Photo Courtesy: Sports World Report
By Andy / PNW Sports Fans
As training camp starts up and we inch closer to real football I’ve begun to pass the time by breaking down each of the Seahawks position groups. Today let’s dive into the 2016 Running Back competition.
First off it wouldn’t be right if I wrote this without paying my respects to the legend, and in my humble opinion the greatest running back of all time. Marshawn Lynch. He will be sorely missed. Enjoy some of his best moments.
Who They Are:
Thomas Rawls: Thomas Rawls came to Seattle as an undrafted free agent. So it’s safe to say we saw his success coming given the Seahawks track record. As Marshawn battled through an injury plagued season, of which he missed 12 games, Seattle needed someone to step up in the backfield. Thomas Rawls did just that. He got his first career start against Detroit. A typical Seahawks Monday Night game where the offense struggled to find its footing and the game ultimately ended in controversy (though anyone who claims they knew the illegal batt rule is a liar). However, the next week in Cincinnati was a different story. Rawls looked like a seasoned all pro ripping off 169 yards on 23 carries including an explosive 69 yard house call in the second half. From that point on Rawls seemed to be the next diamond in the rough of the Pete and John era. Rawls was extremely productive in his rookie campaign tallying 830 yards on 147 attempts. He no doubt would’ve eclipsed the thousand yard mark had he not suffered a broken ankle in December against Baltimore. Rawls had filled in so well for Marshawn, but his own sudden injury turned out to spell doom for Seattle heading in to the 2015 playoffs. Though the injury was serious, Rawls has spent his days relentlessly rehabbing to get back to being his explosive self. Last week Rawls was officially cleared and taken off the PUP list, which is a welcome event for Seahawks fans. Rawls will have to shake off a little rust once he starts taking game snaps again, but I think he is going to prove last season’s performance was not an anomaly. If my prediction comes true, look for this offensive attack to be highly potent.
Christine Michael: I’m not one who usually puts much stock in to preseason games as far as score results, but when it comes to evaluating players battling for spots it’s pretty telling. Christine Michael looked like a completely different guy on Saturday in Kansas City. The same guy that struggled to focus play in and play out was locked in from the first snap of the game. The guy that used to dance around instead of running into the hole looked as if he was being shot out of cannon upon taking each handoff. Everyone will tell you that they’ve seen flashes from Christine Michael but the inconsistency in his short career has overshadowed the potential. Last year was a bit of sobering moment for Michael. After being released by the team that drafted him, Michael was picked up by Dallas. For a moment it seemed he might be able to fit there, but late in the season he was released. Michael then found his way to Washington’s practice squad. He was once again cut. As fate would have it in late December Michael was in need of a team and the Seahawks depth at running back was wearing thin. C-Mike approached his second tour of duty in Seattle with a renewed focus. He had watched the time in his NFL career nearly Prematurely run out. However, he did enough in his short end of the season spurt to catch the attention of his coaches. In fact they felt good enough about how far Christine Michael has come that he has taken all of the first team reps in Thomas Rawls absence. He made the most of his opportunity Saturday as I watched him rip run after run in the first quarter. There was no hesitation, there was no dancing. I saw a guy that understood the blocking scheme and how to read it. I saw a guy that ran full speed, straight ahead into the cracks of daylight. Most importantly, I saw a guy who looks like he is finally starting to get it. That is a very exciting thought. If Michael can figure out the mental aspect of his game, this backfield will become scary fast.
CJ Prosise: I thoroughly enjoyed watching the tape on CJ Prosise from his days at Notre Dame. A converted receiver, Prosise isn’t your prototypical running back. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. His time at receiver has given CJ a diverse skill set. And not to beat a dead horse, but Pete Carroll and John Schnieder love guys with a unique set of skills. That must’ve been why they used their third round pick to select the standout Fighting Irish running back. Coaches have seemed to be high on the young prospect since he’s arrived in Seattle. From everything I’ve heard in the media, it sounds like Prosise is poised to step into the third down back role that Fred Jackson filled last year. Given his quickness and ability to catch the ball, I think this could be a great fit for the rookie. Again, from early training camp reports and the way coaches talk about him i gather that he is in line to earn significant playing time. Prosise has temporarily suffered a setback to those aspirations as a hamstring injury has held him out of practice and the first preseason. CJ still has plenty of time to prove himself, but this is the time for rookies must leave an impression. Compound the injury with Christine Michael’s stellar performance on Saturday and Alex Collins breathing down his neck, Prosise finds himself in a dogfight. As a third round pick I don’t think he’s in any danger of being cut. I do think he will have to earn his keep if wants to see the field in 2016. I really like what Prosise brings to the table, but until he actually plays, it’s going to be difficult to get a read on him.
Alex Collins: Three straight 1,000 yard seasons while playing at Arkansas. Does anything else need to be said? Just in case you are reading this and are failing to grasp that, Arkansas is in the SEC. THE SEC! Alex Collins is only the third player in conference history to accomplish that feat. Anytime you are on a short list with Herschel Walker, you know you’re doing something special. Aside from the impressive stats, the film don’t lie. The fifth round pick’s tape is impressive. Collins runs hard and recklessly in such a manner that has already led to comparisons of Marsha. . . woah! Slow down! I’m not ready to go that far. But this kid is not scared to run right through those foolish enough to get in his way. Collins brings a physical presence that matches the DNA of the Seahawks running game. Now unlike the some of the delusional folks down south I realize there is difference between SEC and NFL football. A big one at that. As with all of the rookies we will have to how Collins adjusts to this level. So far so good as he’s been solid thus far in training camp and has earned high praise as a result. If i’m being honest, I really want to see Collins become a force on this team. He is so fun to watch and has that running style that just makes you want to jump out your recliner and punch a hole in the drywall.
Zac Brooks: The Clemson product was the third running back the Seahawks took in the 2016 draft. Brooks had to wait a while to have his name called as he went in the seventh round. But we know that it doesn’t matter what your draft position is on this team. If you can play, they find a way to keep you around. Brooks is another tough runner with some burst. Like Collins, I think Brooks has that fearless running style that Seattle drools over. However on a roster chalk full of hungry running backs, Brooks may find himself as the odd man out. An injury has also impeded his death chart progress. And when your a seventh round pick you don’t have the luxury of missing too many practices before you find yourself in a mother line of work. I hope Brooks finds his way on to this team, because I think he’s a solid player, but at this point that seems like his opportunity might be slipping away.
Marshawn Lynch isn’t walking through the door at the VMAC this year. He is absolutely irreplaceable. That doesn’t let this group of running backs off the hook. For this team to be elite in 2016 it will need solid production from its running game. Marshawn Lynch or not, the identity of this team is still imbedded in a physical brand of football. And that means hitting on defense and running backs that aren’t afraid to lay the lumber either. This entire group is relatively young and has something to prove. I think they have enough gamers to be a dominant unit this year, but they’ve got to approach every single game with urgency and a desire to impose their will. I am excited to see this backfield in action in 2016.