Seahawks Insider

Offseason rewind: Red zone

Post by Eric Williams on May 7, 2010 at 6:45 am with 32 Comments »
May 7, 2010 6:45 am
Seattle Seahawks tight end John Carlson (Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune)

Much of Seattle’s struggles offensively can be traced back to the team’s inability to score in the red zone. Seattle finished with a 39.58 scoring percentage in the red zone, ranked 30th overall last season.

And in 2008 that number was a little better at 50 percent, good enough for 21st overall. By comparison, one of the best offenses in the league last season, the Indianapolis Colts, finished at 66 percent in red zone percentage in 2009, ranking second overall.

Red zone percentage, the measurement of a team’s ability to score once they are inside the other team’s 20-yard-line, is an important statistic in terms of Seattle putting pressure on its opponent by consistently putting points on the board when they are in scoring position.

Seattle seemed to struggle in this area for a couple reasons.

For one, they didn’t have a consistent running attack, limiting their options once they got near the goal line. Typically, the closer you get to the end zone, the harder it is to run the ball because the defense becomes compacted when they have less space to defend, limiting an offense’s ability to stretch the field and create running lanes. Seattle finished with only seven rushing touchdowns in 2009, tied for 27th overall.

Secondly, the Seahawks did not establish any “bread-and-butter” plays – a handful of plays that they could run in several different formations or using different motions that consistently worked for them once they got near the end zone. I thought that T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson would develop into good red zone targets for Seattle, but Matt Hasselbeck never developed a good rapport with Houshmandzadeh last season, and Carlson was kept in to block much of the time because of Seattle’s struggles in protecting Hasselbeck.

However, Carlson still finished with seven touchdowns on the year and has 12 touchdowns in two seasons with Seattle.

Seattle should be a better red zone team this season for several reasons. First, the addition of Russell Okung and Ben Hamilton has helped to solidify things up front, so Seattle’s second year running the zone blocking scheme should result in a more consistent running attack in all areas of the field, including the red zone.

And Seattle now has a good, short yardage and red zone back in LenDale White, who has a nose for the goal line.

The addition of tight end Chris Baker, along with improved play up front, should free Carlson up to get into the routes more. And having big receivers like Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, Mike Jones and Ruvell Martin available to use for fade routes or slant routes near the goal line should improve Seattle’s overall effectiveness throwing the ball into the end zone.

Click here and here to see a couple, effective plays Seattle used near the goal line last season with Houshmandzadeh.

This running play by Justin Forsett on the road against Arizona show how Seattle can effective run the ball near the goal line.

And click here and here to see plays with Carlson near the goal line that proved effective.

Click here and here for a couple plays where Seattle’s execution was not good. The first is a 3rd and six near the goal line at Green Bay where Houshmandzadeh slips and Green Bay’s Atari Bigby picks off Hasselbeck.

The second play is Hasselbeck’s fumble while trying to lateral to Justin Forsett for a first down against Tampa Bay. Technically this is outside the red zone because it takes play on the 27-yard line. But the play is a good example of some the poor decisions the Seahawks made when getting close to the end zone.

Strategy, Xs and Os
Leave a comment Comments → 32
  1. Dukeshire says:

    Terrific article Eric. I agree with your assessment 100%, even if Martin, Jones and R. Williams are very long shots to make the team, but your point is taken.

    It’s hard to imagine two teams worse than Seattle inside the 20 last year. That is some kind of pathetic. One would think on FGs alone it would be near impossible to not be at or above .500.

  2. Canfan says:

    Just saw this link on PFT: Justin Forsett rated as most elusive RB

    Hope he’ll get more carries this year.

  3. zombiehooliganfc says:

    I’d assume that because the Hawks played from behind most of the season they probably took less FG tries than they normally would, so that probably add to the lowered %, but then that can be linked to their failures EW mentioned.

  4. Stevos says:

    oh my gawd, Eric… you put in that horrible play from the Tampa game where Hass ran around under pressure until…. I can’t even watch that again. Please, some memories should be allowed to die.

    Interesting that most of the clips here showing quality O line blocking and execution were from early in the season/preseason. The more time that Greg Knapp had to install his offense, the worse things got. Its pretty hard to find quality offensive plays from late last season.

    6-5 Mike Williams, if he makes the team, could be a good player to use in red zone packages. Jump ball, anyone?

  5. Dukeshire says:

    Canfan – Thanks for the link. Obscure in depth statical analysis doesn’t generally hold my interest but that was a fun read. Plus Little Big Man comes out looking great so win win.

    zombiehooliganfc – I would presume the same thing. I’d be curious to know what their % for going for the TD or first on 4th inside the 20 vs outside was. (I’ll have to research that tonight.) Regardless of the differential, it clearly wasn’t good.

