The Seahawks also have some questions at center heading into their game against Tampa Bay. Also, can Seattle do enough to stop the Bucs on third down on Sunday?
Running back roulette
A Seattle tailback situation that has had its share of twists and turns this season took a few more in the past few days, giving the Seahawks yet another different look heading into Tampa Bay. A week after releasing leading rusher Christine Michael, the Seahawks then lost C.J. Prosise (broken shoulder blade) and Troymaine Pope (ankle) to injuries.
So that means Thomas Rawls will get what will be just his second start of the season and first since Sept. 18, with little-used rookie Alex Collins serving as the backup and George Farmer — a practice-squad player signed to the active roster Wednesday — adding depth and possibly seeing time as a third-down back.
Seattle is counting on Rawls to play as he did last season, when he rushed for 830 yards and averaged 5.6 yards a carry. Rawls showed some glimpses of his old self last week with 57 yards on 14 carries, but coach Pete Carroll also said he came out of the game as if he had been in “a train wreck.’’ The Seahawks will need Rawls to stay upright and use Collins and Farmer only as needed.
Hunting for a center?
The Seahawks listed center Justin Britt as questionable with an ankle injury suffered last week in the victory over the Eagles. Carroll said Britt would be able to suit up, and that he could start, though that will be a game-time decision. But if Britt can’t play, then the Seahawks will go with rookie Joey Hunt, who has just two snaps at center this season, and which would give them three rookies on their offensive line, the others being Germain Ifedi at right guard and George Fant at left tackle.
The Seahawks further indicated their commitment to their youth up front this week with the release of J’Marcus Webb, the most experienced and highest-paid offensive lineman.
Seattle now has four rookies among its eight remaining offensive linemen (backup guard/tackle Rees Odhiambo the other).
Tampa Bay doesn’t have an overwhelming defensive line overall but tackle Gerald McCoy is one of the best in the NFL, and he’ll be a challenge even if the Seahawks have the services of Britt.
Finishing first on first down
Tampa Bay’s recent offensive success — in the past five weeks the Bucs have averaged 28.2 points a game, seventh-most in the NFL — has been sparked by its success on third down. The Bucs have converted 60 percent of their third downs the past three weeks, best in the NFL, and 46.94 percent for the season, seventh-best in the NFL.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have been surprisingly lax on third downs this season, allowing 43.45, 26th in the NFL, and 55.81 percent in the past three, last in the NFL. Carroll, though, says the real issue has been letting teams move just enough on first and second downs to set up some makable third downs. On paper, that’s something that would favor Seattle in this game.
The Bucs have had that third-down success despite gaining just 4.74 yards on first down this season, 29th in the NFL — the Seahawks are allowing just 5.17 yards on first down, seventh-best in the NFL. That’s a lot of numbers, huh?
The upshot is that the Bucs have been converting a lot of long third downs lately while the Seahawks have been giving up some. Each of those are trends that likely won’t last, which could make the real key how each side does on early downs.