Listen to Seattle Sports: Alex Rodriguez live on Brock & Salk


Clayton: Seahawks putting it all on the line with run game, just like in 2011

Apr 30, 2018, 11:00 PM

Seahawks draft selection Rashaad Penny ran for 2,248 yards for San Diego State in 2017. (AP)...

Seahawks draft selection Rashaad Penny ran for 2,248 yards for San Diego State in 2017. (AP)


In total reflection on the recently completed NFL draft and earlier in free agency this offseason, the Seahawks are reliving what they did in 2011.

O’Neil: Seahawks returning to formula that won them a Super Bowl

Pete Carroll and John Schneider were advancing the rebuilding of the franchise in 2011. The Seahawks were 7-9 in Carroll’s first year, but they had traded for Marshawn Lynch in 2010 and were trying to get the running game started.

What is similar now to 2011 is the emphasis on advancing the running game. The Seahawks had the 31st-rated running offense in 2010 even with Lynch for 12 games. Clearly, the ultimate plan was to build a great defense. And while the Legion of Boom eventually emerged, it was the running offense that gave the Seahawks their first identity.

They started in free agency in 2011 by signing wide receiver Sidney Rice, but a key signing came later when they found no one bidding on Zach Miller, who was a complete tight end who could run block. Then their first two picks in the draft were offensive linemen: James Carpenter and John Moffitt.

The draft grades in 2011 were much like this year’s – a lot of Cs and Ds. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper thought Carpenter, a first-rounder, was taken too high. Carpenter and Moffitt started as rookies but never lived up to where they were drafted.

This offseason, the Seahawks have lived up to Carroll’s vow to improve the running game.

After last weekend’s draft, most draftniks ripped the Seahawks for taking running back Rashaad Penny too high in the first round even though he checked all the boxes the Seahawks wanted in a running back. He’s low to the ground and tough. He breaks tackles. He was the fourth-fastest running back at the combine. Penny could also be a big part of the passing offense.

Not only did the Seahawks draft a first-round halfback, they brought in two pass-blocking tight ends – Ed Dickson in free agency and UW’s Will Dissly in the draft. They signed right guard D.J. Fluker, who is known for his run-blocking. Brian Schottenheimer was brought in as offensive coordinator to revive the running game.

The difference from now to 2011 is the Seahawks have so much more talent than they did back then. In 2011, they were transitioning from Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback to Tarvaris Jackson. They have Russell Wilson now at quarterback, one of the top five or six in football. Doug Baldwin, an undrafted free agent in 2011, is a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver.

Jim Moore’s NFL Draft recap: Seahawks’ best and worst picks

Even though the defense is losing Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, maybe Kam Chancellor and others, they still have Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Earl Thomas.

The mistake of grading Carroll-Schneider drafts early is outsiders can’t capture their vision of players. The 2011 D grade devalued a draft that ended up producing  Sherman, Wright, Byron Maxwell and Malcolm Smith.

In November 2011, Kiper re-graded that Seahawks draft and gave it a B-.

Because the Seahawks are more talented now, many of the draft choices might not be able to earn significant playing time as rookies. That wasn’t the case in 2011, when injuries opened the door for Sherman to get on the field earlier than expected.

Carroll and Schneider have a long track record of drafting defensive players who turn out great even though they might not grade as well on other teams’ draft boards. The coaching staff knows how to develop defenders. What will be the key to this season is if their vision of building a running game can come close to what they started doing in 2011.

More columns from 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton

The John Clayton Memorial Fund

Benefitting the Multiple Sclerosis Society

The Professor's Notes

John Clayton hosted a daily video breaking down the NFL

John Clayton

John Clayton Memorial Fund...

No Author

John Clayton Memorial Fund benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society

Seattle Sports and Bonneville International are honored to announce the “John Clayton Memorial Fund.” The John Clayton Memorial Fund will benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

2 years ago

Seahawks Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf...

John Clayton

Clayton: What’s next for Seahawks after kicking off ‘major’ rebuild

After some major moves, John Clayton breaks down what the next things to watch for with the Seahawks are heading into the new league year.

2 years ago

Seahawks Russell Wilson...

John Clayton

Clayton: Won’t be easy for Seahawks to replace Wilson after surprising trade

After a surprising trade he never thought would happen, John Clayton shares his immediate reaction to the Seahawks' trade of Russell Wilson.

2 years ago

Seahawks Action Green...

John Clayton

Clayton: Why you shouldn’t worry about salary cap with Seahawks this offseason

Seahawks fans and followers are worried about how they can re-sign players and stay under the salary cap. John Clayton says they shouldn't be.

2 years ago

Seahawks Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll...

John Clayton

Clayton: The big news from Seahawks, NFC West as combine begins

Wednesday was a big news day for the Seahawks and the NFC West. John Clayton breaks down what's going on in Seattle's division.

2 years ago

Seahawks Rashaad Penny Russell Wilson Chris Carson...

John Clayton

Clayton: How RBs in NFL Draft should help Seahawks this offseason

The Seahawks should be looking to bring Rashaad Penny back, but a loaded class of running backs is likely to help them in a few ways.

2 years ago

Clayton: Seahawks putting it all on the line with run game, just like in 2011