The Seattle Seahawks’ running game became one of the best in the NFL during the second half of 2011 season despite injury, surgical repair and painful rehabilitation.
And that was just to the coach in charge of it – Tom Cable. What happened to the players was even worse.
We may report that assistant head coach Cable is fully recovered from having vertebra fused with various metal devices, and is getting around nicely now as he oversees the offensive line and running game at the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend.
Somehow Cable ended up generating an effective attack with limited down time for his back surgery, even with three high-draft-pick linemen ending up on the injured-reserve list last fall. The projected starting five played together only four times and they missed a combined 26 games to injury.
That was the pain. But the “gain” is on the horizon, because Cable sees almost unheard-of depth along the Seahawks’ front wall after playing time had to be so widely distributed.
Last year, guys were getting yanked up from the depth chart and tossed in as starters. This season is so different that the gathering of rookies and free-agent tryout guys Cable is overseeing this weekend includes a former first-round draft choice – tackle Alex Barron (St. Louis, 2005).
Times have changed. And so has the attitude. Cable has had a great deal to do with that.
At midseason, the Seahawks were next to last in the league in rushing, but in the final nine games, they averaged 135 yards on the ground, which would have put them at No. 6 in the league over the course of the season.
For the first time in years, with Marshawn Lynch running behind an aggressive line, the Seahawks were able to run over opponents.
Scheme? No, commitment and attitude.
“Where we want to go is being a physical football team that throws the ball on you to score points but runs the ball to beat you,” Cable said. “There are some teams in the league who are exceptional throwing the football. But to be a truly tough-minded football team, you have to run it. You can’t just talk about it, you have to do it.”
Tackle James Carpenter, a first-round pick, and fellow rookie guard John Moffitt both went down with knee injuries in mid-November, and tackle Russell Okung, a first-round pick in 2010, was lost with a torn pectoral in early December.
But Cable said he saw enough in those guys before the injuries “… that all of a sudden you start saying, ‘Wow, that’s why we got them.’ ”
Breno Giacomini jumped in at right tackle, and Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre plugged in just about everywhere else as the running game continued to build to critical mass.
“There was a ton of pride in those guys being able to do (what they did),” Cable said of the fill-ins. “But I’d rather not go through that again.”
The benefit, though, is that “we know we have a group, top to bottom, where your eighth or ninth guy can go in and win for you,” Cable said. “So our depth got taken to a new level.”
Free agency further deepened it when the Seahawks added veterans Deuce Lutui (72 NFL starts) and Frank Omiyale (32 starts). They are giving Barron (75 starts) a look, too.
Okung and Moffitt, who are making expected progress in their rehabs, have been taking snaps in workouts, Cable said. Carpenter “has made so much progress in the last month” but is expected to need more time than the other two to make it back to full strength.
But the team’s evolution late last fall has created a new identity, and elevated expectations for the group that will gather in July for the start of training camp. From Day One, this will be a jackhammer back operating behind a group of maulers.
“(The running game) didn’t just click for one group (the offensive line),” Cable said. “It clicked for Marshawn learning the discipline it takes to run in this system; it clicked for the quarterback getting us in the right play, and it clicked for the receivers understanding that we’re not just asking you to block, we’re insisting you block.
“All of a sudden, it was like the light goes on and, bang, it showed.”
Yes, bang … that’s a good sound effect for what the offense turned into last season.
“That’s what we’re doing; that’s what we want to do, be tough and win the NFC West again,” Cable said. “That’s the goal.”email@example.com 253-597-8440