BY Art Thiel 08:05PM 11/23/2015

Thiel: Seahawks’ Rawls: ‘Finding somebody to hit’

The rookie running back is sufficiently sensational to draw a comparison to Earl Campbell from Pete Carroll. The Seahawks coach backtracked a bit, but his point is not too far-fetched.

RB Thomas Rawls was well-armed to take the place of Marshawn Lynch Sunday against San Francisco. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Pete Carroll knows better than to exaggerate when he gets excited. But he can’t help himself when the subject is Thomas Rawls.

During his Monday radio appearance on ESPN 710, the Seahawks coach made an analogy between the rookie running back, who now qualifies for the descriptive term, sensation, and Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell.

“I did, I did,” Carroll admitted, sheepishly. “I did that in the sense of challenging Thomas more. I’m not putting him in that same class. He’s got a ways to go.”

No backpedaling, Pete. Gotta own it.

But after 209 yards rushing Sunday against San Francisco, the analogy is not nearly as wild as anyone would have imagined when Seahawks training camp began. Particularly in view of the injury absence of RB Marshawn Lynch — in Philadelphia this week for an exam that could lead to surgery for a sports hernia that would all but end his season — Carroll is fully entitled to hyperbole.

“For those who didn’t watch him, Earl was able to beat you with his speed and beat you being physical,” he said of the Houston Oilers star who gained almost 10,000 yards from 1978 to 1984. “He’d pick out guys and run over them. And sometimes he’d make you miss.”

As does Rawls. The powerful kid blasted 49ers cornerbacks and juked linebackers to break Curt Warner’s 1983 club rookie record (207) for yards in a game, second-most in NFL history for first-year player. After four starts, he is already 13th in the NFL in rushing (604 yards), second in yards per attempt (6.0) and tied for fifth in runs of 20+ yards (six).

He was strong enough to bump two veterans, RBs Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, off the team. The reliable Turbin turned an ankle in preseason and surprisingly found himself cut. The disappointing Michael was a second-round pick whom the Seahawks traded last month for a seventh-round pick to Dallas, where he has since been cut.

“Thomas was part of that decision,” Carroll said. “Both those guys are good players. But (Rawls) had a way about him that might be special. That’s why we made that choice.”

Special is the term used in Seattle to describe Lynch. Rawls is sufficiently special to begin speculation that Rawls might be able to throw Lynch off the roster too. Not now, but by 2016, presuming a return to health by Lynch, he carries an $11.5 million salary that would be hard to justify if Rawls continues to produce at the minimum salary for an undrafted free agent.

Carroll didn’t know what the medical options were for Lynch, but conceded that surgery “could happen.” Asked how likely it was for Lynch to be declared healthy for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, he said, “I don’t know about that — it’s legitimately bothering him.”

What is exciting for Carroll is that Rawls seemed to dispatch on Sunday his chief weakness — catching. He had three receptions for 46 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.

“He did a really good job catching the ball — I was fired up for him,” Carroll said. “He’s not a featured throw-and-catch guy for us. Fred (Jackson) has great hands and  great catching range, so you look to throw to him. Thomas hasn’t shown that, but he came through great.”

Rawls was the object of much curiosity at Carroll’s weekly presser, because his fresh legs and energy could be a powerful boost as Seattle attempts Sunday to beat a team with a winning record (Steelers are 6-4) for the first time this season.

“He’s got a unique body,” Carroll said. “Not real tall (5-foot-9, 220 pounds), great strength in his lower body. He puts his foot in the ground and — bang — he cuts. Sometimes he looks like he almost surprises himself with his cuts. When he goes, he’s fast — 4.4 speed. He’s still looking to find somebody to hit.”

Even though Lynch has a league-wide reputation for being a nasty chap to bring down, his most impressive feat is carrying tacklers for extra yards. He might have the best collection of three-yard gains that started as two-yard losses in NFL history. But he doesn’t necessarily head-hunt as does Rawls.

“There’s a little difference in how they hit the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said. “Marshawn has extraordinary vision. He sees things differently than Thomas. Thomas is going to hit it, and find out what’s going on later. He hits first, and sees what happens.

“Both are tremendously effective. After his first read, Thomas puts his foot in it and goes. He’s not as likely to try to make a guy miss as Marshawn, who will fool you and fake you.”

Which brings us back to the majesty of Campbell. As much as he was perhaps the most powerful back in the game’s history, he trained defenders to start preparing for the blow, then changed course as they were in mid-cringe.

It was a splendid thing to watch. If Rawls comes anywhere close, the post-Beast future of the Seahawks is much less perilous.


Carroll said WR Doug Baldwin and C Patrick Lewis had mild ankle sprains, but were optimistic about being ready for Sunday . . . LB Bruce Irvin (knee) and WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) are longer shots to return . . .  CB Jeremy Lane is finally green-lighted to return, 10 months after recovering from a broken left arm and a torn ACL on the same play in the Super Bowl. He’ll be in the mix for the nickel back spot as well as the corner, where Cary Williams had a poor game against the 49ers and was replaced in the fourth quarter by DeShawn Shead. Carroll said Shead was the defense’s best player at forcing fumbles.



  • SeaRaays

    If he can take Lynch’s spot we still need a formidable back up for him. Fred is always nursing an injury and at 35 ..not an answer. One that can protect the QB and be a good 3rd down back. With injuries rampant with contact runners. It is a must to have 3 RBs ready to go and on the practice squad.

    • art thiel

      Easy now. You’re wanting everything. It’s close to Thanksgiving. Be thankful this week for Rawls.