  6. IBGoofy says:

    Eric, any chance you have some stats breaking down Hass & Wallace?

    I still have thoughts of Wallace really struggling in the RZ… I believe I commented to it last year, but curious….

    Key is, the points you have made toward higher expectations are good ones… another area that PC & staff have not allowed to remain status quo….

  7. Duke,

    The Seahawks have had a GREAT offseason so far. I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on everyone’s post draft euphoria, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on our prospects going into next season.

    IMO, even though we’ve gotten much better this offseason, this team still seems to be a year or two away from being GOOD.

    We spend a lot of time measuring this team’s improvement relative to last year’s Seahawks. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with how much ground we’ve gained on the other teams in our division?

    The 49ers are a solid team on the rise. They’ve added two potentially dominant run blocking offensive linemen to their run game. The Cardinals have suffered heavy offseason losses, but even without Warner they are still a good team with a number of dangerous playmakers.

    My questions are:
    1) Can our defense stand up to the 49er’s run game?
    2) Will our offense be able to move the ball against the 49er’s defense
    3) Will we be able to run the ball against anyone?
    4) Will our new scheme generate any sort of consistent pass rush?
    5) Can our secondary stand up against the Fitzgeralds and Crabtrees of the world?

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    I definitely think the moves that Carroll and Schneider have made have made us better, but have we put ourselves in position to compete for a division title again? Either way I’m as optimistic about the direction this franchise is going as I have been in years.

    Thanks, and Enjoy the ride Seahawks fans!

  8. Mr Williams:
    About struggles in red zone last year, you sure look right in your analysis –, but it’s still an interesting argument.
    If you go to ’08 and look at the SEA OL’s Power Success (% of runs on 3rd or 4th dn, 2 yds or less to go, that made 1st dn or TD, plus runs on 1st-&-goal or 2nd-&-goal from 2-yd line or closer – plus QB sneaks) SEA was at 76% (ranked 4th in NFL).

    Then go to ’09, Last season, SEA was 56% (29th) in Power Success. SEA’s OL dropped 25 places!

    Switching to the ZBing scheme didn’t improve SEA’s power runs any, and cutting Duckett didn’t help either. If Gibbs gets ZBing to work like it’s supposed to and White can become as effective as Duckett was in short yardage, the run offense should improve. But how much will that do to make SEA’s offense more successful?

    Last coupla years Hawks offense has been stuck in the 25th-26th rank range – lower part of the bottom half of the NFL. If you go back another year to ’07, Hawks offense was in the 13th-14th rank range – lower part of the upper half of the league. The success of ’07 may have had more to do with defending against backup QBs, but Hawks offense performed much better too. That could be the kinda improvement Hawks see this year – though I dread it. Want to take Locker in the ’11 draft.

  9. oceanic says:

    I saw a video of Locker going back to pass, no receivers open. He took off and made a 58 yard TD run. At one point, it looked like four guys were going to hit him at once. He was just too fast, blew by them. That was against Arizona. I don’t think son of Joe will take Jakes starting job.

  10. klm008,

    I believe the reason that Seahawks were 4th in the NFL in 2008 in Power Success was very simply T.J. Duckett. The O line was in shambles throughout 2008 and all the other offensive stats were down, but T.J. Duckett excelled as a short-yardage power back. Holmgren knew exactly how to use him to convert short yardage for first downs and touchdowns, and then eat clock in the 4th quarter. Duckett converted 26 first downs and 8 TDs in only 62 attempts.

    Then Mora and Knapp put an end to that by cutting Duckett to ensure nothing good like that would happen on offense in 2009.

    Short-yardage is such an important part of the offensive game plan and I’m glad to see someone here calling attention to it, klm. If an opposing D does not fear the run on 3rd-and-1, then the passing attack is put at a severe disadvantage. That’s the position Hass was in on every 3rd down last year.

    I really hope that LenDale White can give us some of what Duckett used to give us (or Mack Strong before him) but realistically White is not that short-yardage bull. With Carroll’s full-commitment to the Zone blocking scheme, we will likely be forced to use more outside runs and use our speed on 3rd down instead of bulling up the middle. I think this is also what Knapp and Mora thought they could do last year but failed miserably at implementing it.

