The Seahawks players and coaches are feeling pretty good about the team’s offensive line.
“This was the most physical play that we’ve had in some time,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday, the day after Seattle’s 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the desert.
“I think we’ve really been having some great chemistry,” Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown said this week. “We’ve been rolling off the ball.”
There’s no better time for Seattle to find its footing than now, with the Seahawks set to host the Los Angeles Rams and their menacing defensive front Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and Pro Bowler Michael Brockers have given Seattle fits for years, and now the duo adds perennial Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh to the mix.
“It’s a tremendous challenge,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “They create lots of problems for you there. Well coached, play hard, so good group.”
Donald has seven sacks in eight career games against the Seahawks and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 45 times by the Rams.
Perhaps that’s why Wilson and others pointed to the run game as a way to slow down Los Angeles’ speedy pass rush.
“The line has been exciting just to watch how physical they’ve been playing,” Wilson said. He praised the coaches and players, adding that the improvement has been noticeable, “especially in our run game.”
When Chris Carson ran for 102 yards Sept. 23 against the Cowboys, it was the first time the Seahawks had a 100-yard rusher since 2016.
With Mike Davis’ 101-yard rushing effort in Arizona, Seattle enjoyed back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts for the first time since after the 2014 season, when Marshawn Lynch ran for 157 yards in the conference title game against Green Bay and 102 yards in the Super Bowl.
“It’s a really fun sign to see these guys get going,” Carroll said. “They’re just starting to feel their sense and their awareness of counting on them and all that, which brings out the best in any offensive line and these guys really showed that.”
Seattle ranks 17th in rushing through four games this season. Not great, but up from the team’s rank of 23rd last year. What’s more encouraging is how they are doing it.
In 2017, Wilson ran for twice as many yards as anyone else on the roster. So far this year, he sits fourth on the team behind Carson, Davis and rookie Rashaad Penny with just 42 yards on 11 carries.
Carroll praised veterans Brown and Justin Britt for their work their younger teammates.
“Duane is a real leader up there and Justin is a real leader and we’ve got Justin back this week and I think all of those elements are just coming together,” he said.
The rushing success also coincided with the insertion of guard D.J. Fluker into the lineup, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury.
“It was obvious how Fluke played and his presence out there,” Carroll said after Seattle’s win over the Cowboys.
The Seahawks haven’t consistently ran the football since Thomas Rawls’ breakout season in 2015. That year Rawls (830 yards), Wilson (553) and Lynch (417) combined to lead the third-best rushing attack in the league.
In 2014, the Seahawks were the best rushing team in the league. They were also fourth in 2013 and third in 2012.
That’s what Carroll wants to do: Run the football, control the clock and play solid defense.
“Running the ball over thirty times the last couple of games is really a message that we are trying to project,” he said. “That this is how we want to play these football games.”
That physical play will be tough to duplicate against the Rams stingy front, which is allowing just 86 rushing yards a game. That’s fifth-best in the NFL.
“Each week’s a little different,” Schottenheimer said. “We know this week, a great challenge offensively for us against that front. The defense, obviously, is very good.”
Carroll agreed with that assessment, but he also stressed the need for Seattle to continue to run the football, and made it clear the Seahawks will rely on their developing offensive line.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “They can feel that and I think they feel us counting on them quite a bit. It really helps.”
Wilson sees a bright future ahead.
“I’m excited about what we’re going to do,” he said. “Just moving forward through this year.”