STACY ROST

Rost: 3 goals for the Seattle Seahawks’ offense in 2023

Jun 27, 2023, 9:18 AM

Seattle Seahawks Kenneth Walker III, Abraham Lucas...

Seattle Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III celebrates with teammates after a touchdown against the Raiders. (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks finished as a top-10 scoring offense last season, but with the sights of fans set even higher after a surprising 2022 campaign, there’s always room for improvement.

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Thankfully for Seattle, an influx of new talent on offense brings an opportunity to kick three bad habits and trends to the curb. Here are those offensive goals in 2023:

A true one-two punch in the running back

The Seahawks haven’t been able to find a true one-two punch for a sustained period of time at running back, but it’s not for lack of trying.

In 2015 they found undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls to pair with Marshawn Lynch for a physical, powerful backfield, but Lynch started only six games and Rawls saw his season end with a fractured ankle in Week 14.

A 2016 draft with three running backs selected brought no starters (though Alex Collins did find success with Baltimore). We don’t need to spend much time on 2017, which was an abysmal rushing season that saw just one running back record a rushing touchdown. They spent a first-round pick on the backfield in 2018 with San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, though it was 2017 seventh rounder Chris Carson who ended up becoming Seattle’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Lynch (2014).

In 2019 it looked like Carson and Penny could finally be the dynamic duo Pete Carroll had long been seeking. Penny took off for 129 yards in Week 12 against Philadelphia. Against the Vikings in Week 13, Carson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown and Penny rushed for another 72 with rushing and receiving scores. The following week, Penny tore his ACL. A week later, Carson suffered a fractured hip and landed on the IR along with Penny.

Seattle has since seen another 1,000-yard rusher with Kenneth Walker III, but 2023 second-round pick Zach Charbonnet once again gives Seattle the personnel to have the kind of backfield Cleveland had with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, or that New Orleans had with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Of course, that talent and potential only goes so far — they’ll still need health on their side and an improved offensive line (Cleveland and New Orleans were top-10 units with their best backfields).

A higher third-down conversion rate

Even with Russell Wilson under center, the Seattle Seahawks struggled on third down. Actually, they were better on third down with Geno Smith last year.

Seattle was 20th last year (38.3%) compared to 23rd (37%) in 2021. Still, that’s nothing to be exceptionally proud of. A minor improvement still left them hovering near the bottom third of the league when it came to moving the sticks on third down.

There are lots of reasons why — some explained and some not. It’s never easier for a one-dimensional offense to convert, which is what Seattle was when it saw a dip in production in Weeks 10, 12 and 13, at 32.1% during those three weeks compared to 42.9% on the season as a whole up to that point. Why? Because Walker was injured and the offense went five consecutive weeks with fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.

Seattle hasn’t been top-10 in third down conversion rate since 2015, when they were third. That season saw 600 or more receiving yards for four different pass catchers: Doug Baldwin (1,069), Jermaine Kearse (685), Tyler Lockett (664) and Jimmy Graham (605). It was also the season when Wilson and Baldwin went on a tear and decided to look like the best QB-WR duo in the league for five weeks (Baldwin had four consecutive games with two or more touchdowns and Wilson finished the season with a then-franchise high 34 touchdowns).

For a team that has typically been under 40% on third down, getting to league average would be an improvement — maybe not an exciting one, but an impactful one, nonetheless. One potential reason they could? More pass catchers.

Last year, Smith had two 1,000-yard receivers. The next-closest receiver was Marquise Goodwin with 387 yards, and he won’t be returning to Seattle in 2023.

But maybe Seattle can make due with the top receiver selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ohio State standout Jaxon Smith-Njigba provides a dynamic third option that Smith didn’t have last season. Returning are all three tight ends, and debuting is Charbonnet, who had 321 receiving yards for the Bruins last season.

A top-10 offensive line

This one is really ambitious. But if there’s one thing that can lead to improvement in all other areas of the offense, it’s the offensive line.

Full disclosure: I’m not actually predicting this’ll be a top-10 unit (boo me, I know). It’s such a tall order for two second-year tackles and, potentially, a rookie center and guard (I wouldn’t be surprised to see free agent pick-up Evan Brown start the season at center, but the competition is wide open).

The point here is more to highlight that much of Seattle’s struggles come down to the trenches, and this is a team desperate for Pro Bowl caliber play on either line. Charles Cross and Abe Lucas put together solid rookie seasons in 2022, but consider this one a long-term goal — one Seattle has yet to accomplish over Carroll’s tenure. All the better if they manage to hit on two more young offensive linemen from 2023’s class. Because one thing this team hasn’t had in a long while is a group of offensive line starters who come up together. Will 2023 bring the beginning of that?

Writer’s final note: me not making any promises about improvements with screen plays is very intentional. I’m not touching that prediction. Perhaps their continued struggles there will be a pain — a bonding experience, if you will — that we can all share together as fans.

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