Among the many reasons the Seahawks are on the cusp of playoff elimination, none is more glaring than the free-agent flop that has become Eddie Lacy.
Signed to a one-year deal in March, the former Green Bay running back was seen as Seattle’s splashiest acquisition of the offseason. Although the terms weren’t cheap – $3.5 million guaranteed – they weren’t outrageous for somebody who earned recognition as the 2013 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Nine months ago, anticipating how a 250-pound wrecking ball would revive a rushing attack that sputtered and stalled last season, coach Pete Carroll acknowledged the Hawks had some interest in drafting Lacy out of Alabama.
“We’re excited,” Carroll said then, “because of the way he plays the game. He’s really tough. He’s a big load. He’s a big back in classic fashion, so there’s an exciting guy to add to the mix.
“A terrific hand-eye guy,” Carroll went on. “He can catch the football like crazy. He can run routes. People don’t see him that way, but it’s that above-average athleticism that kind of makes him.”
Fourteen games into Lacy’s first and most certainly Seahawks season, people haven’t seen that above-average athleticism. Come to think of it, people haven’t seen Lacy do much of anything.
He’s rushed 69 times for 179 yards, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. The guy reputed to “catch the ball like crazy” has six receptions for 47 yards. He has yet to find the end zone, a scoring drought that likely will be sustained this Sunday in Dallas, where Lacy will be fortunate to avoid the inactive list as a healthy scratch.
While Carroll won’t discount the possibility of Lacy getting some carries against the Cowboys, the chance that Lacy will make any kind of contribution over the last two games is as remote as the chance the Seahawks will qualify for an extra game in the wild card round.
What went wrong? Why is Lacy a bust?
“It hasn’t worked for us, for a number of reasons,” Carroll said Wednesday. “I think just the rhythm never was demonstrated. The opportunities, there were never enough of them. It just never really fit together.
“We also had competition at the spot. There were other guys we were trying to see and trying to work.”
Lacy’s transformation from “classic big back” to irrelevance began when rookie Chris Carson beat him out for a starting job in summer camp. When Carson suffered a season-ending leg injury on Oct. 2, it opened up a competition battle between Lacy and Thomas Rawls. Neither produced, and Carroll finally identified journeyman Mike Davis as his primary running back.
Davis runs with purpose and occasional flair, but let’s not mask what’s obvious: Lacy was obtained to help restore the identity of an offense once known for the power ground game Carroll has long espoused. That identity still is missing.
It was a scouting-department whiff preceded by more whiffing in the draft: Of the 11 players the Seahawks selected, the only rookies to start last Sunday against the Rams were cornerback Shaquill Griffin and right guard Ethan Pocic.
Compounding the frustration of Lacy’s inability to give the Seahawks anything close to the four seasons he gave the Packers is the emergence of 2016 Seattle fifth-round draft pick Alex Collins. Before he was cut over the summer and picked up by the Ravens, the running back spent his lone season in the Northwest as an afterthought — the Jello salad side dish that goes untouched at the tailgate party.
That Collins had some impressive moves is undeniable. It’s also undeniable the moves were related to his pursuit of Irish step dancing. These days Collins is enjoying a breakout season at Baltimore, where he’s rushed for 844 yards and five Irish step dancing celebrations in the end zone.
Collins had just turned 23 when the Seahawks sent him packing. He was healthy, put minimal strain on the salary cap, and when extended an opportunity to play – such as in the 2016 regular-season finale at San Francisco, where he rushed seven times for 55 yards – he flashed potential.
But Collins’ running style apparently didn’t mesh with the zone-blocking scheme of the Hawks offensive line and, besides, he wasn’t about to displace Lacy on the depth chart.
I understand the convenience of second-guessing decisions made on roster cuts who go on to flourish elsewhere. I understand, too, that parting with Collins was not a decision made in haste.
For that matter, the decision to bring Eddie Lacy aboard was based on the homework of those infinitely more qualified to evaluate talent than I’ll ever be. The mission was to restore power to the backfield of an offense disinclined to run off tackle on third-and-short, and Lacy personified power.
“That’s who we are, that’s what we are and what we want to continue to be,” Carroll said of benefits of signing Lacy. “We want to work really hard at regaining the mentality about running the football.”
Keep working, Pete, and keep the faith. Know that pro football presents all kinds of busts, only a few of which end up adorning the walls of the Hall of Fame.