John Carlson & Cameron Morrah

With Darrell Bevell taking the reins of the Seahawks offense this year, many questions come to mind:  What type of offense will the Seahawks run?  Will it be a Holmgren-esque West Coast Offense, emphasizing vertical threat TEs/WRs and a smash-mouth rushing attack?  Will it be a hybrid version of what we saw this year and a West Coast offense?  Will we see a Pete Carroll signature USC style offense, emphasizing the run and the big play?

It really remains to be seen.  We won’t really know until the season starts. One thing is sure; they will concentrate on the run more.  However, I think they will throw the ball deep a lot more than they did this year as well. At least, I hope they do.  In games QB’d by Hasselbeck this year, they completed 43 passes of more than 20 yards.  That’s out of 266 total completions, for only about 16%.  Compare that to 79 of 357, or 22% for Philip Rivers, and 64 out of 312, for 20% by Aaron Rodgers (stats courtesy of rotowire.com).  I know it’s unfair to compare Hass to those guys, but it just shows that Hasselbeck wasn’t asked to chuck it deep very often.  Or if he was, he checked down too much.  Pete Carroll is known for a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to big plays and going for it.  I hope they cut Hass (or whoever they have at QB) loose this season to throw it downfield.

I’m no expert, but when you rely heavily on the short out-routes and intermediate throws, teams don’t fear the deep routes, and instead stack the box with their safeties and the rushing game will suffer. Not only is that type of offense pretty ineffective most of the time, it is really freaking boring to watch as a fan.  It seems to me that the majority of the Hawks’ deep passes came on pump and go routes; they sold the short route and the corners/safeties bit. It worked at times, but regularly it wasn’t open and Hass would check down. You can’t really rely on those pump fakes to work very often; teams will adapt and learn from game tape, and I think that is a major reason the Hawks’ deep passing game struggled.  (How many times can we dump it down for 3 yards on a 3rd and 10 and expect to be successful?)

 

If Bevell runs anything similar to what he ran in Minnesota, that figures to change.  WRs will have more chances to run deep routes, and the TE position becomes more of a focal point.  In 2008, TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught 42 passes for 596 yards and 7 TDs.  In 2009, he caught 56 passes for 566 yards and 11 TDs. In ’10, even with the Vikings’ pass offense sputtering, he ended up catching 47 balls for 530 yards and 2 TDs.  That’s consistent production from the TE position that figures (hopefully) to carry over to the Hawks’ tight ends this year.

When an Offensive Coordinator comes to a new team, comparisons are inevitably going to be made as to which players will correspond to major producers from the Coordinator’s previous post.  Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe were the major players in Bevell’s system in Minnesota.  Who figures to be the Seahawks versions of these guys?  Well, the obvious answer would be to sign Sidney Rice to be Sidney Rice.  If not, it will probably be a combination of Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu as Rice and Berrian.  Golden Tate and Brandon Stokley could be the Harvin-esque player in the system.  And at TE, Jon Carlson is the obvious choice to be Shiancoe. 

Maybe, though, it’s not that simple:  could Cameron Morrah give Carlson a run for his money at that position? Carlson has been the incumbent starting TE each season since ’08, but his production has been inconsistent.  I believe that he’s a very tough and competent TE, but he struggled this year with drops and never really got on the same page with Matt Hasselbeck. In the Pete Carroll system of constant competition, his future as the starting TE may not be 100% safe.

Cameron Morrah got some playing time with injuries to Chris Baker and Anthony McCoy (and Mike Williams), and for the most part made the most of it.  He got to display some of his athleticism and made some good catches in the passing game, displaying adequate route running and decent hands (I’m just going to ignore that terrible drop in the Bears playoff game).  He’s 6’4 240, and fast.  He was clocked in the 4.4/4.5 range at the Combine two years ago. Last seaon, he played a lot in two TE sets with Carlson or Baker, sometimes motioning out to the wing and playing a receiver of sorts in the place of an injured Mike Williams.  I’ll break down some game-tape:

Week 12 vs. KC
I think Week 12 was basically the first week where they started to work Morrah into the rotation at TE.  He showed flashes, but didn’t get any catches. I’ll detail:

(7:27 3rd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep right to C.Morrah (J.Arenas). (1st and 10)
4 WR set, 1 TE.  Morrah lined up sideline R, off the line.  Hass sees the protection and signals an audible (10 bucks says it was a quick-hitting swing pass originally) by tapping his helmet.  Ball is snapped and Morrah runs a sideline fly route.  Hass throws it up to him deep, Morrah looks back just at the right time, leaps over and across his defender and… drops the pass.  Overall, the degree of difficulty was high, and Morrah put himself in a good position to make the catch, but couldn’t come down with it.

