Seahawks Insider

A closer look at Hawks’ sputtering run game

Post by Eric Williams on Aug. 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm with 26 Comments »
August 29, 2010 1:24 pm
Seattle Seahawks running back Leon Washington looks for a hole (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia).

We’ve heard this all before. Offensive line guru Alex Gibbs was brought in to install the zone-blocking scheme, which may take awhile to take hold, but has been successful everywhere that he’s coached.

Well, we’re now three weeks into the exhibition season and Gibb’s version of the zone blocking scheme is looking much like former Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s version last season – basically spinning its wheels and going nowhere.

The Seahawks are averaging a paltry 69 yards a game during preseason play, ranking 28th overall in the league. That’s translates to 3.4 yards a game, which is not going to get it done once the regular season begins in two weeks.

And it hasn’t mattered which running back has been in the game. Julius Jones, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington have all gotten starts with the first unit, and each has struggled to find creases in the vaunted run scheme.

Forsett has 50 yards on 18 carries for a 2.8 per-carry average. Jones has 12 carries for 33 yards for a 2.8 per-carry average. And Washington has 35 yards on 10 carries for a 3.5 per-carry average.

If you think those numbers sound familiar, you’re correct. The Seahawks averaged 4.0 yards per carry last year on the ground, tied for 25th overall.

So what gives? Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had some explaining to do after Saturday’s game.

“I’m not pleased with it at all,” Carroll said. “It’s just not happening the way we want it to. We need to be more balanced than we are. I think Jeremy (Bates), he felt it. We’re not getting the movement that we need in the running game that we want. And so we threw ball quite a bit more. … So we need to mix it like we want to.”

Carroll also mentioned that staying on the field and converting on third downs so the running back can get into a rhythm has been an issue. The Seahawks are just 15 of 46 (32.6 percent) on third downs, and have thrown the ball almost twice as many times as they’ve ran it (115 passes to 61 runs).

The Seahawks have to overcome several impediments to their success in order to improve the run game.

First of all, they are dealing with a make-shift line learning a new scheme, which is not a good combination. So guys like Mansfield Wrotto and Mike Gibson are learning on the fly, and rookie Russell Okung will be doing the same thing when he comes back from his ankle injury.

Secondly, the Seahawks are not getting consistent blocking from the tight end position in setting the edge of the defense, which makes it hard to run the outside zone plays.

And lastly, the offensive line has not been consistent in getting the backside pursuit cut down in order to create the cutback lanes, which is where a lot of the big plays come in the run scheme.

In short, the run game is a work in progress. I know Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have preached balance and wanting to establish the ability to run, but Seattle has enough playmakers on the perimeter to become a pass-first team while the ground game continues to mature.

This is something Bates is familiar with, having thrown the ball well over 60 percent of the time when he had Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in Denver two years ago. And if Seattle could force defenses to play the pass, then they could use the run game to keep defenses honest once they start pulling players out of the box to defend guys like Mike Williams on the outside.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also talked about using the play-action and bootleg game to keep the backside pursuit honest on the outside zone runs.

“I’ve got to do a better job converting on third down so we can get those guys on the field and get into a rhythm,” Hasselbeck said. “And we probably need to commit to our keeper or bootleg package to take that backside guy who’s chasing down the play to get him out of there.”

As far as the running back competition goes, Carroll said he has not settled on a starter for the regular season, with his evaluations hampered by the team’s struggles to open up holes for any of the runners.

“I didn’t think we learned much tonight unfortunately,” Carroll said. “So we’ll take it to next week and see what’s going on. The guys are working really hard. We love them and all, but we’ve just got to give them more chances and more space.”

Xs and Os
Leave a comment Comments → 26
  1. If it normally takes an OL until mid-season to start clicking with respect to getting the running game going, it does make sense (though not ideal) to be a pass first team (at least until the midway point).

    Getting Baker back will be huge in getting Carlson invoved to go along with Mike Williams and hopefully sprinkle a bit of Golden Tate too. I know he’s too raw to be an every down guy, but he’s got playmaking ability and many times it only takes one play to turn a game around (not like 5 passes to Housh — in which 3 will be incomplete and the 2 that are caught will go for a total of 5 yards). Add a healthy Branch (for the first 8 minutes of the San Francisco game; until he gets hurt) and we have enough players on the outside to be okay. And with Butler, there’s going to be a few weeks (like Tate) where nothing happens, but then all of a sudden he’s going to run like heck and turn in a 40 yard play that helps to change a game. I’m excited.

