RENTON It took seven games of mostly running to nowhere--except into brick walls--for the Seahawks to change their approach in the rush game.
At least they make it sound like they are changing the rushing offense this week for Sunday’s game against Washington.
On Monday they traded for a three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Duane Brown from Houston. His mere arrival Wednesday for practice improved Seattle’s offensive line that has provided almost no running lanes this season.
Then, three days after running backs Eddie Lacy (six carries), Thomas Rawls (six) and J.D. McKissic (four) combined for 16 rushes and 5--five--yards in the win over Houston, Seattle’s coaches said it’s time to go with one, featured back. They say they will finally ride one a while, instead of using what’s been a clunky and at-times confusing rotation.
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“I’m hoping that we will get kind of in rhythm. I don’t feel like we have been in rhythm. I think I have held them back a little bit by spreading it around quite a bit and trying to figure that out,” coach Pete Carroll said. “And so as we zero in here, heading into the second half (of the regular season), I’m hoping that we are going to make some real headway.”
That one back for Sunday against Washington is Lacy.
“Well, we need to improve in the running game, obviously,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “There are a lot of things that we are continuing to work on, and obviously just being able to block up front and be able to cover guys up so we can get back to the line of scrimmage.
“And I know that we are going to start with Eddie and kind of let him go a little bit, and then see where it goes from there.”
Where it’s gone so far is nowhere.
Rookie seventh-round draft choice Chris Carson looked like the surprise answer as lead rusher. He had 208 yards through four games, not amazing but far better than the Seahawks have had after he got a serious ankle injury in the win Oct. 1 over Indianapolis. Carson had surgery and is on injured reserve.
Seattle’s leading active rusher is quarterback Russell Wilson. His 194 yards are mostly on scrambles away from defenders rushing free at him as he’s tried to throw.
Lacy, the 250-pound masher, has 108 yards on 42 carries. Thomas Rawls, expected to be the lead back or at least compete for the job with Lacy after two injury-filled seasons, has 59 yards on 30 rushes. He has looked over-anxious in the limited chances he’s gotten. Rawls got one snap in the September loss at Tennessee and was left a healthy inactive for the first time in his career during that Colts game in which Carson got hurt. McKissic, also a wide receiver and backup kick returner, has 54 yards on 13 rushes. He’s been the third-down back because C.J. Prosise has yet another injury and can’t stay on the field.
The Seahawks have been resorting to fly sweeps from wide receiver Tyler Lockett across formations. Those have worked a little bit, or as little as they’ve tried them. Lockett has 44 yards on seven carries.
The Seahawks are 21st in the league in rushing offense. Without Wilson’s scrambling they’d be 31st. Only two teams have fewer rushing touchdowns than Seattle’s two: Cincinnati (one) and Miami (zero).
To be fair--and honest--Walter Payton and Eric Dickerson would have problems producing yards with the blocking Seahawks’ running backs have(n’t) received so far this season.
Lacy was the Seahawks’ splashiest offseason acquisition. The former 1,100-yard rusher and NFL rookie of the year with Green Bay in 2013 signed a one-year, prove-it contract this spring with $2,865,000 guaranteed. He was motivated by $55,000 a month in weight-clause incentives and $1.3 million in additional bonuses that really kick in if he tops 1,000 yards rushing this season.
He’s way behind on that money.
His first two NFL seasons with the Packers, his best ones when he rushed for 1,100 yards each year in 2013 and 14, Lacy averaged 19 then 15 carries per game. In Seattle so far he’s averaged eight.
He wasn’t even in uniform for the week two game win over San Francisco, also left a healthy inactive for the first time in his career. At least the following week at Tennessee he got to put on his gear--then never came off the sideline.
Now he’s next up in the Seahawks’ continued push to improve what’s been an anemic rushing offense for two seasons. They may get to the playoffs without one, but it will take Wilson’s heroics the likes of which even he hasn’t yet pulled off to win throughout this postseason and reach the Super Bowl without a running game.
“One aspect is getting better, in terms of protection, and now we seem to be kind of going backwards in the run-game for, really, two weeks here,” line coach and run-game coordinator Tom Cable said. “We just need to clean it up. We need to fit our helmets properly, hit our aiming points, be clean with our hands and our feet. And when that happens, we’ll be fine.
“I think the move towards trying to establish a running back, rather than multiple backs, I think that will also help a little bit in terms of seeing it. But we need to be cleaner. It wasn’t clean enough on Sunday.”
It was news to Lacy before practice Wednesday that Carroll had said he may be hurting the running game by spreading the carries across multiple back, and that he will “zero in here” on one: Lacy.
“It’s kind of hard to go in, and come out, and go in and come out, because you never really establish much rhythm,” Lacy said. “I mean, if that changes at some point...I don’t know. I know to get rhythm going, that’s something you definitely need.”
Lacy laughed a knowing laugh.
“I’ll guess we’ll see on Sunday,” he said.
“We’re never really in long enough to establish anything. We’re just in and out, a lot. So it’s kind of hard to establish that.”
Sounds like that is about to change on Sunday. At least the in-and-out part. We’ll all see about the results.