Seahawks Roster Analysis: Running Backs

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 01: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles defense on December 1, 2011 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

I'm very organized by nature. I think it is why I do coffee and cigarettes every morning - I like to have everything that I want to read laid out in a neat little list that I can just go down one by one. I am extremely neat and tidy and clutter, chaos, or loose ends really stress me out. I think that's why I've been looking forward to doing this series. Let's lay out exactly what the Seahawks have at each position and then we can start talking about free agency and the draft with a more in-depth angle. Now, obviously, 99% of you already know which players are on the Seahawks, but I'm going to give you my take and then you give me yours.

First off - as a primer, here follows the initial 53-man roster from the beginning of the 2011 regular season:

Offense:

QB: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett
FB: Michael Robinson
WR: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin
TE: Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy, Dominique Byrd
LT: Russell Okung, Tyler Polumbus
LG: Robert Gallery, Paul McQuistan
C: Max Unger, Lemuel Jeanpierre
RG: John Moffitt
RT: James Carpenter, Breno Giacomini, Jarriel King

Defense:

DE: Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, Dexter Davis, Red Bryant, Al Woods
DT: Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald, Landon Cohen
LB: David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, Aaron Curry, KJ Wright, Matt McCoy, Malcolm Smith
CB: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell
S: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Jeron Johnson, Atari Bigby

Things didn't change a whole hell of a lot from that list - Dominique Byrd was released early in the year despite showing some promise in training camp, Tyler Polumbus was a similar story, but his departure came a little later. Apart from that, the offense remained relatively stagnant, which is kind of surprising, considering the 2010 season. Remember Quinton Ganther? Anyway, players were added and released to account for injuries (we barely knew ye Eddie Williams) but by and large, the offense didn't undergo a huge makeover in-season, save for a few PUP guys that came on mid-season.

On the defensive side, a fairly similar story. Al Woods came and went and we heard probably five words about him the whole time. Same with Landon Cohen. The Aaron Curry trade was rather blockbuster, but apart from that, again, no major makeovers and the Seahawks really relied on their initial 53-man team to perform the whole season. Heath Farwell replace Matt McCoy on special teams, primarily, as did David Vobora. The Hawks went back and got Kennard Cox to specialize on gunning as well. Some guy named Philip Adams is on the team, I guess. But I don't think he played. Waiver wire pickup Chris Maragos saw some action, very briefly. That's it, I think.

Anyway, because I'm sick of talking about quarterbacks, let's start with running backs. Right now (or more technically, as of the end of the league year, which is coming up), the Seahawks have one running back on their official roster, and his name is Leon Washington. Justin Forsett is a free agent. Michael Robinson is a free agent. Marshawn Lynch, - yep - is a free agent.

The Hawks have two running backs signed to futures contracts - Tyrell Sutton and Vai Taua. Sutton is new, and seemingly replaced Jay Finley on the offseason practice squad (no word on where Finley ended up, if anywhere). Taua has been with the team the whole year, on the practice squad and for four weeks on the suspended list.

Anyway, let's break it down.

Marshawn Lynch: Though it does seem like a no-brainer to bring him back, I'm sure money will be an issue for both sides and we may be treated to a little suspense. That said, I think eventually they will get something done. Lynch was brought in very purposefully via trade and the offense has sort of been built around his style. Some people think he's overrated, but I don't necessarily believe that he's fungible with any free agent or journeyman running back on the market, and certainly not with the players Seattle has been testing out on the practice squad or with futures contracts.

If you're going to replace Lynch, I think you have to do so with a high draft pick or a big chunk of change on the market. I'm not going to get into potential candidates in this particular article, but in my mind it makes the most sense to re-sign the guy that is one of the main faces of your franchise, and not because he's a total weirdo, but because he's good. His running style lends to what the Seahawks are trying to do on offense and we heard Tom Cable talk about this shortly after the season.

Cable essentially implored to Lynch to do what he's asking from points A to B, then once he's to B, how he gets to C is his prerogative. Well, that apparently worked, and the dancing behind the line and hesitation ceased. Once Lynch gets to point B, he has an uncanny talent for keeping his legs churning and moving and his pads low, and a two yard gain turns into four. A four yarder turns into eight, and every once in a while, he emerges from the scrum unscathed for a glorious touchdown run.

