Seahawks Insider Blog

Bubble burst: Getting Percy Harvin out of neutral

Whoa: Percy Harvin is catching the ball, on average, 1.1 yards past the line of scrimmage according to STATS, Inc. That's pretty much a running back in a wide receiver's alignment.

It's been bubble-screen mania through five games with No. 11.

Will that change Sunday in St. Louis? Will Harvin catch a pass at least 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage?

Play caller Darrell Bevell says that depends on that dead horse we've been beating here all week: whether the Seahawks can get a consistent running game with Marshawn Lynch.

“It’s overall execution. There’s not one thing," Bevell said. "I can do a better job. I can get us into some better situations. We can run the ball more, like everyone’s asking. I mean all those things. But overall execution is what it comes down to.”

Harvin's one deep ball this season, for 40 yards and a would-be touchdown on a post pattern two games ago at Washington, got negated by James Carpenter’s personal foul. Part of the reason Harvin isn’t running long routes is Wilson has been scrambling for his well-being almost as soon as he has dropped to throw on most pass plays Bevell has called this season. And that’s with receivers running quick routes of 10 yards or fewer.

The Seahawks have 93 pass completions this season. Only 13 of those, 14 percent, have gone for at least 20 yards. Only 0-5 Oakland and 2-3 Miami have fewer such downfield connections.

“Well, we know he’s got speed and we know he can go down the field with speed. He’s got great quickness, so we can use him in that,” Bevell said of Harvin. “The test always is, is to make sure some of those guys get the ball in their hands.”

The play caller then offered a glimpse into his fear of only lining Harvin out wide and repeatedly sending him on deep routes: Teams could then shadow Harvin with a cornerback and a safety to erase him from the play. So Bevell has been moving Harvin around — in motion, behind blockers on screens, even as the tailback — to make it harder for two defenders to track him.

“Sometimes you put a guy just at wide out … I’m watching the Rams play Dallas (last month) and there’s two guys standing over the top of Dez (Bryant). They’re just going to take him away,” Bevell said.

“Do we want Percy to get the ball in every way we possibly can? I think it’s obvious, because we’re trying to do things to get him the ball. We’ve run him down the field on the play for the touchdown it got called back. But the same thing with a lot of other guys; with Doug (Baldwin), Jermaine (Kearse), and Luke (Willson) …”

The answer, Bevell says, is to extend more drives with more third-down conversions; Seattle is making good on just 38 percent of its third downs, 23rd-best in the 32-team NFL. Longer drives would allow the Seahawks to establish the run better to set up downfield, play-action throws. Those are the kind with which Wilson excelled last season and last month in the wins over Green Bay and Denver.

You can read the rest of what Harvin and Bevell say on this here, or in today's News Tribune.

Here's the graphic I filed last night with my story:

Percy Harvin’s average yards per catch this season has fallen to among the NFL’s lowest

Game 1 vs Green Bay                8.4 yds/catch

Games 2-5 vs SD, DEN, DAL    4.9 yds/catch

SEASON TOTAL                       6.0* yds/catch

*Tied for 153rd among all 161 NFL WRs that have caught at least 1 pass

CAREER AVERAGE                 11.4 yds/catch

--The injuries are piling up a bit. The Seahawks could be missing four starters on Sunday against the Rams: Max Unger (sprained foot), Bobby Wagner (turf toe -- and he doesn't look like he's in any shape to return for many weeks) and Zach Miller (ankle surgery) are definitely out. Byron Maxwell has yet to practice this week because of a calf strain.

And now Jordan Hill (ankle) and Cassius Marsh (foot) are hurt. They have been part of the seven-man defensive line rotation the Seahawks have used as early as the first drives of games recently. That rotation is currently down to five healthy guys, and that's if we assume Brandon Mebane comes back to practice today after resting yesterday.

We'll get the Seahawks' injury report following the early-afternoon practice today in Renton.

--Here's what Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson had to say yesterday, with Thomas saying there are some "character issues" such as a lack of mental toughness on this team that is different than last year's champs:

S Earl Thomas

October 16, 2014

(On if this is one of those games where you can’t wait to get back out and play because of what happened on Sunday) Yeah, it definitely is. When you take a loss like that and you know you had a chance to win the game, you definitely want to play again. I think everybody’s focused. I think sometimes adverse situations bring you closer as a group. It makes you understand what you need to get better at because sometimes when you win you don’t look at the little bitty details that you really need to.

