Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 17, RB Thomas Rawls
During each show until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is counting down the 20 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. The countdown continued with running back Thomas Rawls. The segment on Rawls is embedded above. My thoughts are below.
Rawls looked like Seattle’s running back of the future in 2015, when he stepped in for Marshawn Lynch and topped 100 yards in four of his seven starts, including one in which he ran for 209. Things have changed in less than two years. A broken ankle ended his rookie season early and a cracked fibula sidelined him for seven games last year. He also missed half a game in December with a shoulder bruise, all of which has made it hard for the Seahawks to count on Rawls to stay healthy enough to be the workhorse tailback that Lynch was from 2011-14. That’s why Seattle signed Eddie Lacy to a one-year deal. Rawls has looked healthy and invigorated this offseason. He’s also looked motivated, which you’d expect from a player in his situation. He’s got plenty of talent, but with Lacy in the mix and C.J. Prosise back after an injury-shortened rookie season, there will only be so many carries left over for Rawls.
By the numbers
5.6. Rawls’ yards-per-carry average over 13 games as a rookie in 2015, which led all NFL players. To put that number in perspective, the running back with the next-best average was a half-yard below him at 5.1. Rawls averaged only 3.2 YPC over nine regular-season games last year. Several factors have been at play with his inconsistent productivity. The blocking around him and matchups (he didn’t start either of Seattle’s games against the Rams in 2015, for instance) have been a few of them. He’s also been impatient at times. But his health has been the biggest one.
161. Rushing yards for Rawls (on 27 carries) in Seattle’s divisional-round win over Detroit last year, a franchise record for a playoff game. He rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries during a December win over Carolina, the other strong performance during a mostly down 2016 season.
25. As Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com noted earlier, that’s roughly the average number of carries per game by Seahawks running backs from 2012 to 2015, a four-year stretch in which Seattle never finished worse than fourth in the NFL in rushing. That number was a little over 19 carries per game by Seattle running backs last season. Coach Pete Carroll has said he wants a better run-pass balance than what the Seahawks had last season, which means he wants that number closer to 25. What that means for Rawls is that even if Seattle gets back to its pre-2016 rushing ways, that’s still not many carries to share between three running backs – especially if Lacy is the first option, which I sense he will be as long as he’s healthy and in shape. Rawls will have to make the most of what he gets.
Rawls does not sound or look like he’s ready to concede anything to Lacy. That was my impression after organized team activities and minicamp. On one play during a passing drill, he beat everyone in a sprint to the end zone even though he didn’t have the ball. Following a play later in the same practice, he went out of his way to slap hands with several teammates along the sideline as he made his way back toward the huddle. Small things, but they were typical of the energy and hustle Rawls showed during offseason practices, which suggest that he remains engaged even though his role will likely be diminished.
Carroll, at the end of last season, on how Rawls’ desire to “prove that he was back” from his injuries led to a tendency to run without the necessary patience: “It’s the same thing we talked about: trying too hard, trying to force the issue, trying to make things happen, trying to make a run be a big run when it’s a 4-yard play. And in that, sometimes you make mistakes and make bad judgements and see things that aren’t there, and seeing ghosts and stuff. He wasn’t as patient as he needed to be, and he’s not a very patient person. He’s a charger and he’s a goer and he’s a mad dog. So just quelling that.”