The Sean McVay influence is now in Seattle with Shane Waldon. Waldron had been with McVay in Los Angeles since 2017 where he was a tight ends coach and eventually the passing game coordinator. Seattle’s game against the Colts was his first time calling plays. He did an exceptional job of layering, creating counters, and bringing a lot of the McVay influences up North. While it wasn’t perfect – there were some issues in the pure drop back game and in some of the change-of-pace run schemes – he did use motion, had some clearly defined roles for his players, and created easy opportunities to let Russell Wilson distribute the ball.
By now, most people know what the McVay and Shanahan systems are all about. Create horizontal flow and misdirection. Then create counters off of those looks. The first two steps in that are the outside zone and the boot action off of the outside zone. In outside zone, the backside defensive end is usually left unblocked, so you have to find ways to control that edge either with boot action around them or counters going the other way.
On their first drive, that’s what the Seahawks did against the Colts. They run a boot action with a Sail concept off of an outside zone fake. It’s the most bread and butter play in the system. The Colts, who are in Cover 2, do a good job of covering it, but you can see early how much of an impact the outside zone has on the linebackers. They flow hard to the fake and have to recover to get into position.
A few plays later, the Seahawks run outside zone for a gain of five yards. The weakside linebacker is much slower to fill now and isn’t involved in the play. The outside zone and play-action want to force linebackers to think and become passive. That’s exactly what was happening at the start of the game.
Jet Sweep Action
In that same opening drive, Shane Waldron threw in the next layer. The jet sweep motion. This again helps create edge control and slow pursuit the other direction. It produces horizontal stress on the defense that freezes the backside of the Colts defense until well after the handoff.
Shane Waldron did a great job of keeping the defense off balance – especially early in the game. Off of the outside zone, boot, and jet sweep, he now uses those same looks to run a tight end screen. He combines all three of those tenets and the linebackers for the Colts immediately bail to look for the Sail concept that they’ve been seeing in the first few drives. That creates space underneath them for linemen to release on the screen.
Sail Concept Clicks
Sometimes, you’ve got to run your counters to set up your bread and butter. Finally, after a couple drives of showing the jet, boot, and screen, the base Sail concept has started to open up for the Seahawks. The run game has been effective enough to start to bring the Colts out of their two-high shell and Seattle catches them in a late rotation here with their shift before the snap. That leaves one defender to cover the intermediate and short route. As Wilson comes out of the boot action, he identifies that the corner is flat footed and is starting to edge down to the flats. That leaves the deep out open behind him for a chunk gain.
The Seahawks and Waldron were a step ahead of the Colt defense all day. After using their Sail concept to the opposite direction of the run fake, Seattle now throws the Sail concept to the same side as the run fake. The Colts have been conditioned off of the outside zone fake to turn and locate crossers going the other way. You can see every linebacker feed up to the run fake and then bail to the opposite side of the run fake thinking that routes are going to be coming at them from the other side of the field. That lets the running back leverage them the other way for an easy throw and catch for a 17-yard gain.
Jet Sweep Give
Now that Shane Waldron has shown the jet sweep fake a number of times, he puts D’Wayne Eskridge into the game and actually hands off on the sweep. The Colts are so used to seeing it, that they have stopped respecting its threat to the outside. The linebackers are pulled opposite the direction of the sweep because of the run fake. That helps get the edge and a 10-yard gain for Eskridge on the perimeter.
Issues on Change-of-Pace
When at least one or two pieces of the puzzle are working within the system, it’s hard to stop. There’s immense flow conflict and it puts second-level defenders in a bind. However, when Shane Waldron went outside the system and implemented change-of-pace plays like true drop backs, some duo or shotgun runs, the success rate was highly variable. Seattle got a lot of their points and big pass plays that way, but they also got more of their negative and low yardage plays on those looks.
The next step is tying those two philosophies together and blending in what Wilson is comfortable with. Once that’s done, they’ll have an offense that’s built to sustain. One that can run the ball to Pete Carroll’s delight and one that can let Wilson work outside the pocket and hide an offensive line in flux. With the balance and layering of plays that Waldron showed in week 1, the Seahawks are going to be tough to stop in a division and conference where they were starting to feel like the forgotten team.