(On what those little bitty details are that you are seeing when you look at stuff that isn’t feeling quite right) To be totally honest, the two games that we lost, to me, as far as the defense’s side of the ball, it’s just character issues when it gets tough like that. I think we’re a new team; we’re not like last year. We have to understand who we are when situations get tough and not stray from the men we say we are.

(On how he instills that outlook onto his teammates) Leading by example. I was excited to get to practice after that tough loss to show the big picture, that it’s not over. I’m excited about learning about what I need to get better at. Sometimes those times when you lose, you’re closer to the final product than you think and when you lose like that it opens your eyes. To be like, ‘man, if I pressure myself and challenge myself’ because I’d rather be aggressive and go down, if somebody beat me if I’m being aggressive because I can learn from that and I have no regrets afterwards.

(On if he sensed any of these character issues last year at all) Well it’s not even that, I have a different perspective on things now. It’s the same sense last year when we had a little stretch where everybody said we couldn’t stop the run because teams were being successful. The thing with us is we have to understand that we’re very aggressive when we’re attacking the football as far as our pursuit and when we play patient running backs like DeMarco Murray and this guy, Zac Stacy, we’re playing this week, we always struggle a little bit but we have to understand who we are.

(On if he’s seen the response in practice this week that he hoped to see) You know I’ve been in my bubble and I’ve been in a good zone. I’ve just been focusing on only my role, trying to lead the best possible way and encourage guys.

(On with new guys in at cornerback because of injuries, if he has to do anything to get them ready to play) Yeah, it just makes me a better communicator, just makes me a better player and also we trust everybody that we tried out there. We prepare so well here and that’s what we bank on. We bank on every rep that we do in practice and we feel that we have the confidence. We have the right to be confident just in the way that we prepare for games. We’re not going to miss a beat. We’re going to be okay.

(On Doug Baldwin saying that the team isn’t as good as they think they are and if he agrees with that) Well I don’t agree with that. I think I’m good and I’m going to stay thinking I’m good. The only thing about it is, if I was to take what Doug said, I think if you don’t come out there with the right mentality then you can get your butt whooped. Maybe we took home field advantage for granted. When you play at home, ‘okay, we’re going to get this win’, you know but I always think we’re going to win, whether we’re on the road or whether we’re here.

(On his impression of Tharold Simon when he’s had a chance to play with him) He has a chance to be really, really, really good. He has a chance to come in and start I think. In my eyes, he’s that type of player. He’s very long. He understands football. He fits right in with Sherm [Richard Sherman]. It’s harder to fit those tight passes because in the NFL, this is a game of inches and when you have big, tall defenders like that that are aggressive, just like Brandon Browner, he’s just like Brandon Browner so we will see.

(On if it’s just about staying patient with the cutback running) Yeah, patience. In this scheme, everything is tied on a string. The games that we struggled, it always looks like everybody is trying to make somebody else right. But that’s when that trust comes in. Even us in the secondary, in a goal line situation, sometimes we’re not trusting each other and that’s why touchdowns are happening. If we’re not tied on a string, if it doesn’t look like that triangle offense, as far as, I’m the cornerstone and we’ve got Sherm [Richard Sherman] and whoever we’ve tried out there on this other side, we’ve all got to be tied on a string, if not, we’re struggling.

(On when it doesn’t look like that triangle offense and how does that happen) Understanding your job but what needs to be done on that certain play. Reading your keys and reacting, not guessing, seeing it happen and react.

QB Russell Wilson

October 16, 2014

(On the biggest thing he takes from last week’s performance) I think just moving on—just moving forward to the next opportunity. We have a tough game coming up this week against the St. Louis Rams and they have a fiery defense that makes a lot of plays. So we’ll have to win our one on one matchups, I’m going to have to complete some throws there, and make something happen. So that’s what it really comes down too; just playing better as a collective group, which I know we will. I know that we’ll make sure our minds and bodies are ready to go and we’re excited about the opportunity.

(On how much can he avoid being sacked by St. Louis) Well when you look at their defense,  they have first round picks everywhere pretty much; they make a lot of plays. Obviously Robert Quinn is a guy that, I believe, led the league in sacks last year—or definitely was up there first or second. I know they haven’t gotten as many sacks this year, but they’re right by the quarterback every time. So we’re going to have to do a great job of protecting and getting the ball out on time and finding guys down field and just being tough; we have to make plays and we have to battle the whole game. It’s going to be a battle for the whole entire the game through four quarters.

