Ever since the Seattle Seahawks began their rebuild/repair/revival/restoration/reset/renewal/revamp (choose one) in the pursuit of respect, coach Pete Carroll and the members of his church choir have preached the run game as their 2018 holy grail.
Brothers, it’s time to deliver.
Some flashes have been visible in the first two fake games, but nothing was sustained.
The NFL tradition is to use the third game as the dress rehearsal, deploying first units for a longer trial. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the third game is on the road at 5 p.m. on Friday in Minnesota against the defense that in 2017 was No. 1 in the NFL at 276 yards per game (the Seahawks were 11th at 323). On the ground, the Vikings allowed 84 yards a game, second-best (Seahawks were 19th, 114).
If it seemed like 84 was about what the Seahawks had on the ground for the season, you have some idea of the urgency with which the Vikings test is approached. In fact, eagerness bordered on the wacky, if you were listening to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer Wednesday.
“We’re looking forward to some of the problems that they present,” he said of the Vikings, sounding a little like President Trump encouraging his attorney, Michael Cohen, to be transparent with prosecutors. But we get the point — in a fake game, it may useful to have the bejabbers knocked from you in order to establish a baseline of badness.
The evening’s pivot point on the topic will be out at right tackle, where presumptive starter Germain Ifedi had a bit of a rough game Saturday in Los Angeles, where the Chargers’ premier pass-rusher, Melvin Ingram, mostly had his way.
Ifedi’s status as starter has been the shakiest among the five O-linemen, in part because he led the NFL in penalties (20) last season, and also because he gets beat a little too often. Sure enough, Carroll said Monday that George Fant, a coaching-staff favorite, was being moved from backup left tackle to compete with Ifedi for the right tackle spot.
Fant, you may recall, is the former basketball player from Western Kentucky whom the Seahawks for three years have wanted to transform into the next great tackle. In 2016, he started 10 games at left tackle by injury default. In 2017, he was booked as a full-season starter, until almost exactly a year ago in a fake game when a teammate rolled up on his right leg and tore its ACL. Only in the last week has Fant been given the full go after surgery.
The idea here is to see if Fant, an undrafted free agent, can scare Ifedi, a No. 1 draft pick, straight.
“George obviously is feeling better now so, we’re just trying to create competition,” Schottenheimer said. “We think that will bring out the best in everybody.
“Germain’s had some really good plays. He’s had some plays he’d like to have back.”
It’s unlikely that Fant, with so little experience on the right side, would supplant Ifedi in the event of another mediocre game. Still, the Seahawks need to know what their options are, should Ifedi, for example, become the first NFL player to foul out with six personals.
They also need to know whether the group can discourage a good defense even a little. In the first game against the Colts, the Seahawks had 87 yards rushing on 22 carries, many against reserves from an already poor 2017 defense. Last week, the Seahawks had 60 yards in 16 carries, a paltry total created in part by Schottenheimer’s desire to get in passing-game work.
“I probably got away from it a little bit too early,” he said. “I was trying to give a couple of the quarterbacks and some of the other skill guys a look. Early in the game, we were running it really well, we were running hard. (We are) encouraged. There are still some things that we need to look at, our gap schemes, we want to improve that a little bit.
“There’s things that we need to figure out: ‘Hey, are we going to be able to do this once the season comes around?’”
The run game took a hit this week when J.D. McKissic broke a bone in his foot during practice and will miss four to six weeks. Also out is Rashaad Penny, the No. 1 pick, but his broken finger is a minor inconvenience. Presumably, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise will get the bulk of the carries, unless Schottenheimer forgets again.
That seems less likely because in the truncated calendar of the modern NFL training camp, there just isn’t time to screw around, especially when engaged in a remodel/rebirth/renaissance … whatever.
“We’d like to see us run the football well against these guys and mix up the type of runs that we have, not just be a wide zone team,” he said. “You’ll see us attacking with some different run-types.”
And if Ifedi messes up, you might see different player-types by the regular season.
Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.