  11. klm008 says:

    jjsnix –
    Drive Stat Trends for NFCW Offenses

    ’09 193 drives, 27.98 (19th) yds/dr, 1.84 (15th) pts/dr, .223 (12th) TDs/dr, .446 (22nd) punts/dr, .176 (30th) TOs/dr, .093 (17th) int/dr, .083 (32nd) fum/dr, 29.75 (16th) LOS/dr, .679 (15th) drive success rate (DSR).

    ’08 174 drives, 32.99 (10th) yds/dr, 2.24 (6th) pts/dr, .259 (4th) TDs/dr, .345 (8th) punts/dr, .161 (25th) TOs/dr, .086 (20th) int/dr, .075 (30th) fum/dr, 30.68 (14th) LOS/dr, .718 (7th) DSR.

    ’07 192 drives, 27.55 (20th) yds/dr, 1.86 (13th) pts/dr, .219 (10th) TDs/dr, .411 (18th) punts/dr, .188 (29th) TOs/dr, .125 (29th) int/dr, .062 (21st) fum/dr, 31.90 (8th) LOS/dr, .672 (15th) DSR.

    ’08 was Card’s SB year. From ’07 to ’08 you can see the improvement the Wiz and Grimm made to the Cards overall offense. Last season they went backwards in yards, points and TDs per drive – and had more punts and turn-overs (both fumbles and interceptions) per drive. Their offense’s drive success rate has stayed highest of the NFCW. Sans Warner, that may change – trending down.

    ’09 191 drives, 26.46 (22nd) yds/dr, 1.37 (25th) points/dr, .141 (25th) TDs/dr, .466 (25th) punts/dr, .157 (24th) TOs/dr, .099 (22nd) int/dr, .058 (23rd) fum/dr, 28.13 (26th) LOS/dr, .644 (22nd) DSR.

    ’08 175 drives, 24.90 (26th) yds/dr, 1.53 (26th) points/dr, .160 (26th) TDs/dr, .509 (31st) punts/dr, .137 (18th) TOs/dr, .086 (19th) int/dr, .051 (17th) fum/dr, 31.02 (13th) LOS/dr, .643 (25th) DSR.

    ’07 194 drives, 28.98 (13th) yds/dr, 1.84 (14th) pts/dr, .201 (15th) TDs/dr, .443 (25th) punts/dr, .119 (5th) TOs/dr, .067 (5th) int/dr, .052 (16th) fum/dr, 31.41 (13th) LOS/dr, .676 (14th) DSR.

    SEA may have a spike in offensive performance this year similar to what AZ had between ’07 & ’08. SEA trended down between ’07 & ’08 about the same amount that AZ trended up. (SEA’s defense was top ranked in drive stats for ’07.) Then SEA trended up slightly between ’08 & ’09 in offense but also had more turnovers. Still, a .644 DSR is second in the Division behind AZ, and bodes well for ’10 if the OL improves it’s pass protection.

    ’09 195 drives, 24.11 (26th) yds/dr, 1.55 (24th) points/dr, .179 (19th) TDs/dr, .508 (31st) punts/dr, .103 (5th) TOs/dr, .072 (9th) int/dr, .031(4th) fum/dr, 28.97 (20th) LOS/dr, .598 (28th) DSR.

    ’08 179 drives, 27.91 (22nd) yds/dr, 1.74 (21st) points/dr, .179 (23rd) TDs/dr, .369 (10th) punts/dr, .196 (32nd) TOs/dr, .106 (27th) int/dr, .089 (32nd) fum/dr, 28.53 (24th) LOS/dr, .661 (23rd) DSR.

    ’07 196 drives, 18.41 (32nd) yds/dr, 1.08 (32nd) pts/dr, .117 (31st) TDs/dr, .536 (32nd) punts/dr, .163 (23rd) TOs/dr, .092 (17th) int/dr, .071 (27th) fum/dr, 32.42 (4th) LOS/dr, .558 (32nd) DSR.

    Like AZ, SF’s yards and points per drive decreased from ’08 to ’09, but their TDs/dr remained even. SF’s punts/dr substantially increased, even though their QB managed their offense well with very few ints – despite a decline in their OLs pass-pro, and their RBs did better with fewer fumbles. Still, SF’s drive stats trended down last season, while SEA’s were trending up. It’s SF’s defense that’s been outstanding – ranked 2nd in the NFL last season. They’re especially good at injuring QBs.

    ’09 180 drives, 24.01 (27th) yds/dr, 0.94 (32nd) points/dr, .089 (31st) TDs/dr, .500 (30th) punts/dr, .167 (27th) TOs/dr, .117 (29th) int/dr, .050 (18th) fum/dr, 27.73 (28th) LOS/dr, .612 (26th) DSR.