(14:08 4th Q) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep left to C.Morrah. (2nd and 4)
2WR, 1RB, 2TE set.  Both tight ends on the line to the left to start.  Hass signals and Morrah motions to the wing L.  Hass drops back, looks off the safeties to the right, and throws a dime to Morrah who’s streaking down the left sideline.  Hass’ pass is on the money: Morrah does a good job creating space for himself to make the catch, and while falling away, makes a great catch but is ruled out of bounds (he didn’t gain possession before he was out of bounds).  Bummer.  Morrah displays good deep ball presence on this play again, but again, just comes up short on making the catch.  These plays might have shown the coaching staff something, as in the coming weeks they use him more, read below:

Week 13 vs. CAR

(8:00 2nd Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to C.Morrah to SEA 25 for 7 yards (J.Williams). (1st and 10)
3WR, 1 RB, 1 TE Set.  Morrah is a WR in this set, and lined up in the slot R, off the line.  Ball is hiked; Morrah shuffles to his right and Hass hits him for a quick swing pass.  Morrah takes the pass and, using a Deon Butler block, surprisingly swiftly rumbles downfield for 7 yards.  Not sure what the reason was that they had Morrah in the slot here, but I’m guessing it was because Mike Williams missed this game.  Either way, Morrah doesn’t hurt himself by being versatile; the Hawks did have Baker in at TE so Cameron’s athleticism gets him some PT this time, and he takes advantage.

(1:59 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass deep middle to C.Morrah to CAR 6 for 36 yards (C.Godfrey, S.Martin). (1st and 10)
A 5 WR, no back set.  Forsett lined up off the line far left, Butler off the line, Morrah on the line off tackle about a yard.  Stokley and Tate on the R.  Morrah runs a soft post route and Hass drops it into a perfect spot between three defenders 30 yards downfield.  Morrah makes a difficult over the shoulder catch and is knocked down at the 6.  This is a really a quick hitting play; Hass only holds the ball for 2 or 3 seconds tops before letting it rip.  Morrah beats the LB trying to guard him and the safeties were definitely not ready for Morrah to be there that quickly.  A good display of his speed on this play.

(13:30 3rd Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to C.Morrah to SEA 47 for 26 yards (C.Godfrey). (2nd and 10)
Hawks in an offset I-formation, with Robinson offset R, Lynch in the backfield.  Morrah is the TE right.  On the snap he runs a sort of flag route to the left where he’s bumped off his route a bit by the strong safety marking him, runs upfield for about 10 yards, then breaks off at a 45 degree angle towards the sideline.  Hass hits him just short of his stride and thus the man he had badly beaten catches him from behind.  Another great example of his speed, beating (almost surprising) the safety off the line.

(12:59) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short right to C.Morrah. (1st and 10)
Same play as the first one I described; Morrah in the slot R, off the line.  Hass throws the quick hitter and Morrah tries to start running before he’s got the ball, and misses the pass. A young player type of mistake, but one that a lot of players make.

Week 15 vs. ATL

(12:47 1st Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to C.Morrah to SEA 47 for 5 yards (T.DeCoud). (1st and 10)
Same quick hitting play I’ve described twice.  This play/package is obviously one of the plays they’ve designed for him.  Morrah is lined up slot L, off the line.  Hass throws behind him a bit with the pass, he catches, does a spin move and he hustles downfield for 5.

(10:52 1st Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to C.Morrah to ATL 31 for 9 yards (T.DeCoud). (2nd and 7)
Yep, you guessed it.  Swing pass left.  The D-end sniffs it out (maybe since they did it on the same drive a few plays ago), and tips Hass’ pass.  Morrah, for his part, does a good job in watching the tipped pass in and somehow pinning it against his body.  He does his spin upfield, comes off a good block by BMW, and goes airborne as a safety comes down and hits him.  He flies out of bounds but far enough for a first down.

Week 16 at TB

(10:52 1st Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to C.Morrah to ATL 31 for 9 yards (T.DeCoud). (1st and 10)
Same play basically, except instead of holding his spot on the line, Morrah runs forward about two yards then comes back to the line.  Hass hits him and he chooses to run towards the middle of the field away from defenders.  He gets hit after about 6 yards but carries his would-be tacklers about 3 more yards to almost get a first down.  I’m starting to get annoyed that this is the only way they got him involved.

Week 17 vs. STL

(6:56) (Shotgun) C.Whitehurst pass short left to C.Morrah to SL 40 for 6 yards (C.Dahl).  (2nd and 13)]
3WR, 1TE, 1RB set, Whitehurst in the gun.  Morrah is set out far left; Jon Carlson is in the slot left, Baker at TE.  Mike Williams is slot R, and Marshawn Lynch is wide R.  (This is where a pass catching FB like Marcel Reece would shine: who thinks they’re going throw it up deep to Lynch? he runs a deep sideline route and would never catch a deep bomb, but that’s neither here nor there) Morrah runs about a 10-yard curl route and Whitehurst hits him.  Morrah fights for yardage and picks up about a yard after the catch.

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Carlson has been a good TE in the short to intermediate route style of play (4 of his 31 receptions in ’10 went for 20 yards or more).  He’s runs tight routes, has good football I.Q., and has had reliable hands (up until this year, where he inexplicably developed the dropsies).  Can he be an effective deep ball, deadly red zone type receiver in the mold of Shiancoe?  I honestly don’t know.  It hasn’t really been his role or forte thus far.  Morrah is an interesting prospect because of his size, speed, ability to run vertical routes, and could be a better fit for the Bevell style of offense.  Is he a better total package TE than John Carlson? I doubt it, but sometimes the type of player you are is more of a factor in where and when you play.

With Chris Baker coming off a major hip injury and in the last year of his contract, his role will be in question.  Newcomer Anthony McCoy has potential through the roof, but is a question mark because of his age and injury history.  As the off-season goes on the TE situation will be one of the most interesting to me; history has told us it will be a position of paramount importance to the success of a Bevell run offense.  Who will step up?  

Read more of my rambling, incoherent musings at The Seehock.

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