Seattle Seahawks 2015: A team in transition

image via The A.V. Club

The 2–3 Seattle Seahawks have some decisions to make. With the emergence of undrafted rookie running back Thomas Rawls, combined with the ongoing health troubles of stalwart running back Marshawn Lynch, change is in the air. But running back is not the only change occurring.

Time to change

The Seahawks, who now lag behind NFC West division leader the Arizona Cardinals by two games, are at the point where they need to look themselves in the mirror. Sunday’s crushing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals revealed a new reality for the 12s. Namely:

  • Rawls is the real deal.
  • The Legion of Boom goes quiet on the road.
  • The Jimmy Graham experience is more filler than killer.

The Rawls era

While it may seem blasphemous to 12s to declare Lynch to no longer be the lead pony, the results speak for themselves. Over the past 13 quarters (3 full games, 1 OT) Rawls has put together an impressive, if short, resume: 323 rushing yards on 56 carries (5.76 YPC), including one vintage Beast-like (69-yard) touchdown — with more speed.

While Pete Carroll has indicated his ongoing expectation that Lynch will return soon, the emergence of Rawls means the Seahawks need not rush him back. Nor do they need to build the offense around him. Could we finally be seeing a running back-by-committee approach in Seattle? It might be a mistake.

It used to make sense to want to feature another back or two to give some relief to Lynch. Now, in light of Rawls’ performance, it might not make sense to be taking the ball out of Rawls’ hands. How do you bench your best running back?

Blasphemy? Answer this: Who else has been as consistently productive on offense as the undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan? How good would a Seahawks rushing attack look with a young running back that can average more than five YPC occasionally spelled by Beast Mode?

That’s a change the Seahawks should embrace.

Ruh-roh

The Seahawks’ defense had the Bengals game in the bag. Despite being on the road, once linebacker Bobby Wagner collected his scoop-and-score fumble recovery, the Seahawks were firmly in command, leading 24 to 7. They remained firmly in command as the fourth quarter opened with the same score. And then the wheels fell off the LOB’s go kart.

What ensued can be described as a near-epic collapse. Not Super Bowl XLIX bad, nor as bad as the Green Bay Packers’ implosion against the Seahawks in last season’s NFC Championship game, but significant in both scope and improbability. The Legion of Boom gave away a three-score lead, with a little help from Seattle’s front seven.

Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert notched a career-making effort against the LOB, with a 90-yard, eight reception and two touchdown afternoon. When he wasn’t scoring touchdowns, Eifert snared impact catches against a variety of Seahawks defenders. His partner, quarterback Andy Dalton, continued his ascension into the NFL’s top quarterbacks discussion by dominating the Seahawks with 30 completions for 331 yards.

For comparison, the Seahawks had not allowed as many as 331 passing yards to a quarterback since Oct. 28, 2012 (Detroit Lions). The blue birds did not allow a single 300-yard passing game all last season. Except for the Super Bowl. Ahem.

Whither Jimmy?

Five games in, it’s safe to say the Seahawks are still struggling with how to best deploy their newest offensive toy, tight end Jimmy Graham. Given a slow start to the Graham era in Seattle, it looked, for a moment, like the Seahawks had found ways to get proper use out of the 6’ 7”, 260-lb. receiver, when he collected a season-high seven receptions in week three against the Chicago Bears. Graham has a mere seven receptions in the two games since.

Sunday’s output of three receptions for 30 yards is the kind of production they can get from <insert name of any journeyman tight end here>. This is unquestionably not the kind of impact a team trades away a Pro Bowl center for. The Seahawks would be wise to stop wishing for Graham to become a reliable factor in the run game. It’s time to use his size, catch radius and ability to separate from linebackers and defensive backs alike — and find ways to get him the ball in space.

The Seahawks have managed to get glimpses of Graham’s greatness on occasion. It’s time to get more creative, if the Seahawks want to have a chance at catching the division-leading Arizona Cardinals before season’s end.

Time to rearrange

For the Seahawks, it is time to change. The good news for Seattle is they have time to change. The season is a mere five weeks old. The dim view reveals that the Seahawks have returned to a previously troublesome state of affairs, that being a team that cannot win on the road. Their two home wins have only come against two winless (at the time) teams.

Clearly, this is not working. The 2015 Seahawks squad is a far cry from the 2014 and 2013 Super Bowl teams. Some mid-season creativity is called for. It starts with leveraging the good (Rawls) and finding ways to shore up the surprisingly leaky defense. It’s also time to make full and better use of Graham. That means accepting that Graham is a tight end in name only. Graham can still be a match-up problem for defenses if he is used as what he is: a large wide receiver.

These three factors indicate a team in transition. Torches may need to be passed — soon. The Seahawks have a good development emerging in the offensive backfield and need to leverage it. They need to further right the ship in their defensive backfield, which is a surprising development, given the talent. The Graham factor is a self-inflicted wound.

Can the Seahawks change enough in time to save their season? The undefeated Carolina Panthers, Seattle’s next opponent, will be happy to tell us.

©Julian Rogers | @thejujueye | Juju Eye Communications, LLC