The Seattle Seahawks have struggled over the past few seasons to put together a competent offensive line. This season, the Seahawks again have one of the league’s worst pass-blocking units (28th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate) and are just average run blocking (16th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards).
While some teams would scheme around the quality of the offensive line, the Seahawks have completed leaned into it by adding more linemen on the field, adding George Fant as an extra tackle. Because of that, no team has more plays with six offensive linemen than Seattle this season. Against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks leaned hard into rushing with six offensive linemen — 32 of their 43 rushing attempts.
In that Monday night game, the Seahawks had some success on the ground with these plays averaging 0.02 Expected Points Added per attempt with a positive play rate (percentage of plays with positive EPA) of 50%, per Sports Info Solutions charting. But Seattle was better on runs with only five offensive linemen against the Vikings — 0.56 EPA per attempt with a positive play rate of 56%.
When looking at the season as a whole, the Seahawks haven’t found a lot of success rushing with the 6OL package.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have more rushing attempts (125) than the Seahawks (124) with six offensive linemen on the field. On those 124 attempts, Seattle has minus-15.7 EPA (minus-0.13 EPA/att) with a positive play rate of 39%. On 250 rushing attempts with five offensive linemen on the field, the Seahawks have minus-8.9 EPA (minus-0.04 EPA/att) with a positive play rate of 44%.
The Seahawks aren’t an efficient rushing team, despite having the league’s fourth-highest rushing rate on offense, yet this season they’ve tried especially hard to create the inefficiencies themselves.
You might think these 6OL rushing attempts would come in short-yardage or goal-line situations. Even though studies have proven spreading the defense out to run is the most efficient option, condensing in a heavy formation would at least mesh with an old school mentality of a coach like Pete Carroll. That hasn’t really been the case, either.
Just 21 of the 124 attempts have been inside the red zone and 13 others have been on 3rd or 4th and short. (For the record, only one was on fourth because this is still Pete Carroll we’re talking about.) Meanwhile, 61 of these runs — just under half (49%) — have come on a 1st and 10. On those first down runs, Seattle has tallied minus-5.3 EPA (minus-0.09 EPA per attempt) and a positive play rate of 32%.
Of course, the problem with the Seahawks is how they’re not all that efficient whenever they run, however, when they’re using six offensive linemen, they’re mostly making up for not being able to use 12 personnel because of injuries at tight end. However, running from 12 personnel has been Seattle’s most efficient path on the ground this season, though it’s the Seahawks’ third-most used run package by far.
Passing from the 6OL package has been boom or bust for the Seahawks. No team has come close to Seattle’s 42 drop backs with six offensive linemen on the field. The New Orleans Saints are second with 28. Russell Wilson has averaged 11.9 yards per attempt with the extra offensive lineman, but also has taken a sack on eight of those 42 drop backs, a 19% sack rate.
31 of Wilson’s 42 drop backs with 6OL have used play-action (73.8%) and on those throws, he’s averaged 13 yards per attempt with three touchdowns but also seven of his eight sacks have come on those plays. He’s taken almost as many sacks on play-action passes with 6OL than he has on 84 play-action drop backs with 5OL (nine).
Even with the success of some big plays on those passing attempts, Seattle’s EPA throwing with 6OL (11.1) has not yet eclipsed the negative EPA from rushing (minus-15.7). Give the Seahawks credit for trying to find a way to help the offensive line out, but adding an extra lineman probably isn’t the best option. At least, the Seahawks could cut down on the number of rushes with the extra lineman and still get the benefit of passing from the heavier package. But if Seattle is going to have success on the ground throughout the remainder of the season and into the playoffs, they might have to figure out another solution to getting a better advantage on the ground.