We’re a few hours removed from the second crushing OT loss by the Seattle Seahawks. As is the case with social media focused mentality, the only things you’re likely to see posted online right now are “True 12s” debating the size of their Fandicks against other “True 12s” (You know, how much ‘bigger’ of a fan they are than you are). I get it, everyone is a critic. We all sit on our couches, aided by Bud Light (or in my case, Hilliards 12th Can), some junk food, and transform into the greatest signal callers of all time. We neglect to accept the fact that we aren’t on the field (and some of us have never, or will never get there), but that’s beside the point.
We can debate openly the big missed plays from our perspectives: Had Kam Chancellor given Tyler Eifert a little bit of coverage like he gave Megatron last week, would two of those Andy Dalton touchdowns still occurred? I’m sure Lions fans are still wondering if Seattle would have been capable of a goal line stand for four plays if the refs had called it the way they said they should have afterwards. Judging by today’s play, I’d say the ‘Hawks are more than competent at stopping opposing Running Backs. QB Sneaks? The verdict is still out on that one. While it seems that there’s so much turmoil between fans, as a social consciousness we’re looking for a scapegoat. If this was Survivor, we’d had written Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell’s name on a few of those tribal council votes. We don’t necessarily have the tools or comprehension to understand WHY we want a scapegoat, but we just want one.
We boast loudly about making ‘football plays’ and regurgitate what ever Fox and friends, CBS, or NBC tells us during their play by plays of the game. We equate our list of games watched as ‘football information learned’. We debate why Jimmy Graham isn’t a Y.A.C (Yards after the catch) monster, and it’s easy to agree: We usually see Graham on 3rd down conversions, and there was a quizzical number of short 3rd down conversions that Seattle threw on in this game. An avid fantasy player for the last few years, I’m familiar with the booms and busts that Tight Ends can be: some weeks your up a lot, some you’re not, it’s all relative. Need proof? Rob Gronkowski is 16/28 for 4 scores thus far (6.7 fantasy points today against the backup QB Cowboys), and Graham is 18/23 and 2 scores thus far (3.0 fantasy points today against the Bengals). Total yardage is wide open, with Gronk far ahead, but about 130 more. Why? Volume.
Volume is the name of the game with football players. No one is really 100% catching or converting, the players accept that shooting for the high 60%, 70% and 80% ranges are where they want to be. It’s a ‘one step back, one step forward, one step back, two steps forward’ style of thought. The more chances they get to carry or catch the ball, the better off they’ll be: spotting blitzes becomes easier as they familiarize yourself with the game dynamics. They’ll notice gaps in coverage, consider the match ups and make a decision. They can’t just watch tape on things like that and immediately translate it to the field, they’ve probably got to be in the thick of the play to experience and build off it. So no, our 50 plus inch HD televisions and up to the second play calling doesn’t make us anything more than dedicated football consumers rocking our favorite players jerseys (mine is Graham, which shouldn’t come as a shock) on game day.
Volume made Thomas Rawls a hero this weekend. 23 carries for 169 yards, what a way to blow the doors off of a team that was allowing the sixth fewest rushing yards to running backs coming into this game. Volume is the name of the game in running the ball, but what about the passing game? For this, I examined the WR 1/2 combo of Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse using the first five games of last season against this season:
Baldwin (2015, 1st five games): 23/27, 268 yds, 2 TD, 85% Compl Rate
Baldwin (2014, 1st five games): 16/25, 187 yds, 0 TD, 64% Compl Rate
Baldwin Diff Totals: +7 Receptions, +2 Targets, +81 yds, +2 TDs, +21% Compl Rate
Kearse (2015, 1st five games): 18/23, 274 yds, 1 TD, 78% Compl Rate
Kearse (2014, 1st five games): 11/19, 168 yds, 0 TD, 57% Compl Rate
Kearse Diff Totals: +7 Receptions, +4 Targets, +106 yds +1 TD, +21% Compl Rate
The numbers don’t lie- Wilson IS throwing more in the first five games of this season than he did last season. You could argue strength of schedule being the deciding factor about maybe WHY Wilson is throwing more, but the evidence appears rock solid. What’s even better- it appears that the more Wilson puts it down field, the better his duo of receivers are. Volume, in this case, translates into more yards, more points, and more proficient receivers.
Baldwin is only ‘seeing’ two more looks than last year, but has made a huge leap, as an extra five receptions are coming his way. He is able to translate those into an additional 80 yds and a pair of scores. His completion rate is almost a quarter more than that of his totals this time last year. This could be due to many reasons: other passing options falling through, coverages, or Wilson putting up a hail mary pass and a catch happening.
Kearse is only ‘seeing’ four more looks than last year, but has made just as large of a leap, as there are four extra receptions are coming his way. He is able to translate those into an additional 106 yds and a score. His completion rate (Like Baldwin’s) is almost a quarter more than that of his totals this time last year. Again, this could be due to many reasons, as aforementioned.