In all seriousness though, Lynch upped his game this year and even became a pretty dangerous weapon receiving passes out of the backfield. Bottom line, he fits here, he's still young enough to warrant a new contract, and he's proven he can be effective.

Michael Robinson: It's kind of tough to judge a fullback in the way that it's kind of tough to evaluate an offensive lineman. If Mike Rob misses a block, you notice it, but 90% of the time you're watching the guy running behind him instead. It's tough to judge a special teamer unless he's the gunner or whiffs on an easy tackle. Now, because, in all honesty, I didn't notice Robinson all that much this year on offense or special teams, outside of a few booming blocks laid out (including one on Ray Lewis that knocked him on his ass), I guess I'll defer to the experts on this and if the coaches and players voted him to the Pro Bowl, I'll take their word for it. Robinson was an effective blocker. He was effective on special teams. His teammates voted him to captain. Does that mean the Seahawks will re-sign him? I assume so.

It seems like he wants to stay. He certainly fits here. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy to go off looking for more money and fullbacks don't make much as it is. If I'm putting money on it, Robinson will be signed to a modest three-year deal much like we saw happen with Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu last year. No fanfare.

Justin Forsett: Forsett just never really seemed to get on track this year. He had limited carries - just 46 on the season - in limited snaps and he failed to really capitalize on his chances. Now, he's known as an effective back in pass protection and he's proficient catching passes out of the backfield so his role is pretty clearly defined as a 3rd down back. When Marshawn Lynch went out in Week 7 against Cleveland in warmups, the Hawks looked not to Forsett to start but instead to Leon the Professional. The eight times he carried in that game, Justin averaged 2.9 yards gained. That was a fairly common theme and he ended the year with a meager 3.2 ypc.

He didn't look particularly explosive or powerful, and he didn't look the same as the flashy, shifty little dude we grew to love after he was drafted out of Cal in '08. So he was kind of stuck in this dead zone of limited usefulness - a guy that is dependable in pass pro and can catch a pass or two in third and long so Jon Ryan only has to punt it 55 yards instead of 60.

Now, if given more chances to get in a groove and more in tune with the offense maybe Forsett could be more effective, but we just didn't get a chance to see that this year. I don't get the feeling that the Seahawks will bring him back and instead they'll look to draft a RB or develop one of their young players on a futures contract.

Leon Washington: Washington was a little frustrating in that he didn't get the ball as much as you would have liked. When he did get touches though, he was often effective, and sometimes electrifying. He's pretty much what you'd hope for in a 'change-of-pace' back - fast, shifty, decisive, sure-handed, smart - and possesses that home-run potential that makes him dangerous. When used sparingly, as he was in '11, he's a nice luxury but by no means is a feature-type back. He's not going to break many tackles, and when nothing is there, nothing is what he'll get. Regardless, I assume he'll be back (he's still under contract) because he's a dynamic player and a dependable kick/punt returner.

In my mind's eye, Tyrell Sutton and Vai Taua are pretty much the same player - both sturdy at 5'8, 5'9, 215 pounds and fundamental. Tough runners, adept blockers, good receivers. Neither has top level speed or shiftiness, but both possess the toughness and aggressiveness to run between the tackles and keep their feet moving. They just seem like Tom Cable type utility backs and though both likely possess ceilings as backups, are intriguing.

What kind of players are John Schneider, Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell, and Tom Cable looking for at that position?What is the prototype? This season, we saw two smaller backs behind Lynch with an undersize fullback in Mike Rob.

To me, I see Cable's ideal backfield comprised of two big backs, a midsized fullback, and a change of pace guy. If one of the big backs goes down, the next guy steps up and gets you positive yardage. It's a punch you in the mouth mentality, a run right through you philosophy. The change of pace guy keeps defenses on their heels. I could be wrong on that assessment, but that's just how I see Cable and his style.

The Hawks have churned through a few running backs at the back of their roster this season, perhaps offering a glimpse of what they're looking for, starting with Chris Henry (5'11 234), going to Thomas Clayton (5'11, 222), and taking a long look at Vai Taua. They brought in Jay Finley (5'11, 203) briefly then replaced him with Tyrell Sutton. It's tough to identify exactly what they're sifting for.

With Seattle's lead back, 3rd down back, and fullback about to become free agents, what happens in the Seahawks backfield this offseason is one of the more interesting storylines to keep an eye on.

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