SEATTLE — In six of Pete Carroll’s 10 seasons with Seattle, the Seahawks have ranked among the top six in the NFL in the percentage of times they ran the ball —and three times the Seahawks were tops in the league.
In four of Carroll’s 10 seasons the Seahawks have ranked 12th or lower in percentage of times they ran the ball, three times in the bottom half.
Seattle’s average wins when it’s run the ball more than almost any team in the NFL: 11.1, winning at least 10 games each season, all of which ended in the playoffs.
The average number of wins in the other four: 8.25, including all three times Carroll’s Seattle teams didn’t win double-digit games.
The one outlier season is 2016, when Seattle went 10-5-1 and won the NFC West, ranking 16th in run percentage.
We all know, of course, that teams that are behind tend to pass more and teams that are ahead tend to run more. So running a lot doesn’t necessarily equal winning as much as it is often a byproduct of winning.
Still, Carroll has always made it clear he sees a causation in running effectively being a key to winning —if nothing else in setting up play-action passes, which have often led to some of Seattle’s biggest plays and accentuate Russell Wilson’s famed deep-passing ability.
Which brings us to Seattle’s decision last Friday to sign veteran running back Carlos Hyde to a one-year deal reported to be worth up to $4 million with incentives (exact details have yet to be revealed).
Some might not have regarded running back as Seattle’s most pressing need. But Carroll has seen what has happened to the Seahawks when they suddenly are caught short at running back and, simply put, doesn’t want it to happen again.
There obviously was what occurred a year ago, when Seattle had to re-sign Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin after season-ending injuries to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, and then saw the running attack flounder in the playoffs (87 yards per game after averaging 137.5 during the regular season).
But there was also the 2017 season which, for all the understandable emphasis on the defensive injuries that helped derail that year, also went awry when Carson suffered an early season injury. Without Carson, and with the Eddie Lacy experiment a dismal failure, Seattle managed just one rushing touchdown by someone other than quarterback Russell Wilson the entire year and the Seahawks missed the playoffs for the only time since 2011.
And there was 2016, when Seattle endured a revolving door at tailback (due in part to injuries to Thomas Rawls) and had both the lowest total yards and yards per carry of the Carroll era other than his first year in 2010.
Wilson responded with career highs in completions, attempts and yards but also a career low in passer rating (92.6), and Carroll likely sees those as related, that being forced to pass more might lead to doing so less efficiently. That was also the same year Wilson battled injuries, which limited his own ability to run and helped bottle up Seattle’s rushing attack some, as well.
But to Carroll, that might have only reinforced the idea of making sure the Seahawks don’t always have to rely on Wilson for everything.
Which brings us back to Hyde, who was still available to sign in late May despite having had a career-best season a year ago with 1,070 yards in what turned out to be his only year in Houston (he reportedly turned down a two-year deal said to be worth up to $10 million to stay in Houston so he could enter free agency after making $2.8 million on a one-year deal last year).
That it was later revealed that Hyde had labrum surgery in February, an injury he apparently played through for most/all of last season, might help explain why Hyde was still available, though Seattle also first went after Devonta Freeman before those contract talks broke down.
With Hyde in the fold —though his signing has not yet been made official by the NFL —the Seahawks now have two of the 16 players who a year ago rushed for 1,000 yards or more on their roster.
They also have what might seem like a crowded backfield —and given history, anyway, the virtual certainty that one of Carson or Hyde won’t top 1,000 yards this year. Only seven times in NFL history has a team had two 1,000-yard rushers, and only once since 2009 —and that came with a quarterback among the duo as Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (1,206) and Mark Ingram (1,018) topped that mark a year ago.
Here’s a brief look at Seattle’s running-back room now and a thought on each player’s role:
• Chris Carson: Carson has rushed for 1,000 yards or more each of the past two years, and figures to again be Seattle’s starting tailback. But he is also coming off a fractured hip suffered in the second-to-last game a year ago. The team says he’ll be ready for the season. But the Seahawks also remember 2016 when they thought Rawls would be fully recovered from an injury suffered the previous December —and he was never really the same —and if nothing else they want both insurance and the ability to not have to rush Carson back.
• Carlos Hyde: Expect Hyde to complement Carson in the early-down role, maybe subbing in after a few series. But Hyde might also factor more into the passing game than some suspect: He has a career high of 59 receptions in 2017.
• Rashaad Penny: Penny is still in rehab mode from a knee injury that included an ACL tear on Dec. 8 against the Rams. The conventional wisdom is he’s likely to start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which would mean he’d have to miss at least the first six games.
• Travis Homer: Homer started the final game of the regular season and the playoff win at Philly after the loss of Carson and Penny and was held to 25 yards on 14 carries in the two playoff games. But he also had 11 receptions in the final two regular-season games, and the team might view him as being a good fit for the two-minute/third-down back role.
• DeeJay Dallas: A fourth-round pick out of Miami, Dallas figures to at least serve in a depth role this season and on special teams. He was also a receiver for a time in high school, and there was some thought when he was recruited that might be his position in college. So he could also factor into the third-down back competition.
• Anthony Jones: An undrafted rookie free-agent signee out of Florida International, he rushed for 867 yards last season.
• Patrick Carr: An undrafted rookie free-agent signee out of Houston, Carr played in just six games last year due to injury. One of his best games came when he rushed for 77 yards on nine carries against Washington State.
Seattle also has Nick Bellore back at fullback.
How this unfolds seems to now play out pretty clearly: Carson, Hyde, Homer and Dallas likely all make the initial 53-man roster while Penny is on PUP, and one or both of Jones and Carr (who you’d expect would get a lot of work in the preseason) land on the practice squad.
That then allows Seattle to be careful with how it brings back Penny, with Carroll undoubtedly hoping the Seahawks will also be covered for any unexpected bumps along the way.