The Seahawks have had trouble establishing the run game since Marshawn Lynch left the team during the 2015 offseason. In 2015, the team ranked third in the league in rushing yards. With Lynch dealing with injuries, Rawls burst onto the scene and rushed for 830 yards in 13 games as rookie. But since that season, he has dealt with injuries, including so far into the 2017 season.
With the 2016 Seahawks ranking 25th in the league in rushing yards, Pete Carroll has said throughout the 2017 offseason that he wants to get back to the power running style that helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2014.
The team signed Eddie Lacy to be the bruising running back that Lynch was for Seattle, but has struggled in his time with Seattle. In the preseason, Lacy had 14 carries for 51 yards. In Week 1, Lacy had five carries for only three yards. Even though the offensive line has struggled mightily, Lacy is not running through defenders like he used to. He does not have the speed to make defenders miss on the outside. Although he is coming off ankle surgery in the offseason, Lacy has not productive enough to give consistent carries to.
C.J. Prosise is the other running back in the room, but he also has dealt with injury issues. He has shown great ability receiving out of the backfield, but has not been healthy enough to show that he can be 15-20 carry guy for Seattle.
That leaves two players, Rawls and seventh round pick Chris Carson. Entering his third season in the NFL, Rawls has only played one game in 2017, the first game of the preseason. He missed the rest of the preseason and Week 1 of the season due to an ankle sprain. He will finally get his chance to prove he is the best running back on the Seahawks against a porous 49ers run defense. He has been the number one running back on the depth chart throughout 2017, even with the ankle issues. That shows that there is a lot faith in Rawls.
Carson has been very impressive in his first season in the NFL. He ran for 39 yards on six carries against the Packers. This includes a 30-yard run where he read the defense, cut back into open space, and used his speed to outrun defenders. During the preseason, he showed the same ability to find holes at the point of attack and make plays. He is a good pass blocker, and he can catch out of the backfield. He may not be as good of a receiver as Prosise, but he is no slouch when catching the ball. He runs hard every play, and has impressed Carroll.
When asked if Carson has forced his way onto the field, Carroll said this to 49ers reporter Joe Fann:
“Without question. He’s done really well. We haven’t seen the top end from Chris. He’s got a lot to offer. He’s a very well-rounded football player. He can block, he can catch, he can run routes, he runs the ball well and he contributes on special teams as well. I’m anxious to see how he grows with us and if his role can expand as we find out more stuff.”
If Carson continues to flash, he will either be the starting running back or backup behind Rawls by the end of season. The Seahawks have shown a lot of faith in Rawls, so it may be hard to unseat him as the starter. But even if the two split carries, they could be the cure to the Seahawks run game problems.