  • jafabian

    Rawls reminds me of Beastmode. Or Ricky Watters. If he’s the starter for the rest of the season I believe the team will be just fine.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Funny about that list he just joined with the 200+yard game. Alexander was a finesses runner. Warner would hit you at times and dart out of bounds at times.He was more power than Shaun but he was smart and elusive too.
      Rawls thinks he is refrigerator Perry. He has a lets go get it attitude that is fun to watch. He is a great understudy to Beast and already is trying to emulate his tenacity.
      Amazing that he didn’t even cost us a draft pick. I just checked salaries on spotrac and he has a 530k salary this year with 15k guaranteed. What a bargain.

      • art thiel

        That’s why successful teams must get starters from the UDFA legions. The salary cap is cruel.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          that’s must with 4x !!!!
          Well they sure hit on T~Rawls.

    • art thiel

      The way he seeks contact may make him a danger to himself. That aside, I think he’s as tough as Beast.

  • PokeyPuffy

    The comparison to the Tyler Rose has me misty with memories. Earl was a flash of brilliance in the dull and dimming universe of Darrel Royal-era football, where punting on 3rd down was always under consideration.
    Having him go to Houston was a dream come true:

    Earl was a beast before there was “beast”, but he was also a true gentleman. I would have guessed Earl was much much bigger than Rawls but they are only 25 lbs apart!

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    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      What a powder keg of dynamite Earl was… he was just a wrecking ball.
      Love Rawls but I think Earl had more ill intent on the football field.

      • art thiel

        As you watch Rawls, I think you’ll see he’s nearly as nasty as Earl.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          We have only had 2/3 of a season and 4 starts to view him but he is pretty special. Fun to watch.

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    • art thiel

      I think Campbell has swelled up in the memories of all who watched him.

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  • bugzapper

    Great single game, but look how many rookie pitchers fly through the batting order the first time out. Then the hitters get a book on him and it’s back to AAA. Rawls was like Nolan Ryan pitching to the M’s. The Niners were expecting Lynch and were geared up for him. Rawls was an unknown quantity. Time will tell if he can sustain it once other teams see the films.

    Not to mention…it was the 46ers. Er, I mean 49ers. They don’t even remotely resemble the powerhouse of two years ago. My grandmama coulda made 100 yards against these guys.

    • dingle

      That’s a reckless exaggeration. Grandmama would have gotten 85 yards, tops.

      The ‘niners are just not much fun to watch these days, even when they play the ‘hawks. Down here in 49er land, the faithful are working their way through the stages of grief.

      Young Jed is in far, far over his head from a football standpoint. He’s immature and obviously a little prickly. However, from a business standpoint, they got their new stadium and the upcoming Super Bowl, and they’re making money faster than they can count it.

      • art thiel

        York is symptomatic of the failures of the generational handoff. Same with Indy, SD, Oakland and others.

        • dingle

          True, that. Although the decline in Oakland started when Al was still firmly in charge. At least he had a better haircut than his progeny.

    • art thiel

      Again, when he started vs. Cincy, 169 yards. Not saying he’s getting 100 every time out, but fresh legs in week 12 are a huge bonus.

  • Jon

    Rawls is a revelation. The Seahawks are fortunate to have him. Setting aside what future seasons might bring, the present sure looks a lot rosier with Rawls. With Marshawn’s various injuries on top of everything else, this really could be a lost season. Yet an undrafted rookie RB is somehow giving us hope that we still can make a run.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks knew they had something at the first rookie camp in May. Turbin’s departure was the first public signal.

  • It’s difficult not to wonder how young master Rawls would have done against a team whose defense couldn’t suck a tire inside out. Maybe we’ll find out Sunday.

    • art thiel

      Well, he did get 169 yards against a good Cincy defense. Sunday wasn’t a fluke.

  • Gerald Turner

    Rally Round Rawls!

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Wrack ’em up Rawls.

    Man, if the Hawks do pull off the unthinkable and turn around this season in a big way then you will have to be happy about our rookies getting it done. He and Tyler are a real breath of fresh air.
    Glad to hear Doug is ok. He was the leading receiver again vs the 49ers.
    He took the overall catch/yardage lead from Graham too.We need Doug and his consistency.
    We need Lane too. It looks like Williams contract is only guaranteed this year. I think we are all up to our ears in TE play beating us.
    Here is to Lane shoring up a leaky D and its a start of something special. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Lane may be a part-timer for this season. He won’t have much endurance.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        You could be right…. anxious to find out.

  • BruceM

    Pete loves to shave off a few ticks from his players’ 40 times. Rawls’ time at the Combine was a pretty pedestrian 4.65. The rest of his numbers were decent, but none indicated premier explosion. See

    Put him in pads, though, and he appears to be fast enough….

  • Warchild_70

    Watching Rawls brought back memories from the past too. Earl was one of them then came the Hogs with John L Riggins, Bettis, Watters et al. And who can forget #72 of da bears being used as a eligible receiver in the red zone? With all due respect to our Beastie it may be time to look at retirement. The wear and tear on his aging body is beginning to show. Though I loved watching Beastie carrying 5-8 defenders like a Possum with her kits that kind of toll will wear out lots of parts and IMHO he should look at past greats like Unitas with his unusable throwing arm, Butkis and his knees those were iron men broken by the way it was looked at in the past to just give an aspirin and smelling salts for that bell rung or rub some dirt in your boo-boo and get back in there! Get well Beastie, GO HAWKS!!!