Seattle Seahawks Jerseys You didn’t need to dig to discover who the Seahawks wanted to be. It was never more obvious than when they talked about running back Marshawn Lynch.
“He’s basically the concrete of the offense,” safety Earl Thomas once said.
Running-backs coach Sherman Smith took it even further: “He’s the heart and soul of our team. I truly believe that.”
But Lynch retired after last season, and in his absence the Seahawks have grappled with a question they haven’t contemplated in a long time: What is their offensive identity?
Jermaine Kearse meets with the media after the Seahawks’ 34-31 loss on Saturday (1:40)
Defensive coordinator Kris Richard, along with Cheap nfl Jerseys teammates Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor, tried to calm him. Sherman was blunt in explaining what set him off: He wanted the Seahawks to run the ball. The next morning, Carroll called Sherman into his office and the two talked for an hour.
But Sherman’s frustration hinted at something deeper: an identity concern that has shadowed the Seahawks all season.
“The identity crisis permeates both sides of the ball,” said Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout, including for the Seahawks. “If you think about Seattle and what they’ve always prided themselves on, they prided themselves on being the bully on the block. Part of their confidence stemmed from that they felt like they could always play any team, anywhere and make it a street fight in a phone booth. They knew on defense they were going to be physical and knock you around, but then on offense, they always had the luxury of giving it to Marshawn and he was going to make defenses deal with him.
“And now they don’t have that ability so they’re frustrated. … And they also know that it makes them more vulnerable in the playoffs.”
Carroll made his thoughts on the Seahawks’ offensive identity clear in 2014.
“We close the loop on toughness by being a running team,” Carroll said. “The circle of toughness wouldn’t be there if we were throwing the ball.”
But without the fear of a rushing attack this season, teams have defended the Seahawks differently. No longer jamming players near the line, defenses are dropping more defenders in coverage, shrinking space for quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers, and daring the Seahawks to beat them on the ground.
“You’re seeing Marshawn Lynch’s value play out right in front of us,” Brooks said.
Analysts, players and scouts agree it’s the Seahawks’ biggest issue. The Seahawks rank 19th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (101.9) and 17th in yards per carry (4.1). They haven’t ranked worse than 12th in either category since 2011 and have finished in the top four in rushing yards per game in each of the last four seasons.
The most obvious change is the absence of Lynch. Thomas Rawls averaged 5.6 yards per carry as Lynch’s replacement last year, and he’s is averaging 4 yards per carry since returning from injury this year. He runs with the attitude and the style the Seahawks demand. But defenses are now daring the Seahawks to beat them by running the ball instead of gearing up to stop it.
Lynch missed most of 2015 with injuries, averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and yet the Seahawks ranked third in rushing yards. But former NFL fullback Heath Evans counters that the Seahawks still had Lynch’s identity then.
“I’ve said for years the day Marshawn retires this team will change,” Evans said. “And it has. I still believe a person’s presence, even though he’s not on the field, has impact. I believe there’s a mindset and a mentality that Pete has instilled in that team that Marshawn was a big part of.
“You don’t replace the heartbeat of a team. I hate to say it because I’m a big Russell fan. But this wasn’t Russell’s team. This was Marshawn’s team. Period, the end.”
Wilson and the offense never looked Cheap jersey wholesale better than in the second half of last season. Wilson passed at a historically efficient rate, but two things aided the offense: the success of Rawls and his line and the reputation the Seahawks had spent the last several years constructing.
Defenses have adjusted this season. The Seahawks rushed for 72 yards against the Rams, and that included a 26-yard gain by punter Jon Ryan. Rawls was repeatedly met by defenders deep in the backfield.