(On if the offense has found the best way to use Percy Harvin) We’re always trying to figure out ways to utilize guys. Obviously, Percy Harvin is a guy that’s so electric and makes so many different plays for us so we’re excited about that—we haven’t really hit our groove quite yet; we have a few games, and a few games we haven’t. It’s just playing one game at a time and finding ways to make plays and we’re going to do that.

(On how close the offense is from where it should be) I think we’ve kind of prevented ourselves from being where we could be—we have a great talent, we have the right players, we have the right coaching staff. You think about the one game that we lost in San Diego that was a tough game against a very good football team; they’re playing really well right now. It came down to the last minute and we only had thirty-six plays—so that eliminates a lot of explosive plays for us. Then, think about this past game, we just didn’t make the plays and that’s on us. So I think more than anything else, we have to continue to just play in the moment and not worry about what’s happened: good, bad, or indifferent—just one play at a time.

(On communication from the offensive line being better this week) Well [Steve] Schilling did a real good job of being able to step in and it wasn’t an easy game to just step in and he did a great job of that. I’m excited about this week to have him out there again and he’ll do a great job for us. He’s a great football player; can really move extremely well and makes great decisions.

(On Justin Britt) Well Britt’s one of those guys -- to have J.R. Sweezy right next to him -- that’s a big thing. J.R is a guy that’s going to work his tail off every day, every morning, and every night. So to have a leadership role playing left guard right next to him, that’s a great thing for Justin Britt—plus Justin is a guy that’s so dedicated to his craft and so dedicated to protecting the quarterback and making plays and being big time for us. He’s done a great job and he keeps improving from week to week.

(On the defense dictating how fast he gets the ball out) I think we dictate the tempo—we have to protect, obviously. When I say get the ball out on time—sometimes against a team like this, it’s a little tougher to move around just because they’re so fast and quick and they can get to the quarterback and they’re so quick and they’re right there all the time. So you have to kind of really just be on time and you can’t be late. I’m excited about that opportunity.

(On Doug Baldwin getting fired up on the sideline) Well Doug Baldwin wasn’t yelling at me, more than anything, he’s a fiery guy—that’s why we call him angry Doug Baldwin. He’s just a guy that’s just so passionate about the game and I am too—I kind of hold it in a little bit more or whatever but he just wanted us to win ultimately and he was just telling me and telling everybody through me basically, ‘let’s go.’ I love that about him—that’s what makes him Doug; that’s what makes him so special on game day, throughout the week, and he’s going to have a great career because of that fiery nature that he has.

(On how he took that message from Doug) Well I think, obviously Doug and I have a great relationship. We’re really close and just talking about how we can be better, what can we do, whatever it takes; that type of mentality and that’s where we are—we believe that we’ll do whatever it takes whether it’s study extra, if it’s throw some extra footballs or whatever. We’re fine though, we just had one bad game. When you really think about it, everybody was talking about us as the best team in football before that last game so we just had a bad game and it’s going to happen every once and a while—hopefully never again, but our goal is to just play one game at a time and to have a championship week this week.

(On moving forward) Well you think about the three plays that we had against the Redskins, which I can’t even remember all those plays, but you think about the plays that we did have, we made some big time plays and they got called back. So it’s really, we have to be organized—especially on the road; going to a tough place like St. Louis where we have to play great football. We have to be on time, we have to be on schedule, we can’t get penalties, and that’s what kind of happens to us in the Redskins game. So obviously, the goal is to win the game though, I don’t care how we win it. I don’t care if we throw for four hundred/ five hundred yards, or if we run for five hundred yards, or if we block six punts—it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it comes down to us winning that game.

(On why he was off throwing the ball) I was just off by little bit—an inch there or an inch there. I’m not worried about it; I trust my fundamentals, I trust in my accuracy and what I can do. I’ve been able to do that before. I’m going to get back to it. I can’t wait for another opportunity to play the game; that’s what I’m grateful for.

(On would he like to get Percy Harvin the ball down field) Yes, we definitely want to get the ball down the field to Percy and to the rest of the guys as well. In terms of Percy though, he’s obviously great at the quick game and making things happen. As you guys saw against the Redskins, he was able to catch that little screen and take it to the house or take the sweep to the house—then you also saw the deep ball that he caught for the touchdown. So all those things, he can do and the rest of our guys can do as well. So we have no limit—this isn’t a thing where our mindset is that we have a limit on us. I truly believe that we have all of the talent in the world and we’re going to take care of it.