Feed the beast.
With the addition of offensive line coach Tom Cable, a zone-blocking guru, and a renewed focus on running the ball by coach Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch expected a steady diet of running plays this season.
But through four games, he mostly has been running play-action fakes and pass-blocking.
Seattle is second worst in the league in rushing, averaging 67.5 yards a game, after finishing next to last in rushing in 2010. And just like last year, Carroll’s first in Seattle, the Seahawks are throwing it much more than they are running it – 63 percent of the time (135 passes) vs. 37 percent (80 runs).
But there are mildly mitigating circumstances. Seattle has been forced to pass more because the team has been behind in the first half of every game. Still, Seattle ran the ball just 41.4 percent of the time last season, which was part of the reason then-offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was let go.
“It all plays together,” Lynch said. “You get down in a game like that, the fastest way to the end zone – a lot of people would think – is a pass. And I mean, that’s the type of games we’ve been playing. We’ve been having to play a lot of catch-up in the second half.
“So I don’t think it’s a problem with our run game. I think we just don’t get to run it enough in order for it to be as effective as we’d like.”
Another reason for Seattle’s poor running attack is having one of the youngest offensive lines in the league, with four guys who have never played together until this season. Running the zone-blocking scheme takes time and repetition to build chemistry, something Lynch is painfully aware of.
“If there was a cheat code we’d all be doing it, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” Lynch joked. “But I don’t see it being like this for that much longer. … They’re not rookies any more.”
The Seahawks plan to use the no-huddle offense more after running it with some effectiveness against Atlanta last week. But offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell doesn’t expect that to limit the running game.
“Probably the biggest thing is just being able to stay on the field,” Bevell said. “We haven’t had a lot of rhythm, being able to stay on the field play after play, so that cuts it down a little bit. Then you get behind and you start throwing the ball.
“I thought even last week in the second half, even when we were in our no-huddle, those were some of the best runs that we had. We were pushing it in there 8 and 6 yards. So I thought we started to do some good things, and started to find a rhythm there.”
Sustaining more drives would give Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington more chances to run the ball. And Lynch knows he gets stronger and creates more explosive plays later in the game as he gets a better feel for the defense.
Seattle has had at least one running back on the field 86.5 percent of the time. Lynch has the most snaps at 116, followed by Forsett (82) and Washington (26).
“You just get to see a lot of little things,” Lynch said. “You get to key on their reactions, and the way they play. And make them (pay) for what they do. So, I mean, I kind of feel that’s kind of how that goes for a game. You get a feel for what’s going on, and it’s easier that way.”
Added Washington: “Obviously if you don’t get touches, it’s hard to get a feel for it. That’s just natural. So hopefully we can get it going, especially get Marshawn going. He’s so talented running the football, so hopefully we can get that going, and try and have a complete offense, because you can see that we can throw the football.”