RENTON, Wash. — The main course wasn’t going to change from last year with or without Percy Harvin, but the possibility for tasty side dishes would have grown.
Harvin was the Seahawks’ newest weapon, a guy who could exploit offenses in so many ways. His most appetizing feature, though, was that he always held the potential for big plays down the field. Now that’s off the table, at least for three or four months.
A blow? Of course. But it’s not as if the Seahawks suddenly need to change their philosophy and tear up the foundation offensively.
“They’ve effectively been like a Floyd Mayweather team,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “They just jabbed you for 12 rounds and by the end they’d beaten the other guy up and won. But then they got excited about having the Mike Tyson ability to knock teams out with one punch with huge plays from Harvin. Well, there’s more than one way to win a fight.”
Or, as guard John Moffitt put it: “We’re working to get those more explosive plays going downfield, and Percy gives you that ability. But I guess we’ll stay jabbing.”
The Seahawks led the NFL in rushing attempts last season and were one of five teams to rush more than 500 times. They ranked third in yards per game (169.3), third in total rushing yards (2,579) and fifth in yards per carry (4.8). The Redskins were the only other team to finish in the top five in all four categories.
While the Seahawks might throw more with a more experienced Russell Wilson, the ingredients are there to continue what they did last year. When asked about Seattle’s desire to pound the ball and spin the offense off that, fullback Michael Robinson quickly said, “Marshawn Lynch, man.”
Lynch is coming off the best season of his seven-year career. He finished with career highs in carries, yards and yards per carry while finishing with the second-most touchdowns of his career. He averaged 2.77 yards after contact per carry, his highest mark since 2008, according to Pro Football Focus.
Throw in Robert Turbin, a 222-pounder Moffitt described as a “weight-room freak,” and 221-pound rookie Christine Michael, and the Seahawks have one of the league’s beefiest backfields.
The lightweight of the top three according to the team’s roster? That would be the 215-pound Lynch.
“They don’t mind having a flexing contest down there in Seattle,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “You’ve got some men back there carrying the football.”
Turbin and Michael represent a change in approach to the backup running-back position. For the first two years of John Schneider and Pete Carroll’s tenure, Seattle’s primary backups were Justin Forsett (5-8, 194) and Leon Washington (5-8, 203).
The Seahawks bulked up by drafting Turbin in the fourth round in 2012, then took Michael in the second round this year.
“I think it speaks for what we’re trying to do,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
And that’s illustrated by what the Seahawks did against the Cowboys last year. On one drive, they churned out 90 yards and a touchdown while rushing on six of the eight plays. Then, on their next possession, they marched 88 yards for a score and carried the ball on nine of 12 plays.
The Seahawks showed they can be more dynamic; they averaged 35 points the final seven games of the season. But it all begins with that snarling run game, especially when the weather worsens. Who wants to smack a 220-pound bowling ball when it’s wet and chilly?
“Guys just don’t want to hit those guys in November and December and January,” Robinson said. “Cold weather, we can own the NFC West and host playoff games. You know what type of weather we’re going to have here, and guys just don’t wanna hit those guys.”
Harvin would have made Seattle more dynamic, more difficult to prepare for. The Seahawks are still hopeful he can bring those qualities later this season. But the injury might have another effect, according to Jeremiah.
“If you want to take the glass half-full approach,” he said, “sometimes you add skill players on the outside and you can be tempted to lose your identity. And this team won a lot of games by beating people up.
“Maybe this keeps them from getting too cute and creative and losing their edge as a ground-and-pound team. Now I think you just go back to that.”