    ’08 188 drives, 23.51 (28th) yds/dr, 1.20 (31st) points/dr, .101 (30th) TDs/dr, .441 (21st) punts/dr, .165 (26th) TOs/dr, .101 (24th) int/dr, .064 (27th) fum/dr, 27.32 (31st) LOS/dr, .595 (31st) DSR.

    ’07 186 drives, 25.40 (25th) yds/dr, 1.29 (29th) pts/dr, .129 (28th) TDs/dr, .419 (19th) punts/dr, .194 (31st) TOs/dr, .151 (32nd) int/dr, .043 (8th) fum/dr, 28.35 (27th) LOS/dr, .634 (25th) DSR.

    Except for points/dr, Rams offense is trending up – slightly, and their offense is doing better than their defense, which is dead last in drive stats.

  12. Dukeshire says:

    I’m curious how any of those numbers are relevant with the lack of team continuity. Specifically with the Seahawks and Rams.

    Regarding Duckett; I certainly hope they will get one hell of a lot more out of Lendale that T.J. His numbers, IMO, were grossly inflated and should be achieved with an even modestly capable line and FB / RB. A specialty back for those situations is a misuse of a roster spot, again IMO.

  13. jjsnix says:



    That is impressive. I’m not sure what it all means, but it is definitely impressive.

  14. BobbyK says:

    Seattle plane ticket purchased! Gonna be in Seattle for the opener vs. San Fran! I expect a week 1 win and all of a sudden the Niners are going to be looking up at us in the standings and all of that pre-season 49er crowing will go up in dust (at least for a week or two).

  15. Dukeshire says:

    Atta kid! First round’s on me.

  16. SeanCarney says:

    This is where MIke Williams is gonna earn his paychecks next year the red zone and third down. Three wide: Housh right, M.Williams left and Carlson in the slot =matchup hell for the other team

  17. Stevos says:

    I don’t think trends mean much in football when you have the kind of huge changes in roster (esp. on the offensive and defensive lines) like Seattle, 49ers, and AZ have happening. Its a brand-new year.

  18. Stevos says:

    Duke, maybe you missed my point. No saying Lendale White is at all similar to Duckett, he won’t be used the same way and the number won’t be comparable.

    Not that I don’t enjoy reviving the old TJ Duckett controversy, old buddy ;). As you know, Duckett in 2008 gave the Seahawks a Great short-yardage running game – something the team failed to achieve in 2007 or 2009 behind better O lines. The O line Duckett ran behind was the worst ever, but it didn’t matter. He outperformed Weaver, Strong, Forsett, Jones and most everyone in short yardage. Once he was gone, the Seahawks were complete wussies on 3rd-and-1 last year, so don’t tell me “any RB/FB can do that’. Most can’t.

  19. Dukeshire says:

    I agree. I would think in-season trends, over 16 games have merit. Perhaps from one season to the next, assuming the major components remain the same; coaches, schemes, QB, RB, lack of injuries, etc… But with 3 seasons, there is simply too much turnover, even in the most stable organizations, to draw any reasonable conclusions.

  20. BobbyK says:

    Mike Wahle, when healthy, gave that OL a much needed jolt of respectability at his position. I would say a lot of those Duckett 1st downs came over him. I think Duckett had better short yardage blocking than we had in previous or post years. Granted, I do think he was better in short yardage than anyone else… but a combination of Duckett AND Wahle made our short yardage situations better…

    Duke – I sent you an email. I’ll get the 2nd and 3rd rounds!

  21. Dukeshire says:

    Stevos – I don’t really want to revisit the whole Duckett situation but; he out performed Forsett because Little Big Man didn’t even one carry. Strong wasn’t on the team. Weaver was give few chances but his 3rd an short (inside 3 yards) but converted a higher % than Duckett. (I’ll find the exact number and post it. Pressed for time right now) So of the 4 he only out performed Jones. Duckett did what was asked of him, but what he was asked to do should be achieved by “even modestly capable line and FB / RB”, as I said earlier. Simply conjecture here, but I believe Schmitt and Griffith last season could have been as successful, if Knapp were to use them in that way. Converting 3rd and short is critical, but a one dimensional slug is not necessary to convert those, IMO. Anyway, thankfully those days are gone.

  22. Stevos says:

    All good points – the only thing that really matters is that THIS YEAR the whole O line and running game improves! Agreed?

    Bobby and Duke, if you’re going to be here in Seahawks town for the opener, I’d be proud to buy you both a cold one!

