ST. LOUIS – How low can the Seattle Seahawks’ running game go?
Well, right now, they are at an historical low for the organization. The Seahawks’ current average of 84.4 yards per contest ranks last in the league and would be a franchise-worst if the Seahawks finish there at season’s end. They would surpass the current record low of 87 yards a contest set in the 1989 season, when Seattle finished 7-9.
The Seahawks finished with just 14 yards on the ground against Arizona at home over a month ago. And if you thought they had reached rock bottom, they fell to new depths last week, rushing for a franchise-worst 4 yards against Minnesota.
The guys along the offensive line, who are responsible for paving the way for the team’s running backs, understand that with six games left, they need to prove the first 10 games were the exception, not the norm.
“I know when you get 4 yards rushing, everybody’s like, ‘You guys are terrible over there, and this isn’t working,’ ” guard Rob Sims said. “But you know what, I’m confident in the starters we do have and the backups that we do have. We go out there and work hard every single day.
“We’ve seen glimpses of it, but we’ve just got to put it together and put it together consistently now.”
Center Chris Spencer agrees. With Seattle starting the same offensive line for a third straight week today, the Seahawks hope to build some consistency that will lead to better play up front, according to Spencer.
“We’re confident in our ability to get the job done,” he said. “We’ve just got to be able to be consistent, execute when we have opportunities, and we can’t go out in the first part of the game and not have any positive runs.”
New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brought with him a new zone blocking scheme, which relies more on the offensive line working together in blocking a specific area of the field.
The new scheme was supposed to reduce the amount of negative plays in the run game and had been effective everywhere Knapp had coached. His offenses in San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland all finished in the top 10 in rushing.
Knapp blames the failure of Seattle’s running game on the rash of injuries the Seahawks have faced along the offensive line. Seattle has endured the retirement of projected starting left guard Mike Wahle before training camp and cornerstone offensive tackle Walter Jones being placed on the season-ending, injured reserve list after being unable to return from offseason knee surgery.
Starting offensive linemen Sims, Spencer and Sean Locklear have also missed time at different points. And backup offensive tackle Brandon Frye, who replaced Locklear at left tackle when he went down with a high-ankle sprain, was placed on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury.
“To me, the big reason why is because the parts have changed up front and at the running back position,” Knapp said “So that’s made it hard to keep the consistency, because there’s been moments where we know we’re on the right track, we just haven’t had them consistently.”
Seattle coach Jim Mora still believes the zone blocking scheme is the right fit for the team. And the Seahawks will get a chance to show that today against St. Louis; Seattle rushed for 167 yards against the Rams in the season opener, a 28-0 Seattle win.
“I think we will see an improvement,” Mora said. “And it’s important that we do, just to confirm that what we’re teaching is working and the guys are grasping it. I can’t say enough that this is a proven run scheme, but it’s not proven here yet. So we need to prove it here.”
The Seahawks will have some decisions to make with the offensive line at the end of the season. Jones still is working toward a return to the field in 2010. Right tackle Ray Willis, right guard Max Unger and left tackle Locklear are under contract for next season, but Sims and Spencer will be free agents after this season.
Knapp said Sims has been the Seahawks’ best lineman when healthy, so he might attract some attention during the offseason. But the Ohio State product says he’d like to remain a Seahawk.
“Hopefully, I’ll be here for the rest of my career,” Sims said. “But it’s the NFL, and nobody stays on the same team forever. But I’m not ready to go here. I still feel like I’ve got some things that I need to fix around here, mainly the run game. I’ve got work to do if I’m ever going to call myself an elite guard in this league. My time is now to start making that happen.”
Knapp said the time for evaluating whether the team has the right pieces already in place will be done once the season is over.
“An assessment like that, to me, really has to be at the end of the year, and reevaluate, once you go back and take yourself out of the emotion of the game,” he said. “Give yourself a couple weeks away from it, watch all of the cut-ups and then make that assessment.”
Eric D. Williams: 253: 597-8437
SEATTLE (3-7) at St. Louis (1-9)
Kickoff: 10 a.m., Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The teams will meet for the 23rd time, with Seattle holding a 13-9 edge over the Rams. Seattle has won 11 of the past 14 games, including the past nine contests. Seattle’s nine-game streak against the Rams is the longest in the Seahawks’ history against another team.
What to watch: Seattle might be without starting running back Julius Jones, who suffered a bruised lung two weeks ago against Arizona. Seahawks coach Jim Mora said Jones will be a game-time decision. If Jones does not play, reserve running back Justin Forsett will get his second career start. Forsett has totaled 238 yards passing and receiving in his past two games. … St. Louis running back Steven Jackson also might be a game-time decision. Jackson missed practice all week with back spasms, and the team promoted rookie running back Chris Ogbonnaya to the active roster from the practice squad on Saturday, a sign that Jackson might not play today. ... Wide receiver Brandon Gibson, a graduate of Rogers High of Puyallup, will get his second straight start for the Rams.
The pick: Seahawks, 28-24.
No. Name (position)Ht./Wt.Year
89 John Carlson (TE)6-5/2512nd
Hawks look to get him more involved in the offense.
74 Ray Willis (OT)6-6/3155th
Emotional leader of offensive line will get running game going.
59 Aaron Curry (LB)6-2/2541st
With just nine tackles in the past three contests, he’s due to break out.
97 Patrick Kerney (DT) 6-3/27211th
Needs to help defense deliver better pass rush.
No. Name (position)Ht./Wt.Year
12 Kyle Boller (QB)6-3/2187th
Will use his legs to make plays.
11 Brandon Gibson (WR)6-0/2101st
Looking to continue solid play in Rams’ passing game.
55 James Laurinaitis (LB)6-2/2471st
In running for defensive rookie of the year honors.
91 Leonard Little (DE)6-3/26712th
Has 61/2 sacks in six career games against Seattle.
Eric D. Williams, The News Tribune