Pete Carroll hopes Lacy, Joeckel energize Seahawks running game
SEATTLE - Pete Carroll and the Seahawks found themselves in an unfamiliar place -- the bottom of the league -- when it came to rushing the ball in 2016.
Injuries to running backs Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise thinned out Seattle's backfield, and leg injuries robbed quarterback Russell Wilson of his trademark elusiveness. Playing behind one of the most inexperienced offensive lines in the NFL, the banged-up Seahawks averaged just 77.7 yards per game through the first nine contests, eclipsing the 100-yard mark only twice. Things got better after Rawls returned from a fractured leg in the second half of the campaign, but Seattle still had its worst rushing season since 2010, ranking 25th in the NFL while averaging 99.4 yards per game.
That performance explains why the Seahawks' first two additions in free agency this offseason -- offensive lineman Luke Joeckel and running back Eddie Lacy -- were made with the explicit aim of improving the team's ground game.
"We wanted to work really hard regaining the mentality about running the football," head coach Pete Carroll told host John Clayton in an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle Tuesday. "That's something that's really important to us."
To that end, Seattle took a risk on Lacy, the big back who racked up 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons after joining the Packers as a second round pick out of Alabama in 2013. Weight issues and injuries have limited Lacy to 1,118 yards and three touchdowns over the past two seasons, but Carroll said he was excited to bring in the 26-year-old who reminds him a little of former Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch.
"He's really tough and he's physical, and he's a big load. He's a big back in classic fashion," Carroll told Clayton on Tuesday. "I like that we're bringing in a big, tough guy that's going to send a message the way he plays the game."
As for concerns about Lacy's conditioning after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report revealed one of the thee teams Lacy visited in free agency (Seattle, Green Bay and Minnesota) had him tipping the scales at 267 pounds while rehabbing from ankle surgery that cost him all but five games in 2016, Carroll didn't exactly shy away from the idea that the former Pro Bowler had some weight to drop.
"There will be a real concerted effort to make sure that he's at his very best," Carroll said. "This is a hard time for him because he's working some rehab right now, but he is well aware of our expectations and the standards that we're setting. We would not have done this if we didn't have a really clear understanding of how we're going to go forward."
Carroll said he hoped playing on a one-year "prove it" deal worth a reported $5.5 million with $3 million guaranteed would motivate Lacy to get in shape and prove his worth. The same goes for Joeckel, the former No. 2 overall pick who signed a one-year contract reportedly worth $8 million after a four-year stint in Jacksonville that could charitably be called below average.
"With both guys, we expect to do long-term deals," Carroll said. "That's how we go into it, and we're going to think that way until there's reason to think otherwise. So our intentions are to get them to show where they stand, give themselves an opportunity to show what their value is on our club moving forward and really challenge them."
Joeckel is "perfectly suited to be a left tackle," according to Carroll, but has the added value of having played four games at guard last season before being lost for the year with a serious knee injury.
"He can play both spots and we'll see how that works," Carroll said. "He's physical, he's smart, he's got great flexibility for a big man. He's really determined. He had two injuries over the time that cost him some, but he's played a lot of good football, and we think he's got great upside."
Joeckel, Carroll said, is five months into his rehab and "way head of schedule," which should make him available for offseason activities with the Seahawks. Carroll also said the team is looking to possibly add another free agent on the line, while acknowledging that most of the difference-makers at the position were snapped up in the first few days of free agency.
Seattle came close to a standout veteran in former Packers guard T.J. Lang, who visited Seattle on Saturday before signing with his hometown Detroit Lions on Sunday.
"We thought we had him, and he was thinking really seriously about it," Carroll said. "He had a great visit and fit in really well and all that, but when it came right down to it, he had a chance to play at home and stay close to the family, and that won out."
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