Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the team will start Thomas Rawls at tailback against Arizona on Thursday.
Thomas Rawls, J.D. McKissic and – hopefully – C.J. Prosise.
Those are the three running backs the Seahawks will have for Thursday’s road tilt against Arizona, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says he’s confident they’ll get the job done.
Seattle has struggled with its ground production this year. The Seahawks rank 19th in the NFL with an average of 103.9 rush yards per game, but that total is inflated by quarterback Russell Wilson’s athleticism — he’s averaged 33.9 rush yards per game — and the healthy rushing totals rookie Chris Carson contributed (49 carries, 208 yards) before he fractured his leg in the Colts game and wound up on injured reserve.
Yet, despite losing tailback Eddie Lacy to a groin injury and fullback Tre Madden to a calf injury against Washington last Sunday, the Seahawks have no plans to add another running back to the roster this week.
“There’s nobody else who’s going to be coming in here by tomorrow, so we gotta go with that,” Bevell said.
The Seahawks are hopeful that Prosise, who has missed four of the last five games with an ankle injury, will be back for Thursday’s game. But Rawls will get the starting nod at Arizona on Thursday, and the opportunity to keep the job if he can distinguish himself.
“We love Thomas. He’s going to be our guy,” Bevell said. “We’ll ride with him. He has history with us and has done a great job for us. We’ll see, as this week continues to progress, if we get C.J. back or not. And we’ve gotten some big plays out of J.D. We love those guys. Those are our guys and we’ll ride with them.”
It’s a golden opportunity for Rawls, who has been mostly ineffective this year coming off a high ankle sprain.
He has 98 rushing yards from six games this season, with a career-low 2.5 yards per carry average. Rawls’ worst performance of the year came in the Seahawks win over Houston two weeks ago, when he carried six times for -1 yard.
Yet, Rawls had his best game of the year last week against Washington, when he filled in for injured starter Eddie Lacy and carried nine times for a season-high 39 much.
That may not seem like much when compared to Rawls’ output in his excellent 2015 rookie season, when he averaged 5.6 yards per rush and had four 100-yard games. But it’s a start.
“I think Eddie got started right. We certainly didn’t expect him to get hurt. Then Thomas came in and looked like the Thomas of old – very poised and calm, not trying to press and do too much,” said Seahawks’ offensive line coach Tom Cable.
Rawls rushed for 830 yards on 147 carries and scored four touchdowns in his rookie year, but has since been hampered by injuries – first a broken ankle, then a fractured fibula, and, early this year, a high ankle sprain.
Since then, he’s seen rookie Chris Carson pass him on the depth chart, only to sustain a season-ending injury. Last week, Lacy was named the starter, but he injured his groin early against Washington.
In the lead up to last Sunday’s game, Bevell said he emphasized the importance of cutting out the negative yardage plays in the run game that plagued the running backs against Houston. He said Tuesday and that the backs’ performance against Washington was a step in the right direction.
“You could see that. You could see us get (more) positive plays,” Bevell said. “It’s unfortunate that Eddie went down when he did because you could kinda see there were some things that were coming along nicely.