Why the Seahawks offense needs a strong run game

Sep 17, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson (32) rushes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Everybody knows that the Seattle defense is one of the best defenses in the NFL. But on the other side of the ball, they have looked like a very mediocre offense. Fans have been calling for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s job in hopes that it will cure the issues. But instead of making a drastic move like firing the offensive coordinator, Seattle needs to work on running the football more effectively.

In the first two games of the season, Seattle’s offense has been miserable. They have only scored one touchdown, which came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter in their second game. This has caused fans to wonder what is wrong with the offense and why can they barely put points on the board.

Something that the Seahawks have not had this season is an effective run game. This year, Seattle has run the ball 55 times for 221 yards. This has them getting four yards per carry, which a lot of teams will be happy with. But 14 of those carries have come from quarterback Russell Wilson being forced to scramble on passing plays with very poor pass protection from the offensive line.

Taking Wilson’s 14 carries and 74 yards out of the team rushing stats, Seattle now has an average of 3.5 yards per carry. Wilson is the second leading rusher on the team, behind rookie Chris Carson. Carson has run the ball 26 times for 132 yards. But after him and Wilson, the next best rusher is C.J. Prosise, who has gained only 11 yards on four carries.

These numbers aren’t a bright spot for a team that wants to be a power running team. Seattle needs the running game because they do not have the weapons on the outside and a good enough offensive line to ride Wilson’s arm throughout the entire game.

When the Seattle offense excelled, it was when they established a run game early on into a game. With a defense focusing on a run, Seattle could then start to work their play-action passing to create big plays. But they have not had a good enough run game to be able to use play-action effectively. So, the Seattle offense has become a pass first offense.

To be able to be a pass-first offense and rely on receivers to move the chains, a team needs to have receivers that have reliable hands. But Seattle has only one player that has multiple seasons with a catch percentage over 70 percent, and that is Doug Baldwin. With Baldwin being Seattle’s best receiver, defenses will focus on him in the passing game and not allow him to get open on key third downs.

Against the 49ers, Seattle had a third down from the San Francisco nine-yard line. Wilson threw a pass to the back of the endzone to Tanner McEvoy, but McEvoy dropped the would-have-been touchdown. It was not a simple catch, but it was a catch that a lot of NFL receivers should make. This is only one example, but the Seahawks receivers not making plays on third down has happened far too often this season.

Another issue with relying on Wilson’s arm is that Seattle does not have the offensive line to protect Wilson. They have shown multiple times that they cannot keep Wilson upright, and forces Wilson to scramble from the pocket far too often. Without the offensive line being able to keep rushers out of the backfield, it forces Seattle to keep a running back or tight end in to help with protection. This causes only three or four receivers running routes, which is simple for defenses to defend, and Wilson will either have to run the ball, throw the ball away, or get sacked.

With this being said, Seattle needs their running game to be effective early on in games to help keep defenses honest. San Francisco and Green Bay have been able to not stack the box to stop the Seattle run game. They can drop more players into coverage, and still be able to stop the run. The Seattle offensive line has not been getting any push at the point of attack. With no push, defensive linemen and linebackers can easily shed their blocks and stop the run with the runner only gaining a couple of yards.

The running backs still need to be able to find cutback lanes to run through, or be able to shed tacklers and make defenders miss. Carson has been the only running back to do that this year. He looks to be the feature back for Seattle after gaining 93 yards on 23 carries against San Francisco. If Carson continues to run the way he has and Thomas Rawls can come in and run effectively behind Carson, the Seattle offense could get gradually better as the year goes on. But other than Carson, there is not a lot of hope that the Seattle offense can be fixed.

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