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#HawksMailbag - November 5: How are we addressing the run defense?

Posted Nov 5, 2013

Answering your questions about the club on a weekly basis.

Welcome to another edition of #HawksMailbag here on Seahawks.com, our weekly Q & A session with you - the 12th Man.

We fielded several of your questions about the club on Twitter following the team's 21-point, come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Let's get down to it.

This is a team that gave up just 66 yards rushing to Tennessee and 30 yards rushing against Arizona in Weeks 6 and 7 - numbers that ranked the Seahawks sixth in the NFL against the run (91.6 yards/game). Then, in back-to-back games against the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers the club gave up 200 yards and 205 yards on the ground, respectively, dropping their sixth-ranked run defense to No. 19 in the League (116.2 yards/game). Rookie running backs Zac Stacy (Rams) and Mike James (Buccaneers) turned in Pro Bowl-like performances, running for more than 130 yards and 5.0 yards per carry.

So yes, it's safe to say the unit has gone a bit awry. The defense as a whole is relatively healthy, so pinning the regression on injuries won't fly here. Head coach Pete Carroll highlighted a couple areas for improvement when he met with reporters on Monday.

"We were sloppy in our run fits again, unfortunately," Carroll said. "We missed some reads on a couple of new plays that they ran. They did a nice job in changing up and we weren’t as sharp and the ball got out on us. A couple of defenses we were trying to pressure and we got hit while we were pressuring them and we didn’t execute the run part of it well. We were just off a little bit and we have not fixed it in these two weeks. Obviously with that many yards being run, we've got to keep working hard at it. It’s a big, dedicated effort because we don’t want to go that way."

The NFL is a copycat league, meaning if something has success against you, you can bet your next opponent is going to do the same thing until you prove you can stop it. That's the case with the Seahawks right now, who had 37 (Rams) and 38 (Buccaneers) run plays called against them in adjacent weeks. Now they ready to face an Atlanta Falcons team that features a healthy Steven Jackson, the former-Ram who never ran for more than 100 yards in a game against the Seahawks during his nine years in the NFC West.

"I think that we’ll get decidedly better," Carroll said. "We’re really tuned in. The players take a lot of pride in it as well and we all have to do better, from myself on down. We are going to work really hard to get that done."

Help is on the way, but don't expect right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee) or left tackle Russell Okung (toe) to see the field this Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta. The pair of tackles got some work in with assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable on Monday and head coach Pete Carroll said if all goes well, the duo is planning to hit the practice field this week.

"As far as playing this week, Russell is not eligible to play this week, but Breno is so we’ll see," Carroll told reporters on Monday. "It’s not likely that he’ll be ready. That’s a lot to ask him in one week’s time on the practice field. We’d like to take a couple of weeks, get him back, really get him solid, get his legs under him and see where he is."

The earliest return date for Okung, on the team's Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list, remains November 17 against the Minnesota Vikings.

On top of Giacomini and Okung, center Max Unger's status is up in the air after he left Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the fourth quarter with concussion symptoms. Carroll said they would not know Unger's availability for Week 10 until later in the week. Fourth-year pro Lemuel Jeanpierre recorded two starts at center in Weeks 4 and 5 while Unger was out with an arm injury.

It's all about the ball. As in, winning the turnover battle usually wins games.

The Seahawks hold a record of 22-3 under head coach Pete Carroll when forcing more turnovers than their opponent. Last week against the Bucs was a bit of an anomoly, as the club finished minus three in turnover differential and still managed to win the game. That's hard to do. Win the turnover battle - especially on the road - and the end result will often be in your favor.

The offense seems to have regained its identity by featuring a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch and the run game, racking up more than 400 yards of total offense in last week's win over Tampa Bay. That's a good sign. Lynch registered just eight carries in Week 8 against the Rams, when the club put up just 135 total yards.

Pass protection needs to be better. The Seahawks did not allow a single sack last week against the Bucs - a notable improvement after allowing three to the Arizona Cardinals and seven to the St. Louis Rams in consecutive weeks, but quarterback Russell Wilson did still take some pretty big hits.

And of course, the aforementioned run defense needs to re-establish the dominance it displayed over the first seven weeks of the season. Head coach Pete Carroll has said that is a priority for the Seahawks this week.

It's possible. But the Seahawks have done a nice job taking advantage of their schedule. The 10 days between the team's Week 7 Thursday game against the Cardinals in Arizona and its Week 8 Monday game against the Rams in St. Louis come to mind, acting as a mini-bye near midseason.

Head coach Pete Carroll touched on the topic in a roundabout way when addressing the media on Monday. The recent health-issues with Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak stirred the response from Carroll.

"We are more in-tune with the benefits of good rest than we have ever been," Carroll said. "We have sleep programs for our young guys that randomly don’t take care of themselves and have not developed good habits, but our coaches need to do the same. We’ve adjusted our system in ways to try to enhance the breaks and the rest as much as possible, but there is also a time where you have to push and you have to fight through it."

The Seahawks very well could be in one of those times where they are fighting through it. I think there's a feeling that when the bye week does come, it's going to come at the perfect time.

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