It’s almost draft day, and the Seahawks have a chance to do something about their lackadaisical running game beyond changing offensive coaches.
In his expansive news conference after the Seahawks’ season-ending loss to Arizona, Pete Carroll telegraphed the turbulent offseason to come when he spoke of the “huge decisions to be made.”
I’m wondering if he wasn’t also sending a message when, while cataloging the deficiencies that kept the Seahawks out of the playoffs, he began, emphatically, with the running game.
“We have a real formula of how we win, and we have been unable the last two years to incorporate a major aspect of that, and it’s running the football,’’ Carroll said that somber day, nearly four months ago.
Now it’s almost draft day, and the Seahawks have a chance to do something about it, as Carroll vowed they would do. And, of course, he would no doubt say they already have, subtly, by changing the offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach. And also by signing guard/tackle D.J. Fluker as a free agent.
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But if the Seahawks really want to bolster the area that Carroll cited as the prime avenue for turning around a team’s fortunes, I’d maintain that they should draft on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the running game foremost on their mind.
Mind you, the Seahawks have myriad needs – certainly more than at any time since the earliest days of the Carroll-John Schneider regime. So the temptations to use their draft capital in other realms, especially on an edge rusher, will be great.
But it seems logical to me that the best way to improve a running game that in 2017 produced just one rushing touchdown by anyone besides Russell Wilson (“It’s terrible,’’ Carroll spat out when confronted with that stat in January), and which is deemed by Carroll as a vital avenue for a return to contention, is by prioritizing it in the draft.
That could mean focusing on – stop me if you’ve heard this before – an impact offensive lineman like Will Hernandez or Connor Williams (on the assumption that the Notre Dame duo of Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey will be long gone by the time Seattle’s first-round pick at No. 18 overall rolls around). And assuming, of course, that Schneider doesn’t trade it, a distinct possibility, or even a likelihood.
The Seahawks, of course, have been trying to rectify their OL problems for what seems like an eternity. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try again, not with a new line coach in Mike Solari who brings a different philosophy than the deposed Tom Cable. I’m sure Russell Wilson wouldn’t mind, either.
Then there’s the matter of drafting a running back, which Seattle did last year (Chris Carson in the seventh round), in 2016 (C.J. Prosise in the third round, Alex Collins in the fifth, and Zac Brooks in the seventh), 2013 (Christine Michael in the second round and Spencer Ware in the sixth), and 2012 (Robert Turbin in the fourth round).
It hasn’t been a great payoff (unless you count the 973 yards Collins had for Baltimore last year after the Seahawks waived him). The Seahawks had a decent stretch with undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls until leg injuries derailed his career. But for the most part, they’re still trying to fill the void left by Marshawn Lynch’s departure.
Carroll said he’s hopeful that contributions will come from Carson, who won the job last year until breaking his leg on Oct. 1, and Mike Davis, who started the final six games. But neither looks the embodiment of Lynch.
The only surefire impact back in this draft is Saquon Barkley, who won’t last beyond the second pick, maybe not even the first. But the mindset in the NFL that it’s not worth using a coveted first-round pick on a running back seems to be waning. First-round running backs who have made a huge impact in recent years include Leonard Fournette with the Jaguars, Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys and Todd Gurley with the Rams.
Beyond Barkley, there are at least two running backs in this year’s draft who could be difference-makers: Derrius Guice of LSU and Sony Michel of Georgia.
“I think the devaluing of the running back in the NFL is really a myth,” New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman told NJ.com. “If you have a great running back, he makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better, and your passing game better. That’s just the way it is. I don’t believe in it.”
The Seahawks haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Shaun Alexander in 2000. He became an MVP and helped lead them to a Super Bowl. Before that was Curt Warner in 1983. He’s in their Ring of Honor. And Marshawn Lynch was a first-rounder (No. 12 overall) that Buffalo foolishly handed to the Seahawks to jump-start their Super Bowl runs.
The point is, if rectifying the running game truly is an overarching priority for the Seahawks, this draft is the best time to act on it.