It’s About The Touches
Expectations are high for the 2013 Seattle Seahawks offense. The team peaked in weeks 14-16, outscoring their opponents a combined 150-30. Even in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, the team showed they belong in the playoffs.
Going into this season, you have a sophomore quarterback who has transformed into the team leader, a running back who had nearly 1600 yards on the ground last year, and the addition of one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game. With all those weapons, what could possibly go wrong?
The question most often asked with the acquisition of Percy Harvin is, will there be enough balls to go around?
Last year, their leading receiver, Sidney Rice, had 50 catches for 748 yards. Golden Tate added another 45 catches for 688 yards while Doug Baldwin (29/366) and TE Zach Miller (25/233) each had minor contributions. When you add in Marshawn Lynch’s 315 carries and 23 receptions, the question really becomes, does the team have the balls to keep everyone happy?
Let’s take a look at where the touches will be going.
The head coach of the Seahawks, Pete Carroll, has repeatedly said that the team would still emphasize the run game in 2013. While they likely won’t lead the league again in rushing attempts, there is no question that Lynch will get 300 plus touches (barring injury, combined rushing/reception).
While the team would love to protect Wilson from the dangers of the read-option, the reality is they understand how effective of a weapon it is when executed by Wilson. Despite the play calling handcuffs in the first half of 2012, Wilson still finished the season with 94 rushing attempts for 489 yards.
If he can continue to make smart decisions and avoid the brutal hits, look for him to hover right around 100 attempts again in 2013.
Rice is going into the third year of a five year deal with the Seahawks. While his yards per reception have remained acceptable (about 15ypr), the reality is the team has never been able to fully utilize his talents.
Rice’s best year in Minnesota, 2009, saw him get 1312 yards, with 15.8ypr and 8 touchdowns. His best year in Seattle, 2012, saw him get 748 yards, with 15.0ypr and 7 touchdowns. The truth is, the offense isn’t designed to have an expensive, top-tier wide receiver on the edge.
So from the team’s perspective the question is, do they really want to continue paying $8.5-$9 million for an underused asset? From Rice’s angle, will he ever be able to cash in on another huge contract with his stats being undervalued because of the system.
As the whispers of the team possibly looking to cut ties with Rice in 2014 grow louder (which inevitably happens as every player nears the final years of a large contract where the big salary dollars are put on the back end), look for there to be more dissension in the ranks as Rice continues to get minimal looks.
Tate is going into the final year of his rookie contract. Coming off a strong 2012 season, he is looking to make as much of an impact as possible in attempt to land a huge deal in the off-season.
The company line is the addition of Harvin will create better match ups for Tate and that the plan is for Tate to get the ball more than he did last season.
At the expense of the run game that they said would still be featured?
At the expense of the big-name acquisition that the team gave up a first round pick for?
Or at the expense of last year’s leading receiver who also happens to be close friends with the aforementioned trade acquisition? I think the team loves Golden Tate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept him over Rice. However, his touches (and stats as an end result), being lessened in the contract year gives the team leverage.
They can then negotiate a better deal, dump Rice in 2014 and have Tate become the main guy on the outside, which would yield more production than his new contract would be valued at. Smart management, even if the execution of it will likely get a little rocky.
Even without the addition of Harvin, there weren’t enough balls around to keep everyone happy in 2013. You simply cannot run the ball as much as the Seahawk’s like to and still keep two wide receivers ‘all-in’ on a system when it starts affecting their own bank accounts.
Now a third wide receiver has been added to the mix… one that happens to be an elite playmaker and everyone expects winning to silence the malcontents? It won’t happen. Seattle fans seem to be ignoring what Minnesota fans have always known, Harvin can be a prima donna on the sidelines (see this video).
Inexcusable behavior… unless of course you believe that Pete Carroll demands more respect in his profession than Leslie Frazier? I don’t.
I will admit that the Seahawk’s are a better team with Harvin, but my point is, when things go wrong… and they will given the unreal expectations for this team, it is unlikely that Harvin will remain the cool head and calming force in the locker room.
They say winning solves everything, but if there are any struggles in 2013, look for the bubble to burst in Seattle. You have an under-used veteran who sees his value diminishing as he looks to cash in on another large contract. You have a wide receiver coming off his rookie deal, also looking to cash in.
The Seahawks, a self-proclaimed run-first team, won’t pay out on large contracts to three wide-receivers. Add to the fact that Seattle hasn’t had a 1000 yard receiver since Bobby Engram in 2007, and it’s obvious there simply won’t be enough balls to keep everyone happy.
Anything less than a Super Bowl will cause discord in the locker room, and with all the parity in the NFL, a Super Bowl should always be the goal, but never the expectation.
Buckle your safety belts and put your trays in the upright position, watching 2013 unfold for the Seahawks will be nothing short of exciting.