Pete Carroll called for Seahawks to focus on run game more — is that still the case?
Right after the Seahawks’ 2020 season came to an end with a loss in the wild card round of the NFC playoffs, head coach Pete Carroll addressed his team’s offense and what he wanted to see out of it in 2021.
“We needed to run the football more (down the stretch) and (have) more commitment (to it),” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle in January. “… We have always run the football and made (opponents bring) their safeties down. … You can force teams to do that, or they can just get their butt kicked running the ball. That’s a big emphasis in my mind of how we want to control what the game is all about.”
That caused some concern in the fan base that the Seahawks would turn the clock back, so to speak, and take the ball out of quarterback Russell Wilson’s hands in favor of running more just a season after letting him loose.
Now that five months have passed and Seattle has installed a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron, does it still seem like Carroll’s desire to focus on the run is going to result in less passing by Wilson? Jake Heaps explained Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy he’s getting the sense Waldron’s offense will still allow plenty of opportunities for Wilson to throw downfield.
“There has been a lot of discussion around this given the fact that Pete Carroll initially said (at the end of the season)… ‘We need to run the ball with more focus. We need to better at running the football,'” Heaps said. “And people freaked out and were panicking, going, ‘Oh my gosh, Pete Carroll wants to run this whole thing back. We’re going to go backwards.’ I don’t believe that was his intent. I believe what he meant to say and how he was approaching it was, ‘We need to be more connected in the run game. We need to be better at going to the run game when it is there to counterbalance people who are trying to take away our passing game.'”
Part of the issue is that when Seattle’s offense struggled down the stretch last season, it appeared that it got away from the deep passes that were so successful earlier in the year. As a result, prior to the offseason there already was concern that Carroll was going back to what he knew best – a run-first attack.
Heaps said Waldron didn’t come to Seattle to run a more conservative offense, however.
“(The Seahawks) were not a balanced team, especially towards the end of the season. It may have felt like they were rolling back the offense, that they were trying to get more conservative with their running game. That simply statistically is just not the case, but I would say that they’re not going to go backwards in terms of the passing attempts. I think that they’re going to stay right at status quo.”
Waldron notably comes to the Seahawks after four years as an offensive coach for the Los Angeles Rams, and a lot of Rams coach Sean McVay’s system is expected to be coming up to Seattle with Waldron. And the good news there is that Wilson is a much more capable QB than Jared Goff, who Waldron had to work with at the position in LA.
“If you believe that the Seahawks’ offense (under Waldron) can truly be explosive and more dynamic with the weaponry that they have and better quarterback play with Russell Wilson over Jared Goff, I have to imagine that the attempts for Russell Wilson will stay around the same that they were last year if not increase more,” Heaps said, noting that Wilson had 558 pass attempts in 2020 while Goff had 552.
OK, so what does this all mean for the run game? Surely Carroll wants improvement there in some fashion, and the Seahawks have Chris Carson back after re-signing him. Carson, who topped 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019, had just 681 rushing yards in 12 games last season, but he still averaged a career-high 4.8 yards per carry in 2020 so it’s clear he can make a run at the century mark again.
“I do believe they want to be more centered and balanced and focused and purposeful when it comes to their running attack,” Heaps said. “I believe that when it comes to Chris Carson, they’re not going to approach him with kid gloves and try to save him for the playoffs. … Chris Carson is a special talent that can really balance this offense when it comes to deep passing plays and to the way that Shane Waldron wants defenses to have to defend every blade of grass.”
You can hear Heaps’ full thoughts and more Seahawks topics in the Four-Down Territory segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.