Through two weeks of the 2017 season, the Seattle Seahawks have one of the NFL's worst offenses.
Russell Wilson and Co. have scored only 21 points so far -- nine in an opening-week loss to the Packers and 12 in a way-too-close-for-comfort win over the lowly 49ers in Week 2. Only the Texans, Giants, 49ers and Bengals averaged fewer points per game through two weeks. Those four teams, plus the Colts and Jets, are the only teams that averaged fewer total yards per contest through two weeks.
There is no one culprit dragging the Seahawks down. Every aspect of their offense has been terrible. The running game has been bad, the passing game has been worse andthat genuinely seems like it might undermine anything they try to accomplish offensively throughout the entire season.
We might as well start there, because that's from whence most of the issues stem. Russell Wilson might rank 29th among 33 qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage, 30th in yards per attempt, 25th in passer rating and 23rd in QBR, for example, but so much of that poor performance owes itself to the fact that he has been under pressure on an incredible 43.6 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus. That means he's been sacked, hit or hurried by an opposing defender nearly 10 percent more often than a league-average quarterback. And it's not like Seattle has been overwhelmed with opposing blitzers. Wilson has been blitzed on 28.2 percent of his dropbacks, comparable to the league average of 28.9 percent.
The line has had similar issues in the run game. Seahawks ball-carriers have been stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on an unthinkable 35 percent of their carries this season, a rate that is the highest in all of football. As a result, the Seahawks are averaging only 3.33 Adjusted Line Yards per carry, according to Football Outsiders, which assigns credit in the run game to the offensive line based on a percentage of yards gained. That figure ranks 25th in the NFL.
Given the personnel on hand, it doesn't seem all that likely that the unit will take the leap to competence anytime soon. Luckily for the Seahawks, then, the stoppable force is about to run up against what appears to be a very movable object: the Tennessee Titans defense. Tennessee has given up only 42 points in its two games, but the Titans rank 23rd in yards allowed per game, 25th in opponents' first downs and 22nd in defensive DVOA. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' efficiency metric that adjusts performance for down, distance and opponent.)
Much as the Seahawks' offensive issues have stemmed from problems up front, so too have the Titans' defense faults. Despite blitzing at the third-highest rate in the NFL (43.2 percent of opponent dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus), the Titans have gotten pressure on the opposing quarterback only 23 percent of the time, the third-worst rate in the league. They have strong players in their front seven like Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, but they're not getting to the passer with any consistency just yet. It's no coincidence the Titans rank 21st in pass defense DVOA. Every quarterback in the league throws better from a clean pocket than a muddied one.
Titans corner Logan Ryan hasn't been thrown at often through two weeks, but quarterbacks have found great success when actually testing him: they're 4 of 5 for 58 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 154.6. All five of those targets have come with Ryan working out of the slot, where Wilson's favorite receiver, Doug Baldwin, runs a lot of his routes (42 of 72 this season).
Titans rookie corner Adoree' Jackson has been tested more often than Ryan, but quarterbacks have been nearly as effective throwing his way. They're 8 of 13 for 89 yards and a score, good for a 107.5 passer rating. Quarterbacks are also a combined 10 of 18 for 136 yards throwing at safeties Kevin Byard, Johnathan Cyprien and Da'Norris Searcy, so there should be ample opportunity for the Seahawks to make plays in the middle of the field as well. It doesn't seem all that likely Jimmy Graham is going to play Sunday, but if he does, maybe he can make something happen. If not, Luke Willson should have some opportunities.
And it's not just the pass the Titans have struggled against. They've allowed 4.49 Adjusted Line Yards per carry, 28th in the NFL, and have stopped only 13 percent of their opponents' rush attempts in a backfield, a figure that ranks 29th in the league. Again, it's no surprise that they rank 21st in rush defense DVOA.
The Seahawks looked like they may have finally found something that works on the ground in the second half of their victory over the 49ers. Chris Carson carried 14 times for 76 yards after halftime, gaining more yards in that second half than all Seahawks backs had gained on the ground through the first six quarters of the season combined.
Some of that was the Seahawks devoting more bodies on the field to blocking inside for the running game because they were trying to close it out, but some of it was the fact that they turned to more read-option action with Wilson in the second half. The run game taking off the more they involve Wilson directly in the action is not a new occurrence for Seattle, but something that's been a consistent theme going back several years. The threat of him taking off around the edge is always there, but defenses are obviously more keyed into it when he actually makes that pull read and takes off a few times. It has to be an actionable threat, not just a theoretical one, for it to actually work against the defense.
All that said, it should be acknowledged that there is, of course, an equal if not greater chance that playing against the Seattle offensive line will be exactly what the Titans defense needs to springboard itself to a new level of play. But in a game where each team's strength clearly lies on the opposite side of the ball, whoever wins the battle of relative weaknesses has a really good chance to come away the winner.