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There’s nowhere to run for Hawks

Patchy offensive line hurts ground game

John Boyle Everett Herald

In their last game, despite a horrible first half, the Seattle Seahawks were down only 14 points when they started the second half with the ball. The Seahawks opened the third quarter of their game against Arizona with the ball and a chance to gain some momentum and put themselves right back into a home game against a division rival.

But on the first play of that possession, running back Julius Jones was tackled for a 3-yard loss, and on second down, Jones was hit in the backfield again, this time for a 1-yard loss. That led to another Seahawks three-and-out, and was just part of a lopsided loss that featured the lowest single-game team rushing total – 14 yards – in franchise history.

While Seattle’s most-recent game, a 27-3 loss to the Cardinals, was particularly bad, the lack of a consistent running game has been a problem for the Seahawks all season.

The team’s averages of 90.3 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry both rank 28th in the NFL. Jones, the team’s leading rusher, averages 3.9 yards per carry, and that number is buoyed by a 62-yard run he had in the season opener.

Jones, however, isn’t the main problem, Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said.

“A lot of it is up front because of the interchangeable parts,” Knapp said. “It’s made it hard for the backs to get a consistent read.”

Knapp is referring to the ever-changing offensive line. The Seahawks have started three left tackles this season – and that doesn’t include injured starter Walter Jones, who has been out all season – three left guards and two centers. Damion McIntosh could end up as starting left tackle No. 4 when the Seahawks play Dallas on Sunday, in which case the Seahawks would start their fifth different line combination in seven games.

Before the season started, Knapp admitted that the zone blocking scheme he was installing would take time to click. In previous stops as an offensive coordinator, Knapp said it took between six to eight weeks to get the running game to where it should be, but that was with a healthy line.

“That was with the same five starting linemen,” he said of the time estimate. “There’s no way it’s going to be like that now. It’s going to take longer. We’ve had two starting centers, three left guards, four left tackles, maybe our fifth in seven games. You can’t develop the running game and our protection game consistently if you’re changing the parts.”

An inability to run the ball is new to Knapp. In his eight seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, his teams have ranked in the top 10 in rushing every season, and in the top five five times. In all three of his years working under Jim Mora in Atlanta, Knapp’s offenses led the league in rushing.

“I’m not used to being in this situation running the football,” Mora said following his team’s loss to the Cardinals. “I’ve always been a part of a team that was capable of running the football, and right now that is part of our struggles.”

Despite what the numbers say, the players are confident that the running game will eventually succeed this season.

They feel the numbers against Arizona were not a sign of things to come.

“It’s building, we’re building,” center Chris Spencer said. “We’re just going to keep working at it,”

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