Sunday Spotlight: Seneca Wallace

At this point, you wouldn't blame the Seattle Seahawks if they wondered about some sort of injury curse. A year after putting up the worst Adjusted Games Lost (a Football Outsiders metric which tracks how badly every team is hurt by injury, and then separates offense and defense) rate for any offense since 1996, the Seahawks are once again sending injury-depleted rosters to the field on gameday. Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck(notes), who fractured a rib in last week's loss to the 49ers, is unlikely to play against the Bears. However, the Seahawks are in better shape than most teams without their starting quarterbacks. In fact, from a statistical perspective, Seattle was better off in 2008 with backup Seneca Wallace(notes).

Hasselbeck and Wallace (pictured running really fast and apparently making things all blurry!) were involved in roughly the same number of plays (258 to 230 in Wallace's favor) when Hasselbeck missed a total of nine games with a back injury, In those plays, Wallace trumped Hasselbeck in FO's per-play DVOA stat (7.3% to -34.2%), season-cumulative DYAR metric (295 to -334), Net Yards (1,482 to 1,116), Average Yards (5.7 to 4.9), Yards After Catch (5.0 to 4.0), Catch Rate 58.8% to 52.4%), touchdowns (11 to 5), and fewer interceptions (3 to 10). While there's no doubt that Hasselbeck was affected by his own injury, as well as injuries to his receivers and offensive line, Wallace had even less to work with - by the end of the season, he presided over an offense in which all five starting linemen were on injured reserve, and rookie tight end John Carlson(notes) ended the season as the team's leading receiver.

Wallace has another advantage as long as he's under center - new Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has a long history of working with mobile quarterbacks (Jeff Garcia(notes) in San Francisco; Michael Vick(notes) in Atlanta), and Wallace is about as mobile as they come. He's a decent two-read guy with a rocket arm and an improving touch on shorter timing patterns. Whether he's a starting-caliber quarterback is beside the point - he's what the Seahawks have until Hasselbeck returns to optimum health, and his experience insures that the team won't be forced to rush things along with the franchise signal-caller. Wallace will face a Bears defense that currently ranks eighth in Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks and intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent), but he's got the hops to make Alex Brown(notes) and Adewale Ogunleye(notes) tired of chasing him around all afternoon.

We'll evaluate Wallace's performance tonight.