Uncertainty about Chris Carson will test Seahawks running depth
RENTON, Wash. — It’s become clear through the first half of this season the Seattle Seahawks offense functions best when running back Chris Carson is getting the bulk of the carries.
Yet it’s also becoming clear that Carson may be a spectator on Sunday when the Seahawks face the Los Angeles Rams as he deals with a hip injury that could keep him sidelined for the second time this season.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that Carson would not practice and his status for Sunday’s NFC West matchup was uncertain. Carson started last Sunday’s 25-17 loss to the Chargers and averaged 5.0 yards per carry, but did not play the final 2½ quarters after a lingering hip issue flared up.
While there is a chance Carson could be ready by Sunday, the Seahawks (4-4) also turn around and play a Thursday night game against Green Bay next week. And playing Carson on Sunday may make him unavailable against the Packers, which could end up being a more important game for Seattle’s playoff hopes.
“The soft tissue thing is kind of hanging with him a little bit,” Carroll said of Carson. “This hip thing is still kind of there and we’ve got to wait and see how it comes out at the end of the week.”
Carson has shown he’s the best option as Seattle’s primary running back when he is healthy. In the four games Carson has carried the ball at least 14 times this season, he’s averaging 4.2 yards per carry, 95.5 yards per game and the Seahawks are 3-1 in those four games.
In the three games where Carson has carried the ball fewer than 14 times either because of injury or game plan, the Seahawks are winless.
If Carson can’t play against the Rams, Mike Davis would likely get the bulk of the work at running back with a bigger role for rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny as well.
“We’ve got plenty of guys we can go to,” Carroll said. “We don’t have to just rely on one guy right now.”
Davis has shown an ability to be the primary ball carrier for the Seahawks, running for 101 yards on 21 carries in Seattle’s Week 4 victory over Arizona when Carson was out because of an unrelated groin injury. Davis had 62 yards on 15 carries last week carrying the bulk of the running after Carson was unable to continue.
“It’s like I do every week, prepare that I’m going to be the starter so if it does come up I don’t get blindsided,” Davis said.
Davis has proven he can handle the load. The same can’t be said of Penny, who has just 42 carries for 146 yards through eight games. In the first couple of weeks, Seattle made it a priority to force Penny into the game and get him some action. After they realized that wasn’t working, Penny disappeared for a couple of weeks before slowly being reintegrated to the offense.
Last week Penny had just four carries, but may see that number increase significantly if Carson can’t play.
“We’ve just got to get him out there. He just needs more turns,” Carroll said of Penny. “Mike has been very versatile in the throwing game and all the styles of runs, really good at it and very effective. We’re just going with what looks right. It has nothing to do with where you got picked or where you came from for the opportunities to present itself for the guys to show what they can do.”
Whoever is carrying the ball, the Seahawks will want to replicate the success they had from the first meeting with the Rams. Seattle rushed for a season-high 190 yards in the 33-31 loss, the most allowed by Los Angeles this season. But Carson was a big part of that success, running for 116 yards.
Davis expects the Rams to make changes, but also believes in his offensive line.
“We know what our guys can do up front and they’re killing it. I have no doubt,” Davis said.
NOTES: G D.J. Fluker didn’t finish last week’s game with a calf injury and sat out practice on Wednesday. Carroll said Fluker was a little more sore on Wednesday than he was earlier in the week. … S Bradley McDougald also didn’t practice with a knee injury that kept him out the second half against the Chargers. Delano Hill would start if McDougald can’t play.