Huard: Why Seahawks’ Kenneth Walker III is exploding down stretch
Just a few weeks ago, there were questions about whether Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III had hit the rookie wall.
The second-round NFL Draft pick out of Michigan State was a key part of Seattle’s four-game win streak in October and early November, rushing for 97 yards or more in all but one of those victories, but he struggled in the four following games. Walker didn’t break the 50-yard mark in any of those contests, and most notably was held to just 26 yards on 14 carries (1.86 yards per carry) on Nov. 27 against the Raiders.
The last two weeks have seen Walker push through that rookie wall, however. On Christmas Eve, Walker had a big second half to finish with 107 yards on 26 carries at Kansas City, and in Sunday’s win over the Jets he rushed for 133 yards on 23 attempts for a 5.78 average.
Walker made a statement right out of the gate against New York, too, with a 60-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Kenneth Walker starting the new year in style 😤 @Kenneth_Walker9
— NFL (@NFL) January 1, 2023
The two recent performances by Walker stand out because they’ve come against two of the tougher defenses in the league. How has he exploded at a time when his season was typically already over in college? Former NFL quarterback and current FOX football analyst Brock Huard broke it down Tuesday during the Blue 88 segment of Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.
“It has struck me,” Huard recalled, “(Seahawks coach Pete Carroll) has said this two or three times to us – and very specifically when we played Ken Walker sound following the Kansas City game where Ken Walker was like, ‘You know, at halftime I had guys telling me that I gotta hit the hole.’ And when we played that, Pete was like, ‘Yeah, that was me. That was me telling him go hit the hole. Don’t wait and dance.'”
Huard went on to explain why hitting the hole is something running backs must learn to embrace in the NFL.
“This is a different league, man. It’s different than high school, where you can outrun everybody to the corner. I look at these players, I remember Chuba Hubbard in particular – he played at Oklahoma State, he’s with Carolina now, and Chuba Hubbard played in Canada in high school. I remember reading his bio and it was like, ‘Oh, his senior year, he averaged 17.3 yards per rush.’ What? Because every time he could take it to the corner, he was gone. There was nobody that could run with him. You get to college, that changes, right? Now those lanes narrow a little bit, and it’s not eight lanes, it’s down to about four.
“… You get to the NFL, man, you stay in your lane, and you hit that lane 100 mph. And then once you get to the line (of scrimmage), and once you gain a yard or two and then you want to spin, and then you want to jump cut, God bless you, then go for the home run. But you cannot take negative plays. You can’t strike out again and again and again. Go get that single, go around the base, and then if you see daylight and you got to go, then go.”
It appears Walker has trusted the advice of Carroll and others, and he’s finding success as a result.
“If you have to run into darkness to get yourself 4 yards, you run into darkness,” Huard said. “But I think the last game and a half, really since that second half in Kansas City, you have seen him hitting that hole much more violently.”
You can listen to the full conversation between Huard and Mike Salk in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.