PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 18: Tavaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks drops back to pass against of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Reflecting on some of the issues the Seahawks offense had in Pittsburgh.
The Seahawks didn't do a whole lot "right" in this game but I'll mostly hammer on the offense in this post. Why? Because the ineptitude on that side of the ball is, frankly, more concerning. Despite what Pete Carroll will tell you ("It had nothing to do with the quarterback spot"), a lot of it had to do with the quarterback spot. Once again, Tarvaris Jackson played timidly and conservatively, rarely throwing downfield and regularly a beat or two slow in the timing of plays. He threw high on some key third down passes and didn't challenge the Steelers defense deep one time.
The end result was 164 yards of offensive output. 31 yards on the ground, 133 yards through the air.
Granted, the Steelers have a very good defense and the Seahawks have a very young and inexperienced offense, but it's my opinion that this offense will not improve much against anyone unless some adjustments in focus and mindset are made. After all, they had an anemic performance against the 49ers middling defense in Week One as well, including a shockingly bad 37 yard first half performance. We can't just chalk it up to "Oh, well the Steelers have a good defense." There are some issues on this offense that will be apparent against any team the Seahawks play.
The biggest issue, in my mind, is that Tarvaris Jackson refuses to throw the football. The Seahawks offensive line improved in pass protection, in part due to the decision to leave Zach Miller in as a 6th or 7th pass blocker, resulting in more time to throw and a much better pocket to throw from. The problem was that Jackson was reticent to throw into tight windows, or throw at all. He's been that way, mostly, for his entire career, and Pete Carroll's "protect the ball" mantra is certainly not helping matters. The result is that Jackson ends up dumping passes off to running backs in the flat or his third option outlet, typically a receiver that's come back to the ball and is only a yard or three past the line of scrimmage.
This is not only excruciatingly boring, it's been very ineffective. Mike Williams, the Seahawks best (healthy) wide receiver, was targeted three times and had one reception for 9 yards. Past him, Ben Obomanu had 4 receptions for 35 yards, an average of 8.8 yards per reception. Kris Durham caught 3 passes for 30 yards, and Golden Tate had 2 for 12 yards. The day's longest reception went to Eddie Williams , a newly signed fullback, for 17 yards, and he ran that for probably 8 of those yards.
When Jackson was brought in he was heralded for his strong arm and mobility. He hasn't yet used either.
For whatever reason, -- maybe it's Pete Carroll's mandate to protect the football, his wishes to keep the quarterback in the pocket and learn some presence in there, or Darrell Bevell's conservative playcalling, -- Tarvaris Jackson's two best weapons, his strong arm and mobility, have been essentially holstered.
I'm honest when I tell you that I'm not sure whose fault this is. Maybe Jackson has been told to stay in the pocket at all costs. Maybe he's been told to never throw it deep unless a cornerback and safety have run into each other and fallen down thus leaving the receiver wide open, jumping up and down yelling "I'm OPEN, I'm OPEN!" Maybe Jackson's too afraid to throw it deep for fear of turnovers. Maybe the playcalling is to blame. It's probably a little bit of all of that, but the bottom line is that the Seahawks offense has been completely impotent for six out of the eight quarters they've played this season, and I don't see any way that will change unless they start opening up this offense and taking some chances down the field.
I realize that it's probably ironic for me to be wishing for that after some of the struggles this team had last year with debilitating interceptions at key points of games. This was exemplified over the stretch of four games late in the year when Matt Hasselbeck threw 10 picks and seemingly single-handedly took the Hawks out of each of those games.
It's a double-edged sword, I realize this, but maybe I'm just hoping for a middle ground.
In the two quarters the Seahawks have actually had some success on offense this season (the second half of the 49ers game), they did so with balance. They threw the ball deep a few times to keep the defense honest. With the threat of the big play in the back of the 49ers mind, the run game opened up. The underneath, intermediate routes suddenly got open. The line held up and Jackson even completed a few passes to our best receiver (Mike Williams) into tight windows. The offense we saw in Pittsburgh was, for lack of a better word, gutless.
Look, I don't want to sound like a total downer so I'll put it this way: this team does have the capability to be exciting (and eventually, I believe, successful). The offensive weapons Pete Carroll and John Schneider have gathered have some potential to be very good and I'm not saying that the sky is falling. I like, for the most part, what they've done with this roster over the last year and a half and I like that PC and JS are in charge.
I like Pete Carroll's personality and I think he's a good football coach. The QB question has been tough and they've had to make some tough decisions for that position, and a lot of people have ridden them for it. At this point, I've accepted their decision to go with Tarvaris Jackson in the short term but I'd love to see them use him differently.
We all kind of figured that this team would struggle and we all knew that Pittsburgh would be very, very tough to beat. So, 'shock' isn't a word I'd use to describe my feelings right now.
The Seahawks will have to make some adjustments, that's a given. The offensive line looked better in Week Two than they did in Week One. That's a positive. There are some things the team can do to better use the talent available to them. This front office isn't stupid. They'll find ways to do this.
There's no easy fix for this offense because it's comprised of a group of players that, for the most part, haven't played together before. The season is going to involve some highs and lows. Right now, we're likely near the bottom of the trough, near the lowest low. The Seahawks failed to put any points on the scoreboard. Before today, Pete Carroll had NEVER been shut out as a college or professional head coach (198 games). So yeah, this weekend was bad, it's just something the Hawks will have to learn from and move on.
For me, I'm hoping they begin to use Tarvaris Jackson in a way that highlights his strengths. He's got a strong arm and he's mobile. Let's see if they choose to put those talents to use.