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Clayton’s Preview: Time for Thomas Rawls to take control of Seahawks’ RB position vs Cardinals

Taking over for the injured Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls had 39 yards on nine carries last week. (AP)

Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito blasted the NFL for having Thursday night football, sharing his views after last week’s Thursday night game on how bad it is for players to try to play a game on only three days rest.

The Seahawks and Cardinals are going through that same tough drill to play Thursday in Arizona.

O’Neil: Seahawks need to worry about offense early, defense late

You can see the Seahawks will have more difficulty than the Cardinals. Five players were inactive because of injury last Sunday against Washington, and the Seahawks suffered at least four more injuries in that game. Then on Monday they had 13 players who didn’t practice. The Cardinals only had six, but they are also the oldest team in the NFC, and it’s harder for older players to bounce back on a short week.

Let’s look at five keys for the game between the Seahawks and Cardinals.

It’s time for Thomas Rawls to take control of the running back position. A groin injury should keep Eddie Lacy out of Thursday’s game, opening the door for Rawls to be the starting back. Against the Washington Redskins, Lacy was going to start and the Seahawks wanted to try as much as they could to get him into a rhythm. Lacy started well, but he suffered the groin injury after getting 20 yards on six carries. Rawls entered, and he had his best effort of the season with nine carries for 39 yards. He got involved in the pass game, too, catching two passes for 31 yards. With Lacy out, the Seahawks will try to mix in J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise, who is expected to be active in his return from an ankle injury. The key for Seattle is getting 80 to 85 yards out of the running backs.

Getting it right along the right side of the offensive line. The thought was that the Duane Brown trade would solve all the Seahawks’ problems along the offensive line. Brown played well and proved he is an upgrade at left tackle over Rees Odhiambo, but unfortunately the rest of the offensive line had a bad game against the Redskins. At midseason, the line is better at pass blocking than run blocking. Pete Carroll has made it clear the blockers have to cut down on penalties. It’s hard enough for Russell Wilson to be forced to carry the offense without a running game; throwing penalties into the mix makes it impossible. The Seahawks are third in the league with 13 false starts and in the middle of the pack with eight holding penalties. Carroll was pleased with the play of Brown and Ethan Pocic on the left side, but better play is needed along the right side. Right tackle Germain Ifedi is tied with Garrett Bolles of the Denver Broncos with the most holding penalties in the league at six. Right guard Oday Aboushi is tied with several players at No. 3 with four holds. Factor in that the Seahawks are averaging only 2.61 yards per run over right guard and 2.86 over right tackle and it’s easy to see they need to improve.

Can Adrian Peterson recover from a 37-carry game with only three days rest? To beat the San Francisco 49ers by 10 points last Sunday, Arizona coach Bruce Arians ran Peterson 37 times for 159 yards. Peterson is 32, so you would have to think it’s going to be hard for his body to recover in time to have a great game against Seattle. Most players over 30 don’t feel right until later in the week. After gaining 134 yards on 26 carries in his Cardinals debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8, Peterson fell off to 11 carries for 29 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in London. That was with six days rest. Peterson is a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but it would have to take a superhuman effort for him to get to 100 yards against the Seahawks.

Learning on the job for Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman. Griffin and Coleman should be able to put the two completions against them in the final seconds of the loss to Washington behind them. Cornerbacks need to have short memories. They were in man coverage and they simply got beat. That happens. It’s no surprise that teams aren’t throwing on Richard Sherman. He’s been tested just 36 times and has given up only 17 catches in eight games, those catches having gone for 214 yards. Griffin is tied for 17th-most completions against in the NFL, being burned for 28 receptions on 51 attempts for 361 yards – though he’s given up only one touchdown. Coleman, meanwhile, has worked the slot well. Quarterbacks have completed 16 of 28 passes for 195 yards and no touchdowns against him.

It’s still probably going to be on Russell Wilson to win. Wilson has probably moved into the top five – most likely even the top three – in MVP consideration with what he’s done this season. He and the Seahawks should be 6-2 with his great fourth-quarter comeback effort in the Redskins game, but Kirk Cousins’ two late completions trumped that. Still, Wilson is averaging 37.9 passes a game and is on pace now for a 4,610-yard season. For what was supposed to be a running offense, that’s incredible. With running back production stalled, Wilson is starting to hit the running game more himself, averaging 5.75 carries a game and on pace for a 542-yard season. What’s important is his touchdown numbers. He’s had 17 in eight games, which puts him on pace for 34 this season. That would equal his career-high in 2015.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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