  2. Or we could think of the positives — we gained a lot more yards rushing last night than we did against the Vikings at the Dome less than a year ago. Progress! lol

  3. Dukeshire says:

    I believe they will have to use the pass to set up the run, as well. But what Bates had in Denver were weapons and an o line that could pass block. Cutler was sacked only 11 times that ’08 season. Seattle has some weapons but they have to find a way to keep Hass upright without keeping in extra blockers. Rollouts are a great way to do that. We’ve seen CW bootleg several times but not Matt. They cannot afford to keep a TE in to block to protect Hass and rely on the pass to bail out the run. We all saw how that formula worked last season.

    IMO, this team needs to establish themselves in one area first, then build off that. If you want to have max protect then you’d better be prepared to run the ball. They are just not talented enough to take Carlson out of the passing game to use it to set up runs. Or run two TEs with and pull another WR off the field and expect to establish the pass.

    We’ll see how it plays out in 2 weeks and I have no doubt Bates is far more creative than Knapp. But it is troublesome how ineffective they have been running the ball this summer.

  4. Soggybuc says:

    I’ve seen some good things on both sides to make me feel it going in the right direction. not suprising its slow going. all 3 teams we have faced are good teams in established schemes so they really should look heads and shoulders better than the hawks.
    Weeks 9-16 are going to be the ones we will see the best ball the hawks have for this year. 7-9 seems a realistic projection and i’ll be very happy if 7 of those losses are hard fought scrappy contests as opposed to the downright ownage we saw last year.

  5. Carlson is a massive liability in both the run and pass blocking areas.

    I was pleased with yesterday’s game in that the Seahawks looked very “competent” playing a high level team on the road. Last year, they would just go in and get blown out in those situations.

    I think the Seahawks starting Defense has just forced 1 punt the entire exhibition season when the other starting QB was in the game – that came on the final Favre series last night.

  6. BobbyAyala says:

    The problem here is evident — Tim Ruskell couldn’t tell an NFL lineman from his wife.

    Our line is filled with, eh-hem, pansies.

    They’ll do wonders on that wonderlic though.

  7. BobbyAyala says:

    We’re going to find out Sept. 12 what a real line looks like awfully quick.

    SF’s line looks so big, and they play nasty, nasty football.

    We’re in big, big trouble when it comes to the trenches.

    All the more reason to trade Hass for a draft pick.

  8. BobbyAyala says:

    “I know Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have preached balance and wanting to establish the ability to run, but Seattle has enough playmakers on the perimeter to become a pass-first team while the ground game continues to mature.

    “This is something Bates is familiar with, having thrown the ball well over 60 percent of the time when he had Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in Denver two years ago. And if Seattle could force defenses to play the pass, then they could use the run game to keep defenses honest once they start pulling players out of the box to defend guys like Mike Williams on the outside.”

    There’s too many holes in this logic.

    First of all, Denver finished 2008 with a record of 8-8, and their leading rusher was Peyton Hillis with 343 yards on 68 carries. Michael Pittman got 76 carries (320 yards).

    Cutler went 384 of 616 for 4,526 yards for a completion percentage of 62.3 and a QB rating of 86.

    Marshall had 104 catches and Eddie Royal had 91.

    The last time Matt produced those numbers was in 2007, when he had a rating of 91 and a completion percentage of 62.

    He started all 16 games — that’s first and foremost in any discussion involving Hasselbeck.

    Shaun Alexander ran for 716 yards, and MoMo has 628.

    Bobby Engram had 94 catches for 1,147 yards.

    So, what’s the point?

    Matt Hasselbeck is now three years older, Bobby Engram’s in Cleveland, Shaun Alexander is probably building a church in Cincinnati.

    Matt is learning is second new offense in as many years, has no go-to-guy on offense, has no Walter Jones protecting his back, and he has a stable of dwarf-sized tailbacks who are better suited for special teams and the waiver wire than hitting the hole hard or blocking a blitzing linebacker.

    And with that, Jeremy Bates is going to replicate his 8-8 two years ago in Denver?

    I’m taking on a pass on that assertion, Mr. Williams.

  9. Dukeshire says:

    pabuwal – Not on offense they didn’t.

  10. Of course, the fact that all three of our preseason opponents have exceptionally strong run defenses might have something to do with it too.

