Seahawks running game should look a lot like this in 2017

Jun 13, 2017; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy (27) talks with running back Thomas Rawls (34) during a minicamp practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Renton, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy (27) talks with running back Thomas Rawls (34) during a minicamp practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s no better time to make wild predictions about the Seahawks running game than mid-June. We’ll analyze the possibilities here.

It’s no secret that the Seahawks running game was a major factor in last season’s performance. Injuries and inconsistency were easily the biggest culprit here. For injuries, we present the two main holdovers from 2016, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. They only played in 15 games combined last season. For inconsistency, we present the Seahawks leading rusher for the 2016, Christine Michael. Michael was released in November, just as soon as C.J. Prosise showed he could carry the load.

Then of course C.J. got hurt. Luckily Rawls was ready, but then Rawls got hurt and…well, that’s why Eddie Lacy is on the team now.

More from 12th Man Rising

Pete Carroll said the Seahawks running game would come roaring back

Pete Carroll stated weeks ago on the Brock and Salk Show that the run game would improve this year. Okay, so ‘improve’ is putting it mildly. (His comments on the running game begin at 35:02, for those keeping score at home).

"“We lost a hundred some runs last year, you know? That was basically the story. That was basically the tale why everything came about as it did. Defense had to do more stuff, we had to throw the ball more, we had to pass protect more, and all of that because the running game got knocked up…I think we’re gonna come roaring right back.”"

So Pete says the Seahawks need to run the ball 100 more times than they did in 2016. Let’s see exactly what that means, shall we?

The Seahawks got to get mathy, people!

In 2016 the Seahawks ran the ball 403 times. In 2015, they ran exactly 500 times. 2014, 525 times. 2013, 509 times. Hey, who knew Pete Carroll was a statistician? He’s on the nose about losing ” a hundred some runs”, isn’t he? So how will those hundred extra runs be distributed?

The Seahawks main man 1A, Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy is the lead man in this race, as Lee has already written. I happen to agree with Lee’s assessment. I just wanted to throw some numbers around and back up his prediction with some three-quarter-baked conjecture.

Anyway, Lacy’s best season was 2014, when he averaged 4.6 yards per carry and caught 42 passes for a 10.2 yard average. He amassed 13 touchdowns and 1566 yards. He had 246 rushing attempts and was targeted on 55 passes. The key number? His attempts per game dropped from 18.9 in 2013 to 15.4, and he became more effective.

In his injury-shortened 2016 campaign, he was even more efficient. In his five starts he had 71 carries; that’s 14.2 per game. His rushing average climbed again, to 5.1 yards per carry. That’s the mathy way of saying Lacy should still be very effective as the lead back. Keep him fresh with 12 attempts per game. Now you’ve accounted for 192 running plays. You have 308 left for Pete’s magic 500.

The Seahawks main man 1B, Thomas Rawls

Thomas Rawls is the heir apparent in Seattle. He seemed to have stepped in and actually improved on Beastmode’s productivity in his rookie season. Then of course the injury bug lit into Rawls like one of the Seven Plagues. In that awesome rookie season, Rawls averaged 5.6 yards per carry. In the six games he completed as a starter, he carried the ball 126 times. Even the non-mathy can see that comes to 21 carries per game.

The good news is with a healthy Lacy leading the charge and Prosise (we’ll get to him) available as well, the Seahawks can limit the number of insane collisions that Rawls craves. Yeah, they’re pretty awesome, but we need him healthy. While not really considered a major receiving option out of the backfield, he was targeted seven times for six receptions in his last three full games. Rawls made a point that he’s worked extremely hard on his routes in the offseason as well, so he should be at least as good an option in the passing game as Lacy.

Let’s pencil Rawls in for nine carries per game. That gives him 144 carries, and leaves the staff 164 carries.

Enter the third down specialist

C.J. Prosise certainly doesn’t like being thought of as a specialist. He proved he can be the featured back with his performance against the New England Patriots last November with 17 carries and seven receptions. Why is he thought of as a third down guy? 17 receptions on just 19 targets tends to create that perception. You could say Prosise is a victim of his own success.

If he can beat Rawls and Lacy for the number one spot – I guess that would be the 1A spot – he’ll get it, and run with it.

How many carries for Prosise? Hopefully an improved offensive line and more effective running game won’t leave the Seahawks in as many third and long situations as last season. Prosise will get the call as a change of pace often, too, so let’s give him five carries a game. That’s 80 carries, and leaves 84 runs to get to 500.

So you’re saying the scrubs will get 84 carries?

Only if you call one of the league’s best quarterbacks a scrub. In his first four seasons, Russell Wilson carried the ball 411 times for 2430 yards. That’s an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Wilson averaged 6.4 rushing attempts per game. Or if you prefer, 103 attempts per year. Last year Wilson was hampered by injuries (I damn thee, Ndamukong Suh; I damn thee, sir) but still ran 72 times.

So let’s give a healthy Wilson six carries a game. That’s 96 carries, and that does indeed put the magic number at 512 carries. If by some miracle everyone stayed healthy enough for this scenario to play out, I’m sure Pete would accept a bit of an overage. Flex Prosise a few more carries and this backfield could have four players with over 500 yards rushing each. That’s a nightmare for opposing defenses, and that isn’t even considering the passing game.

So can these Seahawks make this happen?

Realistically, there will be injuries. Realistically Eddie Lacy might not be too thrilled with less than 200 carries as his contract is extremely incentive-laden. He’s not going to reach that $1,000,000 bonus with less than 200 carries. The thing is, I believe Lacy has something much more valuable in his sights. He’s looking for redemption, and he’s looking for a title. And after all, how much money would the leading rusher of the Super Bowl Champions be worth? I think every player is of the same mindset. It’s about wins, not stats.

Of course there will be injuries, but the Seahawks are in so much better shape to handle those possibilities in 2017 than they were last year. Alex Collins and Chris Carson are likely to fill out the depth chart, and I don’t see anyone pushing the panic button if either of them are in the game. I think Coach Carroll might have underplayed his hand when he said the running game will come roaring back. With their improved line and improved health, this group can be devastating.