  23. klm008 says:

    Looks like Duckett’s best average was between the C & RG, but he made most TDs either to LE and between RG & RT.

  24. bird_spit says:

    If I remember correctly Duckett made most of his YPC during junk time. I think Forsett can move the pile as well as Duckett. That is what is amazing about Forsett. I for one, dont give a rip about Duckett. I thought it was one of the worst FA acquisitions of TRs time. Ok that was an overstatement, considering Branch.

  25. Dukeshire says:

    Stevos – Agreed and you’re on.

    Kim – That’s a really interesting chart. Thanks.

  26. BobbyK says:

    Great chart, but I sometimes get a bit skeptical with those stats. For example, Shaun had a similar average yard per rush over the right side as he did the left side in the magical 2005 season. We all know Walt/Hutch were as good as any left side that season as any side of a line in the history of the NFL and those stats say that Gray/Locklear were about as good as two legitimate Hall of Famers. I don’t buy stats all the time. I know that Mike Wahle did wonders for that line when he was healthy. klm – I do like that info though. Thanks.

    Stevos – sounds good.

  27. I see Brian Cushing is suspended. Some made fun of us for taking Curry over Cushing last year (although you can’t find anyone on draft day ’09 who would have argued it). My first thought of Cushing/steroids is Shawn Merriman. That guy has never been the same since his steroids incident (injury or no injury).

  28. Dukeshire says:

    jjsnix – There’s a lot of optimism right now and good reason for it , IMO. All that will be tempered soon enough however, once the season begins, but they are off to a beautiful start. But you are correct, the 49ers are the “class” of the NFC West, right now. They are solid on both sides of the ball and getting better. On offense they pose some great mismatches with Gore, Davis and Crabtree. Their o line will be improved and they’ve built their D around the game’s best young LB, IMO. But they’ve had a head start on the ‘Hawks. This is year one of a total rebuild in Seattle and these projects take longer than one off season. They still have a long way to go and many holes yet to fill. Personally, I don’t think they should be too concerned with what’s happening in the West. They have to get as good as Carroll and Schneider can make them, not try to match what a division rival is doing. If they set their sights on simply winning the West, that’s all they’ll ever do. Hopefully they are building toward something much bigger in the seasons to come. To address your questions, however –

    1- Yes. If we eliminate the two longest runs of Gore’s career, in week 2 and the 159 yards that go with them, he had a total of 73 yards on 25 carries in two games. He is clearly a big play threat but I find it unreasonable to think he will replicate those two carries on a regular basis. They have a potent running game but it is certainly manageable.

    2- Tentatively. They aren’t going to run it down their throats, even with the upgrades to the o line and RB. The 6th ranked rush D from last season won’t allow that, it’s their bread and butter. However, with those improvements in addition to stronger receivers, Seattle will force the 49ers to respect the pass and get out of the box, opening up running lanes. So to move the ball on the ground against them, they will have to be able to throw it effectively.

    3- Absolutely. Of this I am supremely confident. Better blocking. Better RBs. Better use of personnel. No doubt about it.

    4- Yes. That’s the whole point of the under. Overload the weak side to attack the QBs blind side. In addition, I believe we’ll see far more blitzing with an improved secondary. The fact Thomas can cover and play in space frees up a guy like Wilson to blitz out of the nickle. This isn’t like Mora’s failed 4 man front and hope for the best. This defense is going to be like a bee hive of activity all focused on burying the QB. Upgrades to DE and NT over the next year or two will only improve this.

    5- Can anyone? Those guys are going to get their catches. Can’t be stopped. The key is to not allow them to control the game. There is a reason they are considered great. The most effective way to slow those kinds of receivers down? See #4.

    Hope this helps in some way. I appologize it’s so long winded.

  29. Thanks Duke! I really appreciate the insight.

  30. I’m not sure if this has been mentioned but Pitts began his career at LT. Played a couple years then moved to LG before playing another year at LT. Hamilton began his career with one year at C as Nalen was out. In any event, Unger’s position would seem to be safe as he performed well as a rookie but experience and depth at C and LT… those too would have been gold the past 2 seasons.

    BobK, Duke – my bro is holding a tix for the opener for me. Like to meet you fellas if I can make it and get the group to leave early enough.

  31. Dukeshire says:

    That would be great. I think as the season nears we should set something up for all who want to get together. Either the Saturday night before or maybe arrange a tailgate party or a time to meet at FX or Pyramid or somewhere early Sunday morning for the early games. I’d love to put faces with some of the names from the blog.

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