  11. HawkyHann says:

    GET RID OF JORDAN BABINEAUX. He is beyond pathetic. Can’t believe he is still on our team.

  12. Dukeshire says:

    I think Babs is safe this year simply because he’s a body that can play FS should Thomas go down. But I agree, his days have got be numbered.

  13. Would putting a TE in the back field help any with the blocking?

  14. seatowntp says:

    Could Chris Johnson Adrian Peterson, or Maurice Jones-Drew be successful in this offense? What about LeSean McCoy, Joseph Addai, or Jonathan Stewart? If the answer is yes, especially to the second group, then maybe it’s not the O line?

  15. Last year I felt the zone scheme was a bad joke. With Gibb’s rep, I had HOPED it would be different this year. We’ll see.

    I also think they need to pick a primary RB (either Forsett or Washington, Please NOT Jones) & go with him so that person can get into a rhythm.

    And yes, if they had used their brains (oxymoron) & brought Holmgren back perhaps Matt would be back in the only offense he knew for many years & was largely quite successful with.

  16. snydro22 says:


    But then who would make the Big Plays?

  17. Big Play Thomas? Inconceivable!

  18. If you want a quick six,
    Our DT will give you your fix,
    Colin Cole to the hole,
    To the end zone he will roll.

  19. hambone08 says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned it, but did you guys see Milloy knock Hutchinson on his can? It was on the series where we stopped the Vikes on 4th and goal and if I remember it correctly Hutchinson pulled outside on one of the plays. Milloy was crashing in and completely flattened him. Redemption BobbyK lol

  20. Snydro – you mean, who would give up the big plays?

  21. chuck_easton says:


    The first 5 cuts are due today or tomorrow at the latest. Going from 80 to 75 is usually easy and rarely contains any suprises.

    Friday’s cuts to 53 may be the bigge issue where we might see one or two names on the list that nobody saw coming.

    As for Saturday, I PVR’d it and watched it yesterday. I actually thought the 1st team defense looked OK. The offense will need to get in gear, but nobody came out of the game with any major injuries so even that was a win.

  22. ljarllrajl says:

    lol, not sure what Babs has to do with the running game but oh well.

    What I see out there is just an overall lack of talent on the O-line and the backfield. While Spencer and Unger have looked adequate; but Wrotto, Gibson, and Locklear looked like Tightends out there blocking last week. There was one play where Washington picked up Ray Edwards on a block and looked better than Locklear has all preseason.

    In the backfield Leon is the only back that has shown any explosive consistency in the running game. Forsett looks indecisive and Jones looks flat out slow.

    I think you have to make the passing game your bread and butter because that is where your talent is on this offense. It’s that simple. And you don’t game plan around injuries that haven’t happened yet, that’s just a waste of time and resources because it’s out of any coaching staffs control. All you can do is get ready to smack the 49ers in the mouth and show them we’re still here.

    On the bright side, the defense looked much stronger with the return of Mebane and Tatupu. LB’s stayed in their gaps which allowed the safeties to come up and smack people around. And we didn’t allow too many yards after the catch after the first quarter.

  23. I’m not sure about this Unger fellow as a starter. He plays in his own backfield way too much.

  24. ljarllrajl says:

    Note, I said ‘adequate’ and not ‘good’ of Unger. =)

    I’m pretty sure that on a ‘good’ offensive line he’d stick out like a sore, green, nail-less thumb.

  25. yellaman says:

    it will be a miracle if this team can improve on running the rock. This team is soft up front and it will take us getting better talent up front before we see improvement. This team needs to look at using the pass first to set up the run and use a 2 TE set alot to give Matt time to throw. Until the seahawks get better up front don’t expect a drastic turn around to last years team. The drafting of Okung was much needed but we still need another 2 more guards( unger playing center) and possible RT prospect before we see improvement. If this team wins 8 games it will be with smoke and mirrors and not a talented offensive and defensive fronts. hawk fan ( realist)

  26. yellaman says:

    The hawks need to go with a 2 TE & 1 Rb offense & 2 WR set. I know I’m not a football coach but that would give you the flexibilty to pass protect and get players out in pass routes. This team doesn’t need a FB and a 2nd TE on the field will help the O-line block and get 2 WR’s and the other TE out in pass routes. The 1 RB would make the defense stay a little honest against the run or screen passes to the backs. These are just thoughts from a frustrated fan.

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