710ESPN Seattle audio: Time to cut loose?

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
2:55
PM ET
Brock Huard, John Clayton, Danny O'Neil and I agreed on this during our 710ESPN Seattle conversation Tuesday: Pete Carroll wants a strong running presence in the Seahawks' offense, even if quarterback Russell Wilson can handle a more pass-oriented approach.

Huard asked each of us whether we thought Seattle would pass more frequently in 2013 as a matter of philosophy. I thought the team probably would to some degree, for two primary reasons. One, Percy Harvin's addition could lead to more three-receiver personnel groupings, with Harvin catching shorter passes on plays when the team might have otherwise run the ball. Two, the team should be eager to let Wilson carry more of the offense than he did early last season.

Game situations dictate play selection, of course, so the final numbers could need some interpretation. There were times last season when Seattle did run its offense through Wilson and the passing game. It happened by design at Detroit and through a combination of design and necessity at Chicago. Wilson was outstanding both times. He carried the offense in other games as well, including when Seattle was mounting a comeback at Atlanta in the playoffs.

The charts attempt to provide some perspective on play selection. The first one shows percentage of plays resulting in pass attempts for NFC West teams in each of the past three seasons, and cumulatively. The second chart shows where these percentages ranked. In both charts, I limited plays to those when the score was tied and more than two minutes remained in a half. The idea was to filter out game situations that compel teams to pass. Eliminating third-down plays was another consideration, but when I did that, the rankings hardly changed.

In general, I expect the St. Louis Rams to become more pass-oriented for reasons relating to personnel. Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers will presumably continue to emphasize their ground games at a higher than average rate, in part because they can and also because their coaching staffs want to play that way. The Cardinals have passed a bit more frequently than average in tie games and outside two-minute situations; I see no reason to forecast a dramatic change one way or another under new coach Bruce Arians.

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