Rost: Seahawks offseason — 3 key numbers to know
That’s a wrap on the 2021 Seahawks season, and while it comes to a close several weeks before fans or players would like, there’s still plenty to learn about what Seattle was as a team.
Here are three key numbers to keep in mind as the offseason begins. Two tell the story of this team on either side of the ball, while the third is a key number when it comes to the start of free agency.
Seattle’s average conversion rate on third down, which ranked 23rd in the league and is roughly the same as what they averaged in 2020, too (38%).
Here’s the good and bad news: Seattle converted on 52% of its third-down attempts in its final three games. While that’s a stellar average (the Chiefs led the league this year converting on 52% of attempts), it’s also not a true reflection of this team’s very real third-down struggles in the 15 weeks preceding that. A better picture might be their total heading into January, which was 33%, good for … last place.
To be fair, improvements there over the final three weeks are a good sign and it’s no coincidence those improvements came with solid offensive line play and a phenomenal month from running back Rashaad Penny. But Seattle will need to be more consistent in 2022 or risk a third consecutive year of third-down issues, which correlate strongly with time of possession struggles and losses.
That starts with smaller improvements, like not facing third-and-7 or longer. Russell Wilson will also need to be better there next season. While he posted a 139 rating and had eight touchdowns on third-and-3 or less this year, the bulk of his attempts were between third-and-4 and third-and-7, where he completed just 47 percent of his passes with only four touchdowns to two interceptions for a 76.1 rating. Those numbers are all down from 2020, when he struggled on third-and-11 or more but completed 61% of his attempts from third-and-4 to third-and-7. It’s one thing to struggle on third-and-long, but third-and-manageable should be, well, manageable. So, Wilson and the offense will need a big step forward there.
A goal of 42-45% would put the Seahawks in a pool of playoff teams, closer to Green Bay (43%), Tennessee (43%), the Los Angeles Rams (43%), Arizona (45%), Buffalo (46%), Tampa Bay (47%), and Kansas City (52%).
The Seahawks’ defense limited opponents to just over 21 points per game, which was 12th best in the league.
Seattle did that against good offenses, holding the Packers to a field goal through most of four quarters at Lambeau Field, and held the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers – all playoff teams – to 23 points or fewer in four of their six divisional matchups. They also did that with a decimated secondary; at one point, free safety Quandre Diggs was the only Week 1 starter in the lineup. Ironically – and, it goes without saying, unfortunately – they had to finish the final half of their season finale against the Cardinals without Diggs, who had been the one constant in that group but suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle in Sunday’s 38-30 win.
The fact that Seattle’s scoring defense played well despite their issues with secondary depth is a good thing, but there’s still room for improvement. For one, the defense can’t get off to another slow start to the season for a third year. And while players (and fans) might be tired of hearing it, they’ve also got to limit explosive plays from opposing offenses, which contributed to their average yards surrendered per game being so much higher than other top-scoring defenses. The Seahawks ended with an average of 379 yards surrendered per game (28th in the league), which improved as the season went on but is certainly a far cry from the best iterations of a Pete Carroll defense.
The number of unrestricted free agents Seattle must re-sign or part ways with in free agency.
Among those are several starters: three offensive linemen (left tackle Duane Brown, center Ethan Pocic, and right tackle Brandon Shell), tight end Gerald Everett (Seattle’s third leading receiver behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf), defensive tackle Al Woods (started all 16 games), defensive back D.J. Reed (Seattle’s best and most consistent cornerback), and the aforementioned Diggs (the team’s leader in interceptions for two seasons) and Penny (who had 130 or more yards in four of his final five games to finish as the team’s leading rusher).
There are also some important contributors whose contracts are up, including safety Ryan Neal, defensive end Rasheem Green (tied for second on the team in sacks), tight end Will Dissly, running back Alex Collins, cornerback Sidney Jones, and backup center Kyle Fuller.
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