Off-season report card: Seattle Seahawks
2016: 10-5-1, first in NFC West, lost in divisional round
Significant additions: OT Oday Aboushi, DE David Bass, LB Arthur Brown, RB Mike Davis, OL Luke Joeckel DE Dion Jordan, RB Eddie Lacy, S Bradley McDougald, K Blair Walsh, DT Malik McDowell (R2), C Ethan Pocic (R2), CB Shaq Griffin (R3), S Delano Hill (R3), DT Nazair Jones (R3), WR Amara Darboh (R3), S Tedric Thompson (R4),
Significant losses: OLB Brock Coyle, OT Garry Gilliam, K Steven Hauschka, DT John Jenkins, TE Brandon Williams
From 2012–15 the Seahawks rushing attack ranked as follows, in terms of yards: third, fourth, first, third.
Last season: 25th.
QB Russell Wilson’s injury woes (ankle, knee, pectoral) played heavy in the tumbling production. So, too, did the seemingly ever in-flux offensive line (more on that group in a moment). Above all, though, the Seahawks just flat out missed Marshawn Lynch.
Or rather, missed the “Beast Mode” version of Lynch that tore apart defenses during the 2014 season. Lynch wasn’t anywhere close to the same during an injury-plagued 2015, and he “retired” ahead of 2016, leaving the Seahawks to pick up the pieces. His expected replacement, Thomas Rawls, then missed seven games last season himself to a fractured fibula.
Without their bruising run game, the Seahawks lacked any tangible identity of offense. A priority for GM John Schneider this off-season, then, was to find a big back capable of wearing down opposing defenses.
Eddie Lacy, welcome aboard.
“We want to work really hard about regaining the mentality about running the football,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said on ESPN710’s The John Clayton Show, shortly after Lacy signed. “That’s something that’s really important to us. We knew that we lost that edge last year when Russell [Wilson] was hurt and when Thomas [Rawls] was hurt.”
Is Lacy the right guy to bring it back? The answer all depends on which version of Lacy the Seahawks will get.
When the 2013 second-round pick has been in shape and motivated, he has been among the NFL’s toughest backs to tackle—according to Pro Football Focus, only Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy broke more tackles between 2013 and ’16. But his effectiveness, like his weight, has waxed and waned during his four-season NFL career. After shedding pounds last off-season, Lacy played just five games (and scored zero touchdowns, despite 5.1 yards per carry) before landing an ankle injury planted him on I.R. He also has not had a 25-carry game since 2014.
As for the weight, Lacy just claimed a bonus for checking in below the 255-pound mark, and Carroll said upon Lacy’s signing that he wants his back in the 240s.
The truth is that Lacy is not so much a Lynch successor as another dart for the Seahawks to toss as they dream of a reinvigorated run game.
“I’ve been asked that for 15 years, if it’s better to have two running backs or one,” said Carroll at February’s combine. “I’ve always thought that it’s really valuable when you can have two or three guys that you can work in. ... If there’s a guy that’s so dominant that nobody else deserves the playing time, then you’ve got a great one.”
Keeping Wilson healthy would provide a natural boost to the entire offense. He averaged better than 600 yards rushing over his first four seasons but was limited by his injuries to 259 yards and a career-low 72 attempts a year ago.
Then there’s the offensive line. An annual rite of off-season passage has been to discuss Seattle’s moves (or lack thereof) up front. It’s rather stunning that this continues to be such a bugaboo for the Seahawks, year in and year out. This time around, the Seahawks acquired Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi via free agency and drafted versatile LSU product Ethan Pocic. Joeckel figures to be in the starting lineup for Week 1, either at guard or tackle, and Pocic could join him at a to-be-determined spot.
The line, on paper, still does not stand to be anywhere near dominant, but Pocic’s arrival alone is reason for optimism. The Seahawks at least have better O-line depth than they did.
That’s also true in the secondary, another area ravaged by injuries a year ago, namely to safety Earl Thomas. As a safeguard—and to start planning for the future—GM John Schneider drafted Hill, Griffin, Thompson and DB Mike Tyson. The reinforcements along the D-line include second-rounder Malik McDowell and third-rounder Nazair Jones.
Provided Sherman isn’t dealt, the defense should be formidable, as always. The offense will go as the run game does, and the run game really could use the Lacy of old.