Dave Boling

Boling: With Seattle Seahawks running backs shelved, Russell Wilson should air it out

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws to a receiver against the Ravens on Sunday. Wilson currently leads the NFL with a 110.0 passer rating.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws to a receiver against the Ravens on Sunday. Wilson currently leads the NFL with a 110.0 passer rating. The Associated Press

I’m going to under-react on this one. The knee simply refuses to jerk to a hasty prediction of imminent doom for the Seattle Seahawks.

The spate of injuries to their corps of key running backs is not nearly enough to derail a red-hot Seahawks team as it powers toward the playoffs.

Even without Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, in addition to injured tight end Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks offense has become good enough and sufficiently versatile to sustain the string of dominant performances it’s mounted.

Any team with those guys would be better, of course. They just have to be different now. Have to exploit other strengths. And there’s enough there, still, to win out and be a nightmare draw in the playoffs.

The questions, though, have to be asked: What happens to the “next man up” philosophy when you run out of next men?

What happens when the customary solution to your problems is actually your main problem at the moment?

Seahawks and their fans will find out as they enter the final three weeks of the regular season.

The recent editions of Seahawks teams, whenever facing hardships, always reverted to their core identity. They rededicated themselves to bludgeoning defenses with the run.

But those power backs are all broken.

The new guys? The new next men? Who knows? Nobody knew much about Rawls when he got his first chance this season, either.

Lynch has been out since mid-November with some manner of abdominal injury that had to be surgically repaired, and his return date remains speculative. His replacement the past four games was Rawls, a surprise apprentice who blossomed into a star.

But Rawls broke his ankle and tore ankle ligaments in Sunday’s win over Baltimore.

Running back options now include DuJuan Harris, who recently joined the team and filled in once Rawls went down on Sunday, and Fred Jackson, a 34-year-old who has seen situational duty and doesn’t seem suited for heavy early-down work.

Derrick Coleman is a fullback by trade but had a nice run against the Ravens. And on Monday, the Hawks officially added free agent Bryce Brown once again to the competitive mix.

Coach Pete Carroll said they are not going to alter their traditional run/pass balance, no matter who is getting the snaps at running back.

Maybe that works. Maybe not.

Running backs without jobs tend to be that way for reasons. But toss them into the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL and maybe even an off-brand back can flourish.

It’s a little hard to believe it’s going to be that simple.

The way the Seahawks offense has played the past four games, with quarterback Russell Wilson operating at historic efficiency, why not turn him loose a little more?

Wilson has been a perfect fit for the run-first offense. In games when he’s attempted 35 or more passes in his NFL career (playoffs included), the Hawks are 2-4.

But Wilson has grown into a more effective passer this season, leading the league with a 110.0 rating. That seems to be the kind of quarterback who can carry an offense regardless who’s at running back.

Wilson is on a torrid streak with 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions over the past month of Sundays.

The Pete Carroll Way, the formula of a ground attack and grinding defense, is proven. The philosophy has been impeachable. And certainly is one they’ll sustain over time.

There was genius to bring Lynch in at the cost of two mid-round picks, and was further enhanced by the staff managing to keep his quirky nature channeled for the most part. They’re not going to want to bring him back too soon, until he’s fully recovered from whatever it is that’s been repaired.

Rawls, meanwhile, was making a push to get his name in the discussion for offensive rookie of the year in the NFL. Quite an achievement for an undrafted free agent.

When I saw Rawls stand and walk off on his own, hardly limping, it seemed certain he’d be back soon and his injury wasn’t serious. But when the extent of the injury was announced, it was a further reminder that this is one tough dude.

Really, the best way around whatever issues facing the offense is to have the Seattle defense continuing to play as it has the past two weeks.

When the Hawks went on a winning streak late last season, they held the final six opponents to a scant 39 points — an average of 6.5 points a game.

They’ve given up just 13 points combined the past two games.

The next two games, Cleveland and St. Louis at home, should not tax either side of the ball. And the finale at Arizona could feature the Cardinals junior varsity if their playoff position is already determined.

The timing seems perfect to give Wilson the green light and see what develops. They might like what they see.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440, @DaveBoling

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