The world champion Seahawks were built from the ground up.
That’s not just a metaphor for the construction of a roster that includes only three players who predate Pete Carroll’s 2010 arrival, it’s also the lynchpin to Seattle’s strategy.
The Seahawks want to run the ball. Repeatedly. Relentlessly. And for the past four seasons, Marshawn Lynch has done exactly that for Seattle. Russell Wilson may be the face of this Seahawks team – the quarterback on the cover of Sports Illustrated – it’s Lynch who embodies the offense’s identity.
Can he still do it?
That question hasn’t hung over the Seahawks as much as it has loomed in the background first during an offseason in which Lynch was largely absent from team activities and then during a week-long holdout from training camp. After turning 28, is Lynch ready to defy the historical trends of running backs?
“He looks the fittest he has been since we’ve been around,” Carroll said. “This is the best we’ve seen him at this time of year, so hopefully that’s a great indication that he’s ready to go. Age has nothing to do with it.”
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and Thursday’s season opener features two of the eight active quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl. Wilson and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are among the very quarterbacks in this league, but this game may not be decided by the artists who are under center but the sledgehammer that Seattle wields out of the backfield.
A physical running game is the bedrock of Carroll’s offensive philosophy, an element that he believes completes the circle for the schematics of the ideal team. Start with a physical, fast defense, play impeccably on special teams and then throw in an offense that starts and looks to finish an opponent on the ground.
For all the additions Seattle has made – from drafting Wilson to acquiring Percy Harvin – the Seahawks will still turn to Lynch to provide the horsepower. And for all the attention that has been heaped upon Lynch and his level of workplace satisfaction, no one is any closer to knowing if he’s ready to resume the workload he has shouldered so capably for the past three seasons.
He played in two of the Seahawks’ four preseason games, carrying the ball three times in Week 3 in what amounted to a taste test.
“He looked exactly on point,” Carroll said. “He hasn’t missed a snap of practice. He hasn’t missed anything. He has just done a beautiful job of getting ready.”
Lynch has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in three successive seasons, but he’s also logged 901 carries in that time. He is 28, an age that many NFL running backs have shown signs of decline, though it’s also the age at which Shaun Alexander was named league MVP after scoring 27 touchdowns, which was then a league record.
The Seahawks have done their best to build for the future, but there’s no guarantee that Robert Turbin can be a frontline back or that Christine Michael can stay healthy. Michael has been ruled out against Green Bay game because of an injured hamstring.
Whether Seattle limps into this season will depend upon Lynch.
So what is his coach expecting?
“Let it rip,” Carroll said. “He has had a great camp. All throughout the camp I have been so happy with the way he has worked and his quickness and his fitness and all is terrific. He’s ready to go, and we’re really excited about cutting him loose.”
Ready or not? We’re about to find out.