.
This hasn't always been the case for Giacomini. His penchant for extra-curricular actions during the game have led to game-long squabbles with opposing defensive players which have seemingly resulted in mental lapses and unsportsmanlike penalties.
Giacomini is a serious asset to the Seahawks effective run game when he's focused. Traditionally speaking, anytime you have a big, athletic and physical right tackle the running game should thrive.
Just imagine how much better it could be without the shenanigans?
Let's hope that is addressed and corrected this week.
Golden Tate, WR
In what may be my most controversial entry to the list of weakest links, I submit wide receiver Golden Tate.
Considering the impressive success he's enjoyed the past few weeks you may be baffled by his selection, but I'll remind you of a few things:
1. He's had five games where he hasn't scratched 40 yards receiving, and two with less than 10.
2. Stat line against San Francisco in critical NFC West matchup the road: 0 catches, 0 yards, 1 drop in 35 offensive snaps.
3. Total stat line vs. NFC West opponents in 2012: 1 catch, 7 yards, 1 drop.
I'm a big fan of Golden Tate's skill set, but on Sundays I find that I watch him with one thought: "Something newsworthy is going to happen, but I'm not sure what that means."
This has been the trouble with Golden Tate since he was drafted. His skills are not in question, but his ability to adjust and exploit matchups week to week on a consistent NFL level is.
I'll assume it's just a player developmental issue before I make wild and baseless accusations of inadequate film study, but one thing is for sure:
Good Golden is awesome and makes the Seahawks incredibly difficult to defend, but bad Golden is quite the opposite.
The Seahawks are hoping the Golden Tate of the last few weeks is here to stay.
Winning on the Road
Over the years, the NFL has been designed to produce several 8-8 teams. The Seahawks seem to fall somewhere in that range every year, and the main culprit is their inability to win on turf that is not their own.
This is not news for the longtime fans of the Seahawks, but for those who may not know the depths of the Seahawks' ineptitude on the road, here you go:
Regular-season road records (past three coaches)
Mike Holmgren: 34/80 (.425)
Jim Mora: 1/7 (.143)
Pete Carroll: 6/21 (.286)
Blame the time zone change, the team routines, the early games or even blame the weather it doesn't matter really. The bottom line is the Seahawks are a different team when they can't hear the 12th Man screaming, and the problem is chronic.
If the Seahawks have any chance to reach the playoffs and have success, they need to find someway to fix this issue in the second half of the season.
Despite this article's focus on the negative, the great thing for the Seattle Seahawks is that each and everyone of the issues listed are fixable.
When you look around the league very few teams are set up to win in December better than this one, and the credit goes to general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.
The upcoming schedule:
4-5 Miami Dolphins (away)
7-2 Chicago Bears (away)
4-5 Arizona Cardinals (home)
3-6 Buffalo Bills (away)
6-2-1 San Francisco 49ers (home)
3-5-1 St. Louis Rams (home)
Big, strong, fast, tough and aggressive teams are nightmares to handle after a full season of bumps and bruises, hard-fought games and mental fatigue. Taking a look at the list of remaining games, the Seahawks should be able to win four or five to finish the season strong.
Can the Seahawks' strategy of pounding teams into mush and rolling over them in the fourth quarter apply to the overall season? If so, the best may be ahead for the Seahawks, and for the rest of the NFL, that's bad news.
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