Pete Carroll met with the media Saturday following the Seahawks walk-through practice and repeated what he'd said all along about his star running back Marshawn Lynch and run-stuffing defensive tackle Brandon Mebane: each is officially questionable and will be a game-time decision Monday Night against the Detroit Lions.
While each has been critical to Seattle's success during Carroll's tenure, the Seahawks may feel comfortable with how their primary backups at the two positions - Thomas Rawls and Jordan Hill - have performed when called upon in last week's home opening thumping of the Chicago Bears.
While Rawls is technically listed as the third team back behind veteran Fred Jackson, he provides a similar level of physicality and aggression as Lynch - which is why the club opted to feature him last week against the Bears. Rawls wasn't perfect against Chicago (notably dropping a pass and occasionally taking the wrong hole while running) but he was decisive and ran hard, repeatedly breaking tackles and falling forward on his way to 104 rushing yards in his first NFL start. If Lynch is out and the Seahawks hope to control the tempo against Detroit just as it did against Chicago, Rawls is a safe bet to lead the team in rushing attempts in Week Five.
Carroll sounded confident that Rawls could handle the role even with opponents having more film to study the 5-09, 215 pound bruiser.
"Yeah, sure, they've seen him a little bit more, but I don't know what you can do about that," Carroll said. "Hopefully we get him in a good rhythm and let him get going again. He was rumbling pretty good last week, and if we're fortunate enough to see that kind of activity again this week we'll be in good shape with him. But as far as the opponents go, at least they've seen his style of running."
The caveat at running back could be if Detroit is successful in consistently pressuring Russell Wilson. Frankly, this shouldn't occur. The Lions have just four sacks in three games this season and their top edge rusher - Ezekiel Ansah - is more power and length than explosive quickness. If the Lions are successfully harassing Wilson, however, Jackson could see more time. He was signed by the Seahawks in large part because he's one of the league's best receivers and pass blockers. Should Lynch be out and Seattle opt to go more up-tempo against the Lions, Jackson will likely see the bulk of the action at running back.
The Lions are similarly flexible at running back with reports coming out of Detroit that the club could be looking to feature flashy second round pick Ameer Abdullah against the Seahawks. That wouldn't be a surprise given how effective smaller, quicker pass-catching backs have fared against Seattle and the likelihood that the Seahawks are able to mount a significant pass rush at CenturyLink.
In part because of the need to get pressure on Matthew Stafford, as well as the recognition he's previously shown in disrupting screens and draws, Hill therefore is the likeliest candidate to get significantly more playing time at defensive tackle should Mebane not be able to suit up.
Hill is remarkably quick and recorded two of Seattle's four tackles for loss last week in limited duty against the Bears. He's more athletic than Ahtyba Rubin and if used in a rotation along with the stouter David King he should have similar success against Detroit. The Seahawks may also opt to slide Michael Bennett and Frank Clark as well as the club's most versatile player - FB/TE/DL Will Tukuafu - inside to help.
Though Carroll isn't going to admit it, surely factoring into Seattle's decision to potentially sit Lynch and Mebane is that the Lions are 0-3 and viewed by outsiders at least as unlikely to beat the Seahawks in Seattle on a big stage. The Seahawks haven't lost a night game at home in nine years.
The Lions have self-destructed in their previous games, meaning that the Seahawks may be able to get away with saving Lynch and Mebane for next week when the club goes back on the road to face a much more physical (and frankly, better) Cincinnati Bengals squad.
The Seahawks will be somewhat short-handed in this contest with cornerback Tharold Simon, free safety Steven Terrell, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis all expected to miss the game due to nagging injuries. Each could return as soon as next week against the Bengals.