Is the Seahawks’ struggling run game hitting a rookie wall?
When it comes to the Seahawks’ offense, there’s one obvious thing to point to that was going good during their four-game win streak that hasn’t been the same during their current two-game skid: their running attack.
Rookie running back Kenneth Walker III averaged 106 rushing yards per game during Seattle’s win streak from Week 6 through Week 9, but it’s been a very different story over the last two contests. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held Walker to 17 yards on 10 carries in Germany on Nov. 13, and following a bye week, Walker managed only 26 yards on 14 attempts in the overtime loss to the Raiders on Sunday.
Walker isn’t the only rookie key to the Seahawks’ running attack, either, with tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas also starting for Seattle. Is this a sign of them hitting a rookie wall as the Hawks approach an amount of games players don’t reach in a single college season?
Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus discussed that with his Bump and Stacy co-host Stacy Rost on their show Monday on Seattle Sports, and he said it’s something he talked about with two fellow ex-NFL players who are on the Seahawks radio pregame and postgame shows with him, Marcus Trufant and Robert Turbin.
“Tru was like, ‘Mentally it’s a challenge.’ Turbo said physically it’s hard to stay in your routine,” Bumpus said. “He told me, ‘Yeah, man, you show up the first 10 games, you’re at the facility at 6 a.m. getting ready to go, take care of your body.’ And then you start to get tired, now you’re showing up at 6:20. And instead of showing up to your 9 o’clock meeting at 8:50 like you usually do, now you’re showing up at like 8:55. So it’s hard to stay in that routine because naturally your body’s telling you, ‘OK, we’re almost done.'”
Bumpus said the other Seahawks will need to help the rookies when it comes to the longer season.
“That’s where the veterans come in. It’s where they have to show these guys the way,” he said. “‘This is how you take care of your body, this is how you mentally prepare for this.’ So, a rookie wall? I would call it a rookie hurdle, not a rookie wall. They have to get over this feeling that they’re having.”
The state of the offensive line
Rost asked Bumpus throughout Monday’s show for his read on specific Seahawks players and positions groups following the loss to the Raiders. Here’s what he said about the offensive line, acknowledging that right tackle Lucas was questionable for Sunday due to illness but ending up playing:
“I think Abe Lucas struggled. … He was moved to questionable so I think it was a late illness in the week heading into this one, ended up playing, didn’t have his best outing. But I bring it up not because I doubt Abe Lucas or because I don’t think it’s been a phenomenal season for both rookie tackles, but because this is about that time of the year where you start wondering if the rookies are going to hit a wall. They’re used to playing 12-game seasons, essentially. Now they gotta hit a 17-game season – as starters.”
Later on in the show, Bumpus added this about Sunday’s loss to the Raiders:
“This was the first time I looked at the O-line and I saw them just getting pushed back consistently. I saw (center) Austin Blythe struggle, obviously Abe Lucas struggled… That was during pass (protection). And I also saw running the football, just guys shooting the gaps on the Raiders’ defensive line and getting into that backfield.”
The read on Walker
Here’s Bumpus’ take on Walker’s recent output:
“I was actually asked this a couple of times, like, ‘What’s going on with Ken Walker, man? Last couple games he hasn’t been able to get going.’ And I look at the Tampa Bay game and I go, well, not too many opportunities in that game. … I look at (the Raiders game) and I say, alright, what do you have – 14 carries, 26 yards? … There are a couple of times where I felt like he just needs to fall forward and take two to three yards, and that’s going to be more effective than a negative-1 trying to make a big play. So I think it’s not a wall but this is just learning film. He’s going to be coached up just to take the two to three yards and fall forward sometimes. But the offensive line and Ken Walker are connected. If the offensive line isn’t getting where they’re supposed to be and Ken Walker isn’t falling forward when he just needs a couple yards, these are the games you’re gonna have. So I don’t see a rookie wall; again, I’m gonna call this the rookie hurdles. They’re just learning.”
Speaking of how the offensive line and running backs are connected, Bumpus pointed out why the Raiders blowing past the line made things that much harder for Walker.
“A lot of the times I’m seeing guys in the backfield and Ken has to make a guy miss right now. The hardest thing to do as a running back is to get the ball in your gut and have to make a move immediately and not be able to press the gap that you’re supposed to press.”