Marshawn Lynch injury a sign of things to come?


We are used to seeing Marshawn Lynch’s name on the injury report. For the last couple seasons the Seahawks have rested him on Wednesday’s in an attempt to keep him fresh. At times there have been actual nagging injuries contributing to his weekly Hump Day DNP (did not practice) designations, in particular he’s dealt with back issues on and off for years (or at least that’s what the team tells us). But today was different. Lynch is officially listed as questionable with a calf issue, and coach Pete Carroll says he’ll be a game time decision.

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"“We’ve been able to condition him some, but we just wanted to make sure and take care of him during the week. So he’ll run tomorrow and we’ll see if he’s OK. It’ll go all the way to game day on this one, though.” -Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll"

Of all the games remaining on the teams schedule, this might be one where the Seahawks can afford to be cautious with their bell-cow running back. The Bears have been awful, and are also playing without Jay Cutler and top wideout Alshon Jeffery. As much as fans were hoping to see their team try to get the running game back on track against a subpar opponent at home, they can most likely win this one without him.

And, in fact, it might be better if they do.

Clearly, Lynch’s days as a workhouse, elite-earning running back have to end sometime. I believe when the Seahawks drafted RB Christine Michael in the 2nd round in 2013 they did so with the idea that he would replace Lynch by this season. But Michael was a bust, and Lynch has held up physically better than most backs who are approaching their 30th birthday. So they had to pony up and write him a new deal paying him $12 million a year. I don’t think this was part of the long-term, puzzle-piece plan that John Schneider and Carroll had mapped out. And, in fact, I think it threw them a curveball that caused them to have to make salary choices they weren’t expecting to make last off season.

Fast forward to today, and now we have a team that’s paying their starting QB among the league’s elite, and have a young offensive line that to this point is more adept at pass protecting than clearing running lanes. Through two games, Lynch is on pace to rush for less than 1,000 yards, while Russell Wilson is on pace to throw for a career-high 3,656 yards. There are indications that the team is taking steps to transition to a more high-volume passing offense (draft capital spent on WR’s the last two years, plus the trade for Jimmy Graham), and put more on Wilson’s shoulders. This is a risky proposition because we all know how fragile Lynch’s mindset (and his mom’s, right Darell Bevell?) can be. If he feels like he’s becoming less a part of the offense this year, will he create problems in the locker room? Or will he take it like a veteran and understand that at some point this has to happen? Perhaps this is one of the reasons Seattle brought in his old mentor from Buffalo, Fred Jackson, when he was released. He could be on hand as much to keep Lynch straight as he is to spell him in the backfield from time to time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the time to completely change the offense is now, but that day is coming…. either because Lynch will eventually hit a wall or the team will have to move on for salary structure reasons. And once Beast Mode is done as a Seahawk, the team will be right there with about 90% of the rest of the league, having to piece together a running back committee because Beasts don’t just grow on trees. When that day comes, it’ll be up to Wilson to take the reigns, and he still has a ways to go to continue developing as a passer. He can make quicker decisions, and take the easy open receiver instead of always waiting that extra second hoping for the home run to develop. There are signs the first two games that he’s getting better at staying in the pocket, and even stepping up into it instead of bailing out when he feels pressure, but we need to see more of that over a longer period of time. Sunday could be a great opportunity to see what he can do without Lynch.

Is it scary to imagine the post-Beast Seahawks? Absolutely, but it has to happen sometime. Today it’s the calf, but what if he tears an Achilles trying to play at less than 100% against a team they should be able to beat anyway?

Remember 1983? Curt Warner was coming off an incredible rookie season but tore his ACL in the first game. HE was the offense. Chuck Knox ran everything through Warner. Without him they had to adapt, and Dave Krieg ended up leading a suddenly wide open offense all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

As scary as it sounds to be experimenting when they’re 0-2, Sunday’s game could provide the Seahawks with an opportunity to dip their toe into Lynch-less waters.

Chances are Lynch plays, I mean he always ends up playing, right? And some of you might think I’m crazy for even suggesting that they play it safe with him. But the day that Marshawn Lynch isn’t Marshawn Lynch anymore is fast approaching. I would even argue I’ve seen evidence of it through the first two games. I’d like to know the Hawks can adapt without him.

There will be no better opportunity for a dry run than this Sunday.

Next: 5 Questions From The Bears Side

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