Rost: Just as surprising as Seahawks’ 6-3 start is that offense is better

Nov 7, 2022, 9:39 AM

Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seahawks QB Geno Smith scrambles against the Arizona Cardinals in a Nov. 6, 2022 win. (Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The Seahawks don’t just feel better without Russell Wilson. At the halfway point of the season, in just about every offensive category, they are better.

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Seattle’s 6-3 start is one few saw coming. Oddsmakers had them at 5.5 wins back in August, a total they’ve already surpassed. A defensive turnaround has been a big part of that, but there’s no bigger contributor than Geno Smith and the offense.

Call him the first half MVP. Smith was met with little fanfare when he was announced as the team’s starter in September, but glance at the passing leaderboards nine weeks into the season and you’ll find Smith’s name littered throughout. He’s sixth in total yards and fourth in touchdowns (with fewer interceptions than anyone in the top five). He has the third-highest passer rating and the highest completion percentage (73.1%).

“Geno had another huge game for us, and he just did all of his numbers again,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Sunday’s 31-21 win over Arizona. “Some marvelous third-down work.”

Smith has not been the game manager critics thought he would be; he’s been the playmaker few expected. And credit is also due to a solid debut from both rookie tackles and a stellar start for rookie running back Kenneth Walker III.

The result: Seattle is has improved over 2021 in almost every offensive category. They’re 10th in third-down conversion percentage (42%) up from 23rd (37.3%), 12th in yard per game (352) up from 20th (323.9), fourth in points per game (26.3) up from 16th (23.2).

There are two more interesting stats, one good and one less so.

First, during the latter years of Wilson’s tenure in Seattle, there was growing sentiment that the offense should be more aggressive, particularly earlier in games and earlier on downs. Enough of this idea that you could win the game in the fourth quarter — so the criticism, sometimes warranted, goes. That pressure from years past adds an interesting twist to this year’s offense, which is scoring more first quarter points (7.6) than any other team in the league. That’s up from 11th (4.8) in 2021. The trend holds steady for the second quarter; Seattle’s 15.1 first-half point average is the third-highest in the NFL.

That’s the good stat.

Here’s the weird one: One of the only areas the 2022 offense lags in compared to 2021 is in the red zone, where this year’s Seahawks are scoring a touchdown just 40% of the time. That’s the second-worst average, and is down from third overall the year prior (64.5%). With the team averaging more than 26 points per game (and with the defense limiting opponents to 19 over their last three), there’s not a ton of criticism to follow.

There’s also some important context, like the fact that the offense ran through the fewest plays in the league over the first couple weeks. But it’s certainly not a number Carroll would be happy with over the course of the season, and they’ll will need to be more efficient inside the 20 against more complete teams.

Red zone troubles didn’t hamper Seattle on Sunday against Arizona, though. The Seahawks were 4 for 4. And while they continue to build their lead in the NFC West, the biggest surprise of all may be that, week by week, a Seahawks win is feeling less surprising.

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Rost: Just as surprising as Seahawks’ 6-3 start is that offense is better