Naughty Nurse breaks down the Seattle Seahawks

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 09, 2012



(Our tawdry team of Russian mail-order Naughty Nurses check the statistical vital signs of each NFL team after each season. They use their pigskin probe and soothing, healing hands to take the temperature, and maybe a few liberties, with the Seattle Seahawks. Our Naughty Nurse breaks down other NFL teams here.)

By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Diagnostician
 
For those who fell asleep on the Seattle Seahawks after a 2-6 start to the 2011 season, perhaps they’d be surprised to hear that Pete Carroll coached one of the best second half teams in the league. While it didn’t seem even remotely possible at the time, a 22-17 upset victory at home against the Baltimore Ravens sparked a run in which Seattle quietly won five of six games by 12.3 points per game.
 
Unfortunately, the Seahawks lost by two points at home to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16 to eliminate what little hope the team had for making the postseason. Nevertheless, the Seahawks went down with a fight in back-to-back divisional losses to close the season at 7-9.
 
That strong second half, which was primarily galvanized by a surging defense, gives fans in the Great Northwest hope that a playoff spot may be in the working. Heck, with a little help from their friends to knock the 49ers down a notch, perhaps the Seahawks could contend for a divisional title.
 
Before people start storming to the gates to promote the Seahawks as a perennial dark horse in 2012, we call upon our Naughty Nurse to examine the essentials in Seattle.
 
The 2011 storyline: After the Seahawks seemed down for the count, they played much like a playoff team for the second half of the season. This came with an offense led by the Skittles-munching Marshawn Lynch and Captain Mediocrity himself, Tarvaris Jackson. Meanwhile, the defense did most of the winning work, led by a promising front run. Still, nothing from the Great Northwest makes a sound in the spectrum of the Mainstream Media, unless it involves fruity candy.
 
The Vital Signs
Coach (record): Pete Carroll (14-18 with Seahawks; 47-49 overall)
2011 record: 7-9 (20.1 PPG – 19.7 PPG)
Record against the spread: 9-6-1 (never made a sound!)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 2-5 (18.9 PPG – 26.0 PPG)
Record last five seasons: 33-47 (.413)
Best Quality Stat in 2011: Defensive Hog Index (4th)
Worst Quality Stat in 2011: Offensive Hog Index (30th)

ALL QUALITY STATS

Overall

QS

SCOR

BEND

RPYPA

DRPYPA

QBR

DQBR

OPR

DPR

PRD

OHI

DHI

REL

13

10(t)

12

10

26

12

25

6

20

6

13

30

4

18

Overall = Overall position in Quality Stats Power Rankings; QS= Quality Standings; SCOR = Scorability; Bend = Bendability; RPYPA = Real Passing Yards Per Attempt; DRPYPA = Defensive Real Passing; QBR = Real Quarterback Rating; DQBR = Defensive Real Quarterback Rating; OPR = Offensive Passer Rating; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; PRD = Passer Rating Differential; OHI = Offensive Hog Index; DHI = Defensive Hog Index; REL = Relativity Index.
 
Statistical curiosity of 2011: To help break the common misconception by more “athletic” quarterbacks are more likely to avoid being sacked and avoid losing major yardage, note that Tarvaris Jackson led all quarterbacks with 293 sack yards. Sure, it doesn’t help when the Seahawks allowed 50 sacks (fourth-highest in the league) and 114 quarterback hits (tied for the most in the league). However, it doesn’t seem likely at all that Jackson prevented taking that many sacks.
 
Best game of 2011: 22-17 win v. Baltimore (Week 10). A 36-25 road win against the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, also comes to mind. However, that game was more about ugly football from an above average team that got hot at the right time to win the league championship. Meanwhile, in this game, the Seahawks simply outplayed the championship-caliber Ravens. Seattle led throughout and didn’t commit a turnover against the league’s best defense. (The Seahawks only finished three games with a giveaway all season.) While Jackson (17-of-27 for 217 yards) and Lynch (32 carries, 109 yards) weren’t extremely efficient, they allowed the Seahawks control the pace in all four quarters. Finally, with this win starting an impressive end to the season, this one looks pretty obvious.
 
