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Jim Moore Predicts: Seahawks will find out where the problem lies with running game

Eddie Lacy is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in his first season with Seattle. (AP)

The Duane Brown trade changes everything with the Seahawks. They’ve gone from being fringe contenders for the Lombardi Trophy and a 50-50 proposition to win the NFC West to being the favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

I know the Eagles have a better record than the Seahawks, but I don’t think they will at the end of the season. I’m guessing they’ll be tied at 12-4 or maybe even 13-3. Either way, the Seahawks will hold the tiebreaker after beating the Eagles on Dec. 3 at CenturyLink Field.

New Seahawks LT Duane Brown: ‘I couldn’t ask for anything better’

Before Brown arrived, I thought the 5-2 Seahawks would be lucky to finish 10-6. Even though they beat the Rams in Los Angeles last month, I still thought Sean McVay’s team might win the NFC West. Now I’m not seeing it. The Seahawks are pretty much loaded across the board, and their biggest weakness isn’t enough to hold them back.

With Brown, the biggest weakness has the chance to change from offensive line to running back, or if you want to put it all in one category, the running game. The running back has a lot to do with it as Marshawn Lynch proved for years, compensating for a so-so offensive line with his punishing style.

Now with the Seahawks adding one of the better left tackles in the NFL, along with the potential emergence of left guard Ethan Pocic, we’ll find out who’s to blame for the poor running game. If the Seahawks run for 150 yards against the Redskins on Sunday, we won’t have the room to criticize Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls anymore. We can look at it and say: “Well, they finally upgraded the offensive line, and look what happened.”

If they sputter like they did against the Texans, we can put more of the blame on Lacy and Rawls, at least that’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know what Pete Carroll’s thinking. I say that because he mentioned Wednesday that we’re going to see a lot of Lacy on Sunday. Based on how Lacy has performed thus far, when I think of where I want to see a lot of Lacy, it’s on the sideline for 60 minutes, not anywhere near the ball.

Lacy has rushed for 108 yards on 42 carries, an average of 2.6 yards after averaging 5.1 last year in Green Bay before an ankle injury ended his season. Carroll has gone from thinking two backs should share the load to believing that one back will have a better chance of getting into a rhythm with more carries. Why he chose Lacy over Rawls, I’m not sure. From what I’ve seen, Rawls is more explosive, but I don’t think Carroll appreciated the dropped touchdown pass and chop block by Rawls in the Texans’ game.

Lacy has really done nothing to deserve this opportunity, but I like that he’s getting it anyway. If he has a 100-yard day, we can chalk it up to him getting more carries and the addition of Brown. But if he’s still terrible, the Seahawks can demote him or cut him, knowing once and for all it had more to do with his deficiencies than the offensive line’s.

If offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell ever said, “Hey, Jim, any thoughts on how we could improve our running game?” I’d tell him that he should scrap the plans with Lacy and Rawls and go with his quicker, more elusive backs, J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise – if you can ever get Prosise on the field. I’ve mentioned it on our show, the idea of getting Yards After No Contact (YANC). I don’t think this will catch on as a new sabermetric at Pro Football Focus, but I’d like to see the Seahawks give it a try. In the category of the more traditional Yards After Contact, the Seahawks are in the red this year. Every time I see Lacy and Rawls get hit, they go down in their tracks as if they ran into a post. So why not try guys who are better equipped to avoid would-be tacklers?

And, Darrell, did you see what Houston did with Deshaun Watson in the read option or zone read or whatever you want to call the QB option play? It gave the Texans another offensive dimension that the defense had to be aware of. I’m not talking about going to a full-fledged Russell Wilson read option, but how about five or six plays a game just to have it as a threat, to keep the defense honest?

Mix if up a little more than you have, DB. Think about it, a few read options, a few conventional handoffs, a fly sweep here and there to Tyler Lockett, and then hit ’em with the big ones on seam routes to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham and go routes to Paul Richardson and Lockett.

After watching the Seahawks rack up 34 points against the Texans (Earl Thomas gets credit for the other touchdown on a pick six), I’m not worried about the offense. But as concerns for the offensive line go down with Brown here, they went up with the defense after it allowed more than 500 yards and 38 points to the Texans. You can’t call it a one-game aberration because the Titans went off on the Seahawks too, so we’ll see if this is a sign of things to come. But the good news? In that same Texans’ game, we saw proof that the Seahawks can win shootouts too.

They face a banged-up Redskins squad on Sunday – John Clayton said as many as 13 injured players could miss the game. With an upgraded offensive line facing a depleted team, I like the Seahawks to cover the seven-point spread.

Washington at Seattle (-7): Seahawks 34, Redskins 20.

Oregon at Washington (-17 1/2): Not sure what to make of this line. The Huskies opened as 26 1/2-point favorites, but it fell nine points, probably because reports from Eugene say that starting QB Justin Herbert may be ready to return from a broken collarbone. That will help the Ducks, but they’re facing one of the best defenses in the country. Huskies 38, Ducks 17.

Stanford at Washington State (-2 1/2): Bryce Love is a game-time decision for Stanford with a sprained ankle. If he plays, Stanford has a good shot at pulling off the mild upset. If he doesn’t, not so much. Case in point – last Thursday night, Stanford was lucky to beat Oregon State 15-14 without him. After being benched last Saturday at Arizona, Luke Falk returns as the starter, and I’m expecting a good bounce-back performance. Cougars 27, Cardinal 20.