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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Seahawks must focus offense around Marshawn Lynch

During the first half of the season, the Seattle Seahawks were reluctant to give running back Marshawn Lynch a lot of touches and wound up sporting a 2-5 record for their trouble. Without the threat of a consistent running game opposing defenses would line up and tee off on Seattle’s quarterbacks.

That’s why the Seahawks allowed four or more sacks in six of their first seven games but that would change during their Week 9 game in Dallas. The Seahawks would give Lynch the ball 23 times, his first game of the season with over 20 carries and he would respond with his first 100-yard rushing game of the year rushing for 135 yards and a score.

Although they lost that game in Dallas they knew that if they wanted to keep quarterback Tavaris Jackson off the injured list and put themselves in better position to win games then they needed to give Lynch the ball more consistently. They did and he responded with five more 100-yard rushing performances in Seattle’s last eight games.

It’s also not a coincidence that they had a winning record in those last eight games going 5-3 the rest of the way. And when they did lose they didn’t lose by much.

Two of their three losses in the second half of the season were by three points or less and they lost the third game by six points. In contrast, four of their six losses from the first half of the season were by ten points or more.

Unfortunately they didn’t improve in their pass protection allowing 24 sacks in the second half of the season after allowing 26 in the first half. Part of that can be blamed on the offensive line’s play but the other reason is the slow progression of their quarterback Jackson.

Jackson would hold the ball too long at times waiting for routes to develop as opposed to anticipating when his receivers would be open. Jackson also insisted on throwing the deep ball rather than taking what the defense gave him.

Overall, Jackson needs to develop more of a rapport with his receivers. Both Sidney Rice and Zach Miller were more productive receivers before coming to Seattle. Miller averaged 60 catches per season his last three years in Oakland but only caught 25 passes last season.

It’s interesting that Rice wasn’t more productive considering that he and Jackson were teammates for four years together in Minnesota before both joined the Seahawks last season. In Jackson’s defense though, it’s hard to develop chemistry with a guy who has a hard time staying healthy. Rice has managed to play in only 15 games over the past two seasons with a total of 49 catches and 764 yards to show for it.

Chemistry may be a moot point though if Seattle is successful in signing free agent quarterback Matt Flynn from Green Bay. Flynn is more accurate than Jackson and would be way more effective with a runner like Lynch behind him than Jackson was last season.

But regardless of who is under center the focal point of the offense has got to be on Lynch. His tough running style gives defenses fits and he was the first running back to score a touchdown on a San Francisco 49ers’ defense that only allowed three rushing touchdowns all year.

So if Lynch can produce for a whole season at the level he played in the second half of 2011 then the Seahawks’ offense will be much improved. The defense was ranked ninth in yards and seventh in points allowed last season so if Lynch can carry the offense then that combination could be a winning formula for Seattle in 2012.

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and also writes for both The Penalty Flag and Outside The Redzone. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist and add him on Facebook Roosevelt Hall Thesportmentalist.

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