I am sure everyone remembers 2010, or 2009, 2008 heck go all the way back to 2005. That was the last time that the Seahawks were a threat on the ground. As we all know that was back when we had Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. I won’t dwell there, I know it hurts. The point is ever since 2005 the Seahawks running game has continued to decline and become the joke of the league up until a specific game sealing run that when we talk about we refer to it as “The Run” that might go down as one of the most prolific plays in Seahawks history. Since then things have only considerably gone up from there, I know we had a couple of rough games at the start of 2011, but things have been getting better ever since the Bengals loss in week 7. And a lot of people want to give all the credit to Mr. Lynch, saying that he is finally living up to his potential that so many people saw his rookie year with the Bills. But I disagree with that, don’t get me wrong Lynch has done a heck of a job as the running back since that game. But I don’t think it is all him. Personally I don’t value running backs that highly, unless they are an elite player like Aderian Petersen, Frank Gore, or Tim Tebow (just kidding, but seriously) I see a productive running game as the product of the line or in this case the coach.
I want to put it out there that Tom Cable is the reason that our running game is something that we can center a game plan around. I know you might be thinking that I am forgetting the way the offensive line has been playing, and that I am crazy for putting it all on Cable. But let’s take a look at what he has done so far. We knew from the start of the season that because of the lockout that rookies and things like the offensive line were going to look really bad before they got better. And right out the gates things looked bad for that line. The only two things that stuck out to me initially was that Okung was an awesome pass blocker and that Ruskell really did find a good center in Unger. Besides that Gallery was injured, Carpenter might have well been MIA, and Moffit was just there. Well like many people told us things were going to look bad before they got better. But they did get better, Gallery finally came in and really helped solidify the left side of the line, and personally I have found that Okungs improvement as a run blocker has dramatically gotten better as opposed to his already spectacular pass blocking abilities. Unger continued to look great, Moffit really stepped it up creating a real physical presence for inside runs. Carpenter is where things got interesting though, to be fair the situation he was coming to was not ideal at all. Once we as fans had finally come off the high that the Beastmode run left us with, the cold slap of reality came and hit us in the face when we realized just how bad the 25th overall pick was. That being said Carpenter has been a good right tackle, although I personally think he projects better as a left guard. But Carpenter has been a lot of hit and miss. A lot of his blocks allowed easy long runs for Lynch, but then again he left us with a lot of bonehead penalties at the same time. This is what brings me to my point though, Cable was handed a group of guys that has basically never played together and was told to get them ready to play together and 8 weeks later he had them looking like a respectable unit. But some kinks came up, Moffit and Carpenter were lost for the season, travesty right? Wrong our back up lineman came and essentially without skipping a beat kept up the same performance. Then we lost Okung and McQuistan steps up to play left tackle. I know it was against the Rams, but he was matched up against Chris Long keep in mind that McQuistan had mostly only played guard in his career with a few exceptions. And then pretty suddenly gets matched up against Long who is no cupcake pass rusher as a left tackle and for the most part makes Long a non-factor. I know that he had help but after watching the game the second time it was mostly just an initial chip block from a running back or a tight end, which does help but in the end initially only eliminates that first step speed rush move. So from what we have seen thus far this season our offensive line has done pretty well despite some bumpy spots in the road.
This is what brings me to Cable being the reason for our running success. Normally you don’t lose 3 starters on your offensive line and then replace them with backups and continue the same level of success as before. Backups normally are not as good as your starters, hence why they are backups. So Cable has clearly either installed a scheme that has the ability to just plug in a player and make a system work or he is coaching these guys up far past the skill level they normally perform at, which really would not surprise me with the type of environment that Pete Carroll has created in Seattle. So this brings me back to it being less about Lynch and more about Cable and what he does with offensive line. Taking a quick peak at Cable’s work with offensive lines in the NFL it brings up this, the 2006 Falcons were the #1 ranked rushing offense in just about every category except for rushing touchdowns. In 2007 the Raiders were the 6th best rushing offense, 2008 the Raiders were 10th, 2009 21st to be fair they had a lot of injuries. In 2010 they were 2nd overall and tied for second in scoring on the ground. I think this goes to show the type of value that Cable brings to the table as a coach, in 5 seasons as the offensive line coach he had been a rushing attack that was ranked in the top 10 4 out of 5 seasons. Currently we are the 20th best rushing offense, but I blame that on the lockout. Had our line had some actual time to practice together we might be a little bit closer to south of 20th best. My point is not to take anything away from Lynch personally. I would be an idiot to say that a lot of those yards are not hard fought, because he puts a tremendous amount of effort to get positive yards on just about every carry. My point is that I don’t think that Lynch is really as valuable as people make him out to be, I think that if you inserted someone like Bush from the Raiders behind our line you would get about the same production you are getting from Lynch. Don’t believe me still I will illustrate with some stats. Currently Maurice Jones-Drew is the leading rusher in the NFL, in 2010 Adrian Foster was the leading rusher, as of right now he is ranked 6th overall. In 2009 Chris Johnson was the lead guy, he is currently sitting at 16th overall. 2008 is Adrian Petersen who is currently sitting at 17th overall. 2007 was Peterson again followed by Tomlinson and Brandon Jacobs who are respectively ranked at 73rd and 37th. 2006 was Tomlinson followed by Larry Johnson and Frank Gore. Gore is currently ranked 4th overall. So besides plainly pointing out the short shelf life of running backs I think it is also pretty obvious how top running backs shuffle about from season to season.
So I just want to point out before you go singing the holy praises of Marshawn Lynch and finishing in the sweet name of Tim Tebow I think you should give a fair amount of credit to Tom Cable and what he has done for this team. Without his influence I don’t think we would even be able to be talking about the P word that we are whispering to each other.