Rost: Where Seahawks stepped forward and stepped back in 2019

Jan 17, 2020, 9:21 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2020, 1:03 am

The Seahawks improved to 11-5 in 2019 after going 10-6 in 2018. (Getty)...

The Seahawks improved to 11-5 in 2019 after going 10-6 in 2018. (Getty)


The Seahawks finished with a better record (improving from 10-6 to 11-5) and advanced further into the playoffs than they did last season, and that’s impressive in itself. But did they really take a step forward in 2019 — and is fair to measure their growth by those two facts alone?

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For the record, I absolutely think the Seahawks took a step forward as a team — but the performance from one specific group will need to be corrected in 2020 if Seattle wants another shot at a title.

Step forward: total offense

The Seahawks finished eighth in total offense (averaging 374 yards per game), which is an improvement over 2018 (353.3). The greatest area of growth was in their passing offense; the Seahawks finished 27th there in 2018, with just 193 passing yards per game, and were last in the league in attempts – which makes sense, since they were also the only team to pass on fewer than 50 percent of all plays. That balance shifted in 2019, when 54 percent of Seahawks plays were pass attempts. The team finished with fewer rushing yards per game than they did last year, but were still above the league average.

Those numbers are presented without context, though; in reality, some areas of the offense improved more than others.

Step forward: QB, WR, RB

Russell Wilson took another step forward. Even though he didn’t finish with career highs in touchdowns or passing yards (though the latter was second only to 2015), he led the MVP conversation through the first half of the season and finished with the lowest interception percentage of his career (31 touchdowns to five interceptions). Receiver Tyler Lockett finished with a career-high 1,057 yards and rookie DK Metcalf finished with 900 yards, while running back Chris Carson finished with his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Stuck: OL

With the injuries Seattle had this year, it’s tough to grade this one. Give the unit credit for another 1,000-yard rusher — they finished 16th overall in run-blocking — but the offensive line once again struggled in pass protection. They excelled at times, but struggled to stay consistent. Wilson was sacked a career-high 48 times and Seattle finished ninth-worst in Adjusted Sack Rate (7.9%) according to Football Outsiders. The team surrendered four or more sacks in eight games. Likewise, Pro Football Focus ranked the Seahawks’ offensive line 27th overall, citing the Seahawks’ third-worst pressure rate (26.7%) allowed in 2.5 seconds or less.

It’s worth noting the injuries Seattle struggled with throughout the year. They lost center Justin Britt to a torn ACL in October, and injuries caused missed starts for right guard DJ Fluker and left tackle Duane Brown, the latter of whom eventually undergoing knee surgery in December.

Head coach Pete Carroll, who said after the season that he wants to keep the offensive line intact, believes injuries stunted development with that group.

“I hope we can keep our guys connected,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to see a big change there. We have made good progress, we have really good young guys, a couple guys got banged up this year that you haven’t seen a whole lot.”

Keeping the group together would involve a few re-signings: right tackle Germain Ifedi, left guard Mike Iupati, backup center Joey Hunt, and tackle George Fant are all set to become unrestricted free agents in March.

Step forward: acquisitions, offseason moves on defense

It wasn’t a big step forward — things didn’t work out with Ziggy Ansah and first-round pick L.J. Collier was a healthy scratch in a handful of games — but overall you’ve got to give general manager John Schneider credit for bringing edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and safety Quandre Diggs to Seattle with a pair of very lopsided trades. (Diggs, who remains under contract through 2021, earned Pro Football Focus’ highest coverage grade, 89.9, for any Seahawk.) And even though trading defensive end Frank Clark left a hole on Seattle’s defensive line, it was the boldest and most effective part of a strategy to turn four draft picks into 11 rookies. The team also retained middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who led the league with 159 tackles, earned First-Team All Pro honors, and is now under contract through 2022. Re-signing Clowney, who is set to become a free agent in March, will obviously become the team’s next priority.

Step back: DL, total defense

This is where things get trickier. Seattle tied for the third-highest turnover differential in the league (+12), finished sixth in interceptions (16), second in fumbles (16), and held opposing quarterbacks to an average passer rating of 86.7.

However, they also dipped in nearly every other defensive category from 2018. Here’s a quick look:

All stats have been collected from Pro Football Reference.

2018 2019
Sacks 43 (11th) 28 (29th)
Pressures 173 (10th) 126 (26th)
QB hits 109 (4th) 68 (29th)
Missed tackles 98 (8th) 131 (29th)
Pass yards/game 240.1 (17th) 263.9 (27th)
Rush yards/game 113.2 (13th) 117.7 (22nd)

The Seahawks will need to address several areas this offseason.

“We were not consistent,” Carroll said of the defense during his final press conference of the season. “Too many explosive plays of various natures. For the most part, we had problems on the edge. We had containment issues. We found that the offenses really put the ball on the perimeter against us a lot. That does challenge us in some ways. You’ll see some things be adjusted in the course of the offseason for that.”

That should start with the defensive line and a pass rush that struggled to get going consistently, but other changes — to both scheme and personnel — could be in store.

“There’ll be some of everything,” Carroll said. “A little bit of everything.”

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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