So, while I am inclined to join the digital mob to burn Bevell’s Jersey (if it existed) for Seattle not stuffing more points down opposing teams throats, I have to test this theory out on #88, Mr. Jimmy Graham:
Graham: (2015, 1st five games): 21/28, 204 Yds, 2 TDs, 75% Compl Rate
Graham: (2014, 1st five games): 34/47, 376 Yds, 2 TDs, 72% Compl Rate
Graham Diff Totals: -13 Receptions, -19 Targets, 172 Yds, 0 TDs, 3% Compl Rate
Son of a gun. Even while seeing 19 LESS looks, Graham still manages to be MORE consistent in Seattle’s run first offense. Sure, Drew Brees had Graham as his A1 target then, so it factors that he would achieve bigger numbers in a pass heavy offense than a run heavy offense.
However, when you look at Graham’s per game totals for last years first five games (36, 86, 54, 118, 82) versus this years first five games (30, 29, 83, 11, 51) you can’t help but grimace. That 36 yard game in 2014? It came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 0 TDs in that game too. (THE BUCS!) The 30 yard game from this year? It came today against the Cincinnati Bengals. 0 TDs in this game too. Of course, we’d like to see the stat lines from last year and this year reversed. As fans we aren’t concerned with consistency, except in fantasy sports. We’d gladly prefer to see an uptick of 19 targets, and only see 13 more receptions, so long as those 172 Yards and a -3% Completion Rate meant he, Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, Lockette, Matthews, Daniels, Willson, Helfert, Gilliam, Lynch, Jackson, or Rawls got the rock to score. Because that’s what we all want to see right? We’re not preoccupied with where those errant 6 other passes may end up, even if it meant our QB’s INT rate goes up sixfold. More targets! More Cowbell! Whoops, I digress.
Offenses, especially Seattle’s, are fickle beasts. Think of it like this; you inadvertently begin to put diesel in your tank instead of unleaded fuel when you’re at the pump. You know you’re going to mess your engine up. You pay a lot of money to fix the fuel system and protect the car, but you don’t return to driving it at highway speeds right away, you drive it more like you’re doing 40 MPH in the left lane on I-5 (I’m looking at you, WA drivers. Quit it with that!!) Eventually, you release your fear of your engine seizing up, and you continue going (and driving) about your business. Essentially, one could make the argument that the passing game is the Diesel to Seattle’s engine, which is used to Gasoline (Running Game). Diesel burns cleaner, protects your engine against wear and tear, but is costly. So no one really likes buying diesel, unless their car requires it. Gas is cheaper, it’s readily available, but you often need other additives and oils to ensure it’s long lasting ability. When Carroll says it’s going to take a bit of time to get all parts of the game in sync, I trust he knows what he’s doing. It doesn’t make the early part of the season easy to watch but we can’t forget there’s still ten plus weeks of football to be played. Anything can and probably will happen.
Look, the point of this rant is that Seattle is doing more with their passing game NOW than they did at this time last year. Rawls 29 carries speak directly to the Volume of effort and intensity that Tom Cable’s O-lineman are providing (and it couldn’t have come at a better time). For a big part of the game in Cincinnati, the Volume was working in Seattle’s favor. At some point, it began to turn against them, and the pressure against Russell Wilson was readily apparent, scrambling and tossing incomplete passes. I can’t complain loudly, I have both Rawls and Graham on my fantasy teams. I wanted to see a win, though I think we can agree no one wants to win as bad as a player on the road. So while everyone is thinking Seattle’s road to a third Super Bowl is derailed, fret not: Recall last season, they started out 3-3 before going on a 9-1 tear down the stretch. It’s looking a bit like Seattle may find themselves in a similar situation.
Now, Volume doesn’t mean anything if you fail to stop the other teams Volume from matching yours. The Legion of Boom had some Volume moments, like Earl Thomas’s Interception. KJ Wright, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennet keeping the pressure on Dalton. (Bennett, maybe a little too much. But I love the effort.) Wagner made some incredibly voluminous defensive plays, including a fumble recovery for a TD. Sherman ensured that AJ Green only had a few moments, instead of his usual string of explosive (e.g. targets, volume) moments. Please relax with all this trash talk on Cary Williams. Last week when he squared off on Megatron, everyone was beaming about his abilities. Remember when he stripped Nick Foles for a TD? Or was that too far back for our collective social concious to remember? Volume needs to be in all aspects of the game, because in today’s loss, all three facets (offense, defense, and special teams) ratcheted up the Volume, but turned it down when the next door neighbor complained for the ‘Hawks to turn it down. If the ‘Hawks are to go on another 9-1 run, then Volume and precise decision calling need to prevail. As fans, we need to decrease the Volume of our questions, and bring the Volume of our cheers across Social Media, in the stadiums (home or away) and when it matters most- 3rd down.
What’s up next? A home outing versus the Carolina Panthers, which the ‘Hawks are 7-2 all time, and they’ve never lost at home. So maybe someone important will read this, take my crunched numbers and eureka moment, and ask Mr. Bevell to increase Russell’s passing attempts this week. It’s highly unlikely, but worth a shot. Again, I’m no coach. I’m not a recognized sports writer for ESPN, RotoWorld, or Fox Sports. Just a fan who crunches numbers, plays fantasy football, and wants to see the ‘Hawks win some games. So while I think I have a bright idea, it’s probably closer to this in real life:
Till next time…