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Seahawks running backs are going nowhere fast in the red zone

The numbers are bad. Very bad.

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you want a potential “turning point” in the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams, it’s this sequence of plays with a chance to go up 17-0 on a reeling Rams team:

1st and goal at the Rams’ 7: Zach Charbonnet gain of 2 yards (unsuccessful play)
2nd and goal at the Rams’ 5: Zach Charbonnet loss of 6 yards (unsuccessful play)
3rd and goal at the Rams’ 11: Geno Smith intentional grounding (unsuccessful play)

The 2nd and goal play was an absolute killer, and there was nothing open in the end zone on the 3rd and goal pass. Jason Myers made it 13-0, and the rest is history.

That sequence was a microcosm not just of the Seahawks in the red zone, but specifically the run game. The Seattle Seahawks’ running game can best be described as mediocre. They rank 19th in DVOA, 9th in EPA/play, but 22nd in success rate.

Where the rushing offense completely falls apart is when they’re within 10 yards of the end zone.

The Seahawks are dead last in rushing yards per carry inside the opposition’s 10-yard line. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were all handoffs for touchdowns from the 1-yard line, at which point I’ll take a 1.0 yards per carry average if they’re always scoring. But they’re not, and so we have this masterpiece of a season exclusively from the running back position:

Kenneth Walker: 19 carries for 18 yards, 6 touchdowns
Zach Charbonnet: 5 carries for -3 yards

24 carries for 15 yards (0.6 yards), with a long of 7 from Walker. 10 of these carries either went for no gain or lost yards (via Stathead).

(Note: Jake Bobo has a carry for 3 yards and a touchdown but this article is about Seattle’s running backs, so King Bobo doesn’t count as part of the data set.)

If you want to expand to the whole of the red zone, Seattle is comfortably last in yards per carry (1.6), 24th in turning red zone rushes into either first downs or touchdowns, and 31st in red zone success rate (H/T Ben Baldwin). Sumer Sports’ table shows that Seattle’s EPA/play on red zone rushes is 25th, compared to 11th on pass plays. For perspective, Seattle ranks 5th in EPA/rush outside the red zone, so as soon as the field gets condensed this unit just hits the pause button.

Quietly, this was a problem last season, too. Seattle averaged 0.9 yards per carry inside the 10 (good for 32nd out of 32 teams), ranked 30th in turning those carries into first downs or touchdowns, and were 26th in red zone EPA/rush in 2022. More than half of Seattle’s running back carries failed to gain any yards.

Remember the legendarily bad 2017 Seahawks rushing offense? Russell Wilson WAS the rushing attack, and the running back group of JD McKissic, Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy, Mike Davis, and Thomas Rawls combined for 20 carries and -3 yards inside the 10-yard line. The 2023 group is not nearly as ineffective as the 2017 rotation, but that is not saying a whole lot.

The offensive line inexperience and injury problems are surely not helping matters, but the truth is that of the many problems that ail the Seahawks’ offense, failing to be an effective running team (particularly in scoring territory) is leaving a lot of points on the field. If you’re an optimist, the good news is that Seattle doesn’t have a second-round pick next year to spend on yet another running back.