With Hasselbeck Hurt, Hawks Rushers Need to Step Up

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If there ever was a time this season that the Seahawks needed their injury riddled offensive linemen to be healthy, now would be that time.

In the Seahawks’ next six games, four of them are against teams that give up an average of four yards-per-carry or more, and with Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck either playing in a tempered role or possibly having to miss time due to a fractured rib, the Seahawks need production from its running backs to keep the team in contention for the NFC West title.

Week Three brings a Chicago Bears team to Qwest Field that lacks its key leader on the defensive side of the ball, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

At first look, the Bears’ defense looks solid even with the loss of Urlacher. The Bears have recorded six sacks through two games and rank 12TH in the NFL in average yards given up-per-game, allowing 90.5 yards to opposing rushers.

However, if you take a deeper look, you’ll see that they let running backs eat up 4.1 yards-per-carry. What’s even scarier for the unit is that against the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers’ running attack, Willie Parker ate up 47 yards on 14 carries and had three runs that went for at least 10 yards. Rashard Mendenhall had a long of 39 yards.

This is Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall we’re talking about! While they are good backs, they certainly are not the caliber of player that you would think could have such success against an overall above-average defensive unit like Chicago’s.

In Week Four the Seahawks head to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts.

This matchup is one of the best out of the upcoming six for Julius Jones and company.

Allowing 176.5 yards-per-game on 4.7 yards-per-carry, the Colts are one of the worst teams in run defense in the league.

Thanks in part to the Wildcat formation, Ronnie Brown looked like someone fantasy football players would have drafted in the first round of their drafts this August. On just 24 carries, Brown was racked up 136 yards and got into the end zone twice.

What about his partner in the backfield?

Ricky Williams was decent, rushing for 69 yards on 19 opportunities.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “It’s the Wildcat, Devon! You idiot, it’s supposed to help the rushing attack, especially Miami’s!”

That’s just it though, everybody and their mother knows that when Ronnie Brown lines up in the backfield as a quarterback, a running play is about to happen.

Opposing defensive coordinators and their defenses know that they will see some smoke-and-mirrors action and, because of this knowledge, defenses going up against the Dolphins spend extra time in practice and film study working on being able to eliminate this element of the Dolphins’ offensive attack.

Proving my case that it wasn’t just a one-week disappointment, Indianapolis also had difficulty against the run in its first game of the season.

Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard and Montell Owens, yes that Montell Owens…the one out of Maine, were able to collectively pound the ball on the ground 26 times for a 114 yards and an average of 4.4 yards-per-rush.

After two tough games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Arizona Cardinals, defensive units that have thus far had success in shutting down opposing offenses’ running plays, and a bye week in Week Seven, the Seahawks get the privilege of taking on the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.

Dallas’ defense has some big names in its first unit, but they haven’t produced at the level they should, giving up 4.8 yards-per-carry after games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants.

What about the Lions, the team known for two things: playing each Thanksgiving and losing football games?

Believe it or not, Detroit is actually better than somebody in something!

I know…crazy…right?

At 4.5 yards-per-carry after facing Mike Bell and the Saints in Week One and Adrian Peterson and the Vikings in Week Two, the Lions are better in yards-per-carry allowed than the Colts, Cowboys and the Giants, just to name a few. Despite that ‘victory,’ 4.5 yards-per-carry is hardly anything to jump up for joy about.

Granted the respective Week Eight and Nine games against the Cowboys and the Lions are well down the road and their defensive units have a lot of time to improve against the run before the Seahawks face them, but how much of a chance will there be of them improving that much?

Yes, I understand that individual players and even small groups of players can sometimes noticeably improve throughout the season, but, really people, an entire unit?

Exactly.

A fractured rib, like quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s won’t heal over night. Even if he doesn’t miss all that much or any time this season, he won’t be his normal self under center and opposing defenses will be licking their chops, anxiously waiting for their opportunities to take multiple shots at the Seahawks’ quarterback.

So, Seattle will have to rely more heavily on Julius Jones, Edgerrin James and the short-but-deceptively effective Justin Forsett to move the chains and put the offense in easier positions to put six points up on the scoreboard.

Without a healthy offensive live though, open holes and running lanes could come at a premium. That’s why Walter Jones, Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer need to heal up in a hurry and get back on the field. Otherwise Seattle can expect numerous losses and a great draft pick this spring in addition to the one they’ve received from Denver.


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