Seahawks’ offense in ’22 is Waldron’s 2nd chance at 1st impression
As Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron heads into his second season with the team, it’s fair to question how much of his offense we’ve actually had the chance to see. Mike Salk and Michael Bumpus discussed that last on Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show.
“He’s an intriguing character and I’m trying to figure out what went awry last year,” Salk said. “Whether it was his rookie year calling plays for the first time or it was a little funky trying to get between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, who didn’t seem like they were on the same page, obviously he entered kind of a challenging spot last year.”
A challenging spot, to say the least.
Waldron was officially announced as the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator on Jan. 29, 2021. Russell Wilson’s interview with Dan Patrick where he voiced his displeasure over the number of times he had been sacked the previous season happened on Feb. 9. That interview sparked an offseason brimming with trade rumors and speculation that Wilson and Carroll were at odds. We were assured by both parties when training camp began that everything had been overblown and their relationship was just fine, but the fact that Russell Wilson was traded about a year later makes it hard to believe there wasn’t at least some truth to the tension.
As if navigating those unique dynamics wasn’t enough for Waldron’s first year as OC, the injuries at key positions stacked up early. Waldron was gameplanning while missing Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Russell Wilson all by Week 6. Carson would miss the rest of the season with a neck injury. Penny suffered a calf injury in Week 1 and attempted to return midseason but wasn’t quite right. He finally returned as the lead back in Week 12. Wilson suffered the ruptured tendon in his finger in Week 5 against the Rams and returned for Week 9 against the Packers, a feat that was admirable, but in retrospect a bit hasty.
Despite all of that adversity, we got a glimpse of how efficient Waldron’s offense could look in the final six games. Penny and the offensive line were dominant, with Penny rushing for over 130 yards in four of those last six outings. The emphasis on the run game did not mean Wilson took a back seat either. He actually averaged more attempts per game (30) in those final six games than he did in the previous six (28), and threw seven more touchdowns with five fewer sacks.
This was the kind of balance Carroll has always preached, and he took notice of what Waldron and Andy Dickerson had accomplished. Dickerson came to the Seahawks with Waldron in early 2021 after serving as the Rams’ assistant offensive line coach for the previous nine seasons, and was given the title of Seattle’s run game coordinator. Carroll spoke from the combine in March about how impressed he was with the impact Dickerson had on the offensive line and run game.
“Forever in my coaching, I’ve always looked to young guys to develop them and bring them up,” Carroll said. “Once you get to know who they are and what they’re all about, you try to push them where they’re strong and where they’re capable and where it seems obvious. Andy was one of those guys. He came in with Shane to give Shane support schematically and to help us transition, and he did all of that. I just saw his impact and his connection with our players. It was just too significant to keep him out of, really, the fundamental interaction that he can have with players and the effect that he can have. So it was a natural move in that regard.”
That “move” was promoting Dickerson to offensive line coach, which meant that the team had to move on from Mike Solari this offseason. Solari had held the position since 2018 and is, by all accounts, a very good coach; he just has a different style than Waldron and Dickerson. Solari loves big, heavy maulers to overpower guys at the line of scrimmage for more of a downhill attack. Waldron comes from more of a wide zone background where speed and athleticism are most important. You can see where it may have been difficult to marry the two approaches, so the Seahawks seem committed to allowing Waldron to fully implement his vision this season. He now has his offensive line coach in Dickerson, and the Seahawks added two athletic, speedy tackles (first-round pick Charles Cross and third-rounder Abe Lucas) and arguably the best running back in the 2022 NFL Draft (second-rounder Ken Walker III).
So what should we expect to see from Waldron’s offense in 2022?
“I think it will be 60 percent run, 40 percent pass, at least to start the season,” Bumpus, a former NFL receiver and current Seahawks analyst, told Salk. “It’s all contingent on Drew Lock. How does he progress?”
The Seahawks believe Lock didn’t get a fair shot as the quarterback in Denver and that they can give him that opportunity here, and Waldron has a track record of helping to develop a young quarterback. He became the Rams’ passing game coordinator in 2018, Jared Goff’s third season in the NFL, and held that position through the 2020 season. Those were Goff’s most productive seasons of his career, including back-to-back years with over 4,600 passing yards and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2019.
That Rams’ offense was also a top 10 rushing unit in two of the three years that Waldron was passing game coordinator, and Bumpus believes the addition of Walker will help Waldron strike that same type of balance in Seattle.
“If you’re wanting to establish the run, you have a guy can do everything,” Bumpus said. “That’s what we heard and saw in rookie minicamp. This guy’s making one-handed catches and he can get north-south. Granted, there are no pads on, but he looked the way he was supposed to look in that situation. So you’re gearing up to be able to run that rock.”
Waldron joined The Mike Salk Show a day after this discussion, and he explained that even though the Seahawks’ offense faced some adversity last year, he felt good about where they left off and is excited about heading into a new season where they have an established rhythm and know what their identity looks like. It sounds simple, but those were things that eluded the Seahawks’ offense for a variety of reasons last year. It feels like 2022 will be the first time we get a real chance to see what a Shane Waldron offense looks like.