Closer look at Seattle's personnel use

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks have become more of a two tight end team in recent weeks, a trend that continued during a 13-3 victory over the Jets in Week 16. We are seeing this primarily through increased use of their "Tiger" personnel group featuring one back and two wide receivers.

The timing seems to coincide with Will Heller's return from a knee injury several weeks ago. A few things I noticed about this group in charting Seattle's games against the Cowboys, Patriots and Jets (I have not gotten to the game against the Rams yet):

  • Seattle ran the ball 60 percent of the time (21 of 35 plays) from this group.

  • Seattle used this group primarily on first or second down (31 of 35 plays, or 88.5 percent).

  • Seattle used this group 16 times on first down, running on 12 of these plays for a 3.1-yard average, with 15 of these 16 plays in the first three quarters of games.

  • The four first-down passes from this group produced one incomplete pass, one interception and one sack (all at Dallas), plus one incomplete pass (against the Jets).

  • The 14 pass plays from this group featured five passes to receiver Deion Branch, three to Heller, two to tight end John Carlson, two to running back Maurice Morris, one to receiver Koren Robinson and one sack.

  • Matt Hasselbeck was the quarterback for three of those 14 pass plays (interception, incomplete pass and sack against Dallas, with both passes intended for Branch).

  • Seneca Wallace tends to seek out tight ends from this group, hitting Carlson for a 25-yard gain against New England and Heller for a 14-yard gain against the Jets. The one red-zone pass from this group went to Branch for a touchdown against the Patriots.

The shading in the above chart compares this personnel group (yellow shading) with the group Seattle used most frequently in the game (green shading).

Some teams go to that one-back, three-receiver group on third down. Seattle used the group 20 times against the Jets, with 13 of the plays on first down, three on second down and four on third down. The Seahawks gained 37 yards rushing on six first-down carries from this group, which generally included Maurice Morris in the backfield and Carlson at tight end.

Carlson's value is obvious. The Seahawks can line him up in space for a four-receiver look, let him release from a tighter formation or use him as a blocker.

On one first-down play from the one-back, three-receiver group, Carlson turned Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas to the inside, helping Morris escape for a 13-yard run. He did the same thing to the Jets' Calvin Pace from the one-back, two-tight end group, helping Morris gain 6 yards.

I'll include the personnel chart from Seattle's game against Dallas for comparison. Feel free to download the full report from the Jets game here. That version allows for more comprehensive analysis. As always, if you see something that jumps out, by all means mention it.

Chart note: Sacks count as pass plays but not pass attempts. That explains how there can be four runs and 11 passes from a personnel group featuring 20 total plays. Charts do not show kneel-down plays. QB scrambles count in total plays but not rushing plays.