In 2009 the Seahawks couldn't run the ball to save their lives, much less a football game.
Blame it on Jim Mora. Blame the Swiss cheese they used for an offensive line. Blame it on the underdeveloped zone-blocking scheme. Blame the anemic passing game. Whatever you want. There are plenty of options to choose from.
Last year is behind us and the team has addressed some of the aforementioned problems in an attempt to bolster the Seattle rushing attack which was widely feared once upon a time.
Mora: gone. Offensive line: stronger. Zone-blocking: in its second year. Passing game: Hasselbeck is back!
So what can we expect from the 2010 Seattle Seahawks running game?
Can they take strides toward returning to elite rushing status? Will Leon Washington get healthy enough to share duties in a RB-by-committee scheme? Can Justin Forsett maintain impressive yards-per-carry?
Let's take a look at all of the backs and guess how each will fare in the much anticipated 2010 season.
Please, Seahawks! Oh, please! Cut Julius Jones!
Trade him with Deion Branch for a box of doughnuts.
In 2009, the 12th Man was ready to run Jim Mora out of town every time Julius Jones touched the ball instead of Justin Forsett.
The only games in which Forsett got substantial carries were games Jones spent injured. Incidentally the team had good rushing numbers on those days. Yet Jones continued to start games once back from injury.
Unfortunately, we all know Jones isn't going anywhere. Seattle is still stuck with him because the front office won't cut its losses, nor will it find a team willing to make a trade for him.
Hopefully Jones can step up a little bit and make himself useful. At least he can catch the ball. I say his yards-per-carry maintain a steady decline.
2010 Prediction: 290 yards on 95 carries, one TD, 10 receptions for 70 Yards.
P.S. I'd be more than happy to eat my words if a miracle occurs and Jones suddenly learns how to run the ball.
Last season Louis Rankin only carried the ball eight times for 38 yards and caught five passes for 33 yards.
That's not a lot of production, hardly worth remembering...So why did he stand out so much?
Something about the way he plays seems to show some spark. I feel like he could be absolutely electric and he can have the ability to make a big play happen.
I'm not sure where he will line up this season. Part of me wants to think he could break out and turn into a premier, All-Star running back. Another part of me says to go with the more reasonable guess and say he performs a lot of fullback duties this season.
I'm afraid I have to go with the latter.
I think Rankin will make defenses second guess when he is in the game. He's a lot scarier than Owen Schmitt, the current fullback.
These days, with how little the fullback position is actually utilized, it's important the fullback can at least threaten to do something offensively.
2010 Prediction: 120 yards on 25 carries, 10 receptions for 85 Yards.
OK, so the Seahawks are not known for their tall running backs. Quinton Ganther stands 5'9" but he packs 214 lbs, making him the bulkiest running back on the team.
That tells me he is a viable candidate for third downs and goal line situations.
He's not the prototypical short-yardage guy but we don't exactly have a lot of choices. Rankin is kind of big, but at 6'1" he only weighs 205 lbs, so, for now, I feel Ganther is the pre-training camp favorite for this role.
Every back on the team is probably going to get several opportunities on short downs in preseason and early in the regular season. I think Ganther will emerge as the team's go-to guy somewhere down the line. Keep in mind his "yards-per-carry" is going to be low.
His hands are OK. He'll grab a pass here and there. If you're looking for a running back to come out of the backfield a lot, look elsewhere.
And if one of our top backs goes down, I would not be afraid to let Ganther fill in, as he did for Clinton Portis part of last season with Washington. Hopefully we don't have to face this scenario but he does provide decent depth.
2010 Prediction: 180 yards on 60 carries, 8 TDs, 10 receptions for 110 Yards.
Who is Ryan Powdrell? He's the guy in that picture to the left.
Why is Ryan Powdrell on the Seahawks? The uniform he is wearing in that picture should answer this question.
Powdrell is a powerful linebacker turned fullback, weighing in at 254 lbs.
Since coming into the NFL he has spent a week on the Tampa Bay practice squad and a year on IR with Green Bay. The highlight of his pro career may be that he spent time with the 2009 Super Bowl champion Steelers team...he was signed a week after the big game and cut before the following training camp but hey, he was probably really excited for a couple months.
Powdrell can possibly make the practice squad but I doubt he'll spend much time with the organization. He's only on this list because he appears on the roster.
2010 Prediction: appears on at least three different practice squads.
Third year fullback Owen Schmitt is a big boy. I like him as a blocker and I think he deserves time at the position but I don't see him running the ball much, if at all.
In 2008 he had five carries and last year he had none. Those stats (or lack thereof) can easily be attributed to the coaching but with that little experience I can't say he'll come out and do much more.
He gets his job done without rushing though; he'll be a good zone-blocking fullback.
I think we can get some offensive production out of him in emergency situations. If Hasselbeck is facing a sack and Schmitt can escape the backfield quickly he can grab a short pass. But I doubt any plays will be designed to toss an out to Schmitt.
2010 Prediction: 10 yards on three Carries, five receptions for 25 Yards; and a lot of great blocking.
Leon Washington brings a whole new kind of football to the Seahawks.
He is fast. Very fast. Put an open field in front of this guy and look out!
Washington's leg is nearing full strength and he will be ready to hit the ground running (pun intended).
He will come in and play the second back in the running back by committee attack. There will be games in which he gets five carries, some games with 15.
The exciting aspect of Washington's acquisition is that we already acquired his blocking tight end, Chris Baker, from the Jets earlier in the offseason. The two players were actually fishing together when Washington received the news that he'd been traded to the Seahawks on draft day. The chemistry between these two will carry over and make for some strong runs to the left, in between Baker and rookie left tackle, Russell Okung.
He will be second on the team in carries and rushing yards.
The area where Washington is really going to excel is kickoff returning. I'm looking for him to make the Pro Bowl on special teams, possibly with franchise records in return yardage.
Leon, you are getting a warm welcome from this team. If you can perform well enough to make Seattle forget about Julius Jones, it will love you forever. That's not a very high standard so here's to not blowing it.
2010 Prediction: 660 Yards on 140 Carries, five TDs, 35 Receptions for 280 Yards, one TD; 1,650 kickoff return yards (franchise record is 1,629, Charlie Rogers in 2000), one TD.
The fan favorite here has got to be Justin Forsett.
Typical 2009 game situation: Forsett helps the team drive down the field for a score. Next set of downs, in comes Julius Jones. The opposing defense gets a quick and easy three-and-out. Millions of Seahawks fans throw stuff (e.g. shoes or tortilla chips) at their TVs.
In 2010 we should expect big things from our running game, all starting with Justin Forsett.
Pete Carroll has already made it explicitly clear—in words and in practice—there will not be a premier back in this offense. I tend to agree with him given the size of our running backs and the options at the position.
Despite having a running back by committee system, one guy is definitely going to have more carries than everyone else. That guy will be Justin Forsett.
He should put up some decent receiving numbers as he is good at coming out of the backfield and that is a tool Carroll will utilize often.
You'd better draft Forsett in your fantasy leagues, because here comes a breakout season!
2010 Prediction: 1,050 yards on 210 carries, 10 TDs. 40 receptions for 400 Yards, one TD.
Sorry, folks. Not going to happen.
If you took the time to add up all of the rushing totals, you'll see I predict the Seahawks will rush for 2,115 yards in 2010. And that doesn't even count quarterback sneaks, bootlegs, end-arounds or punter panic.
The Seahawks are about to get their feet back on the ground (pun intended again). Look for a serious turnaround in the running game this season.
NFC West title, here we come!