Worst game of 2011: 24-0 loss at Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 2). “Mamma said there’d be days like this.” The Shirelles weren’t kidding, as the Seahawks offense looked nonexistent from the start. Going up against an embarrassed Steelers defense, who allowed 35 points the previous week in Baltimore, Seattle mustered all of eight first downs and 164 total yards. Meanwhile, the defense was methodically beatdown by Ben Roethlisberger (22-of-30 for 298 yards and a touchdown) and crew.
 
Strength: Defensive front seven. The Defensive Hogs statistically had the best unit, but the secondary wasn’t far behind. Seattle finished sixth in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and Defensive Passer Rating. However, considering the intriguing decision by Carroll to draft Bruce Irvin in the first round and the free agency pick-up of Jason Jones, there’s a chance to surpass their 33 sacks in 2011 with ease. Therefore, the front seven looks to be in the best condition.
 
While the Mainstream Media gave heavy criticism for the Seahawks selecting Irvin, they blanketly forgot what type of pass rushers work best under Carroll. Carroll loves to use a pass-rusher in a mold similar to the “elephant” position. We know it as the “Leo” linebacker. More or less, the linebacker will line up on the weak side and rove around to find areas to rush the passer from a two-point or three-point stance.
 
Think Charles Haley in San Francisco and Chris Slade in New England. Think Rickey Jackson in New Orleans and Bryce Paup in Green Bay. Last year, the Seahawks primarily used Raheem Brock for this job. While he played adequately, he only racked up three sacks and will turn 34 in June. That’s why the Seahawks allowed Brock to head to free agency and drafted a youngster with amazing pass-rushing potential. Combine Irvin with Chris Clemons (22 sacks in two seasons with Carroll), and there’s real danger.
 
Seattle made a risk reaching for a raw prospect with a checkered past in the middle of the first round, but it was a calculated risk that could vault the pass rush (13th in defensive negative pass play percentage in 2011) near the top and the entire front seven among the league’s best.
 
Weakness: Offensive line. Quickly look back to the aforementioned statistical curiosity involving Tarvaris Jackson. His sack issues and the team’s protection issues will loom large in Seattle’s struggle to win the division, especially if the team can’t make a marked improvement in 2012.
 
There’s a big reason why the Offensive Hogs finished 30th last year, and something that goes beyond the team lacking a dynamic runner beyond Marshawn Lynch (the team finished 26th in yards per carry despite six 100-yard games in Lynch’s last nine starts). Jackson doesn’t kill his offenses with turnovers, but the Seahawks still finished 26th negative pass play percentage. Meanwhile, the team finished a meager 24th in third down percentage. The protection issues limited Seattle’s offense greatly.
 
General off-season strategy/overview: For all that was mentioned above, the Seahawks didn’t draft one offensive lineman in April. Not one. Instead, the team grabbed veteran insurance in free agency (Deuce Lutui, penalty machine Alex Barron and Frank Omiyale). Perhaps the team believes this will help young players like Russell Okung, James Carpenter and Max Unger. However, the Seahawks must proceed with caution and handle the free agency wire very shrewdly when it comes to offensive line acquisitions after training camp cuts. Trusting this unit to gel as is may backfire.
 
Meanwhile, the team must decide what it wants to do at quarterback as early as possible. Seattle signed Matt Flynn in the offseason, but then drafted Russell Wilson and expressed intriguing in the short, yet accurate prospect. Finally, Jackson is still around to at least manage the game decently. No matter how the Seahawks go with, that quarterback needs to be given the keys early to command the locker room.
 
Totally premature 2012 diagnosis: There’s a good chance the Seahawks build off their second half from 2011, and they use an improved defense to contend for the postseason. However, Seattle’s chance of winning the NFC West ultimately will come down to regression.
 
After going from 6-10 to 13-3, the San Francisco 49ers will experience considerable regression. They cannot rely on a +28 turnover margin again, which in itself will cost the 49ers some games. Meanwhile, one has to wonder exactly what Alex Smith will do after finally putting together a strong season. Needless to say, he won’t throw only five interceptions if he last another 16-game season, but how good will be in the encore? Will be good for another 10 wins, or is the .500 mark more likely?

By the look of it, Seattle has an outside shot at winning more than 10 games if they can quickly stabilize their quarterback situation. That means it would need to be Matt Flynn stepping up to the plate and putting together at least above average numbers.
 
It’s been done before, but consider it about a 30-40 percent for a division crowd. More likely, the Seahawks will be in the playoff hunt until the end of the season, battling for a wild card spot.


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