The attrition that compromised the Seahawks run game in 2016 is showing up again. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy will get their chance Sunday to do something about it.
After going through a club-record 18 backs in 2016 in an abjectly futile attempt to replace Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks sought not to have their running pants pulled around their ankles in 2017.
So they hired free agent Eddie Lacy, re-upped late-comer J.D. McKissic and drafted Chris Carson to supplement holdovers Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise.
Four games in, they’re down to three again.
Carson was lost to a broken ankle Sunday against Indianapolis. Prosise continues to be limited this week in practice by a sprained ankle.
The position in Seattle is identical to the Mariners’ starting rotation.
So Sunday in the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Rams’ formidable front seven, which has to be considered the Seahawks’ No. 1 nemesis over the past several years, they likely will start Rawls, backed up by Lacy with McKissic as the third-down back.
Through four games, the three have combined for 28 carries and 113 yards, 30 of which came on a McKissic touchdown run Sunday. BeastQuakery, it is not.
But here’s the good news: The awkwardness has dissipated.
The increased ordnance at the position forced the Seahawks to deactivate one of the veterans, Rawls or Lacy, each week. That was something that surprised and probably angered both. But both were savvy enough this week to keep their emotions private and stick with politically correct responses.
“It’s a business decision and I’m OK with that,” Rawls said. “I don’t come before the team. I stay in my place.”
Said Lacy: “I’m here to contribute where I can.”
Awkward blather aside, both guys figure to be running in an intensely pissed-off manner, which may prove worthy in a pivotal game.
The 3-1 Rams have won three of the past four and four of the past six against Seattle, and are 6-8 overall during Pete Carroll’s tenure. They are eager to destroy the natural order.
Whether in St. Louis or Los Angeles, the Rams the last seven years have been the divisional little brothers, destined to lose out but nevertheless enjoying being annoying as hell.
This time, under a new coach, 31-year-old wunderkind Sean McVay, the Rams are different: No. 1 in the NFL in points scored (35.5 ppg) and fifth in total yards (1,535). The offensive line has allowed second-year QB Jared Goff to be touched only eight times in four games. The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson typically gets hit eight times between the bus and the locker room.
But on defense, the Rams, under new coordinator Wade Phillips, are fifth-worst in points (26.3 ppg) and total yards (1,471).
The sample size is relatively small, but suggests potential for a shoot-out, presuming the Seahawks bring ground weapons.
The Seahawks have to get off fast on the road, which means they have to get something right away out of Rawls. That would a breakthrough, because it seems as if Rawls has not been his explosive self of two years ago, when he led the NFL in average yards per rush.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell hinted that the psychological part of Rawls’ recovery from multiple leg injuries is incomplete.
“Obviously, anytime that you’re coming back from an injury, there’s the physical part of it, and there’s also the mental part of it,” he said. “He’s continued to work. I’m not saying that he’s not past both of those. But that’s kind of the battles that you have to fight.”
Naturally, Rawls rejects the notion that he’s been diminished by wear and tear.
“I don’t feel like its taken a toll on me now,” he said. “I feel like I’m a tough guy. If nicks and bruises pop up, I’ll be fine.
“I’m not sure how I felt a couple of years ago. I feel good today.”
Lacy has never played the Rams in a regular season game but has become acquainted this week via video.
“They get two-three hats to the ball all the time; the front seven is physical,” he said. “You have to be physical with them for four quarters.
“I’m not too bad at that.”
The Seahawks’ 36-point eruption in the second half Sunday came against a Colts defense ranked last in the league. So little was proven. Rawls will get the first chance Sunday against a good defense to demonstrate that the early season travail was ephemeral.
“He just brings kind of that tenacity that we’re looking for, that kind of nastiness that we want to be part of our offense, ” Bevell said. “We’ll see if we can get that from him.”
Nastiness. A word that once defined the Seahawks.