Time for a Memorial Day edition of the Seattle Seahawks mailbag. Here's today's question.
Coach Pete Carroll said recently the Seahawks will run the ball more in 2017, and there's reason to believe him. Russell Wilson's limited mobility was a big factor in the run-game struggles last year. The running backs were banged up all season long (18 players had at least one carry). The run blocking never got in sync. And the defense fell apart down the stretch without Earl Thomas, which led to the offense needing to pass more.
@SheilKapadia When all are healthy, what is the ideal split of touches between Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise?— Matt Nation (@HawksFanAddict) May 25, 2017
From 2012 to 2015, Seahawks running backs ran the ball an average of 25.1 times per game. Last year, that number was 19.3.
There are obvious game-flow factors here. When teams are playing from behind, they pass more. But since the question was what the ideal breakdown would be, let's assume that the Seahawks produce a top-five defense in 2017, Wilson stays healthy, and they're again able to run the ball effectively.
Working off of the 25-carry average from 2012 to '15, Eddie Lacy projects to be the workhorse back. The Seahawks knew they wanted to address this position in free agency, and Lacy is the ball carrier they ended up signing. From 2013 to '15, a span in which he missed only one game, Lacy totaled 717 carries, sixth most in the NFL. That's an average 15.6 carries per game, and if Lacy is in good shape, I think he has a chance to be right around that mark in 2017.
Putting Lacy down for 15 carries leaves 10 more per game for Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Rawls is the wild card. He was great in 2015, and Carroll loves his running style. But Rawls battled through injuries last year and totaled just 349 rushing yards on 109 carries (3.2 YPC). Among 42 qualifying backs, only two (Todd Gurley and Doug Martin) averaged fewer YPC.
Rawls led the NFL in YPC and average yards after contact in 2015, but it's telling that the team aggressively sought to add a free-agent back this offseason.
The coaches love Prosise but have questioned his durability. Prosise is different than Lacy and Rawls in that he is easily their best receiving back. It's a small sample size, but last year, the numbers when targeting Prosise in the passing game were impressive: 17-for-18 for 208 yards (12.24 yards per reception).
If he stays healthy for all 16 games, it's not a stretch to suggest Prosise could catch 60 passes. Seahawks running backs caught 75 balls last year, and he's going to be on the field in all obvious passing situations.
As for the run game, my guess right now would be six carries per game for Prosise and four for Rawls.
Lacy and Rawls have similar styles, so if there's not much of a difference in their effectiveness, the gap between their workloads could be smaller. Either way, Prosise seems like a good bet for 10 touches per game between carries and catches.