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Seahawks Backfield Analysis: Big Backs Vs Scatbacks

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Today, as I sat here pondering the future of the Seattle Seahawks backfield, a question came to mind. I was looking through some of the Combine numbers and test results, particularly focused on the running backs, and I realized I don't really know what type of player to focus on. I was looking at Baylor's Terrence Ganaway (6'0, 243) and wondering how he'd fit. Then, I was thinking about LaMichael James (5'8, 194) and the impact he'd have. Then, I was looking at Robert Turbin (5'9, 222) and wondering if the Hawks would have interest there. Does one of those guys fit the best? /shrugs

As it stands right now, if the season started tomorrow, Leon Washington would be the Seahawks starting running back and he'd be backed up by Vai Taua and Tyrell Sutton. Washington checks in at 5'8, 203. Taua is 5'9, 213 and Sutton 5'8, 213. Over the course of the year, the Seahawks have also experimented with Jay Finley (5'11, 203) and Thomas Clayton (5'11, 223). Everyone's favorite, Chris Henry, was 5'11, 233.

If you assume that Marshawn Lynch will be back, which we can assume, that means that Lynch, at 5'11, 215, is the lead back and Leon Washington is the scatback. So, what will the mystery third running back look like? I guess logic would dictate that he'd be somewhere in the 5'10, 215 pound range based on the guys on the practice squad, but I decided to dig a little deeper.

I went back through the anals annals of history to take a quick look at the use of different sized running backs by the Seahawks offensive Triumvirate of Pete Carroll, Tom Cable, and Darrell Bevell over the years. The word "use" is used very loosely - some of the years that I'll be listing below, the coach in question may or may not have been the ultimate decision maker and may or may not have chosen to use the mentioned players. Regardless, it should show what experience each coach has with different sized running backs, and might (but probably not) give us an idea of what vision the Seahawks currently have for the backfield here in Seattle.

Here follows the committees used by each coach, respectively, over the years.

Pete Carroll's years at USC, plus Carroll's 2010 season with the Seahawks and Jeremy Bates:

2004: Lendale White (6'2, 235), Reggie Bush (6'0, 203), Desmond Reed (5'9/185)
2005: Lendale White (6'2, 235), Reggie Bush (6'0, 203), Desmond Reed (5'9, 185)
2006: Chauncey Washington (6'0, 215), Emmanuel Moody (6'1, 205), C.J. Gable (6'0, 205)
2007: Chauncey Washington (6'0, 215), Stafon Johnson (5'11, 210), Joe McKnight (6'0, 190)
2008: Stafon Johnson (5'11, 210), Joe McKnight (6'0, 190), C.J. Gable (6'0, 205)
2009: Joe McKnight (6'0, 190), Allen Bradford (6'0, 235), Stafon Johnson (5'11, 210)
2010: Marshawn Lynch (5'11, 215), Justin Forsett (5'8, 190), Leon Washington (5'8, 210)

Carroll almost always uses a committee. It varied in appearance, as you can see. Their most successful years as a team featured Lendale White and Reggie Bush in '04-'05, a one-two punch of vastly different size and style. That said, their 'committees' were pretty variable and I'm not really seeing much of a pattern, other than it appears Carroll probably goes with talent over size when making the choice.

Tom Cable with the Raiders:

2007: (offensive line coach): Justin Fargas (6'1, 220), LaMont Jordan (5'10, 230), Dominic Rhodes (5'9, 203)
2008: Justin Fargas (6'1, 220), Darren McFadden (6'2, 210), Michael Bush (6'2, 243)
2009: Justin Fargas (6'1, 220), Michael Bush (6'2, 243), Darren McFadden (6'2, 210)
2010: Darren McFadden (6'2, 210), Michael Bush (6'2, 243), Marcel Reece (6'3, 240)

Clearly, Cable has a predilection for, or has been with teams that had a predilection for bigger backs. The 2009 Raiders club relied on Fargas and Bush the most, both over 220 pounds. The 2010 Raiders club handed off to Run DMC, 243 pound Michael Bush, and 240 Marcel Reece the most. Interesting. It doesn't really surprise me, and my guess is that Cable subscribes to the 'pound your opponent into shameful submission' philosophy. Remember when the Seahawks played them in 2010? Bad memories.

Darrell Bevell with the Vikings:

2006: Chester Taylor (5'11, 213), Artose Pinner (5'10, 232), Melwelde Moore (5'11, 210)
2007: Adrian Peterson (6'2, 217), Chester Taylor (5'11, 213), Melwelde Moore (5'11, 210)
2008: Adrian Peterson (6'2, 217), Chester Taylor (5'11, 213)
2009: Adrian Peterson (6'2, 217), Chester Taylor (5'11, 213)
2010: Adrian Peterson (6'2, 217), Toby Gerhart (6'0, 234)

Well. That was kind of a waste of time. Bevell had Adrian Peterson. So, yeah. I guess it may mean something that the Vikings drafted 234 pound Toby Gerhart to back up Peterson, and that choice or philosophy may be shared or influenced by Bevell.

The Triumvirate:

2011: Marshawn Lynch (5'11, 215), Justin Forsett (5'8, 190), Leon Washington (5'8, 210).

Roles? Lynch is the all-around, lead back. Also, he's bruising. Forsett is a combo - smaller, shifty, but also a between the tackles runner that's good in pass pro. Washington is the scatback. Able to hit a homerun on any given snap. Theoretically.

So what does all this tell us? Eh, not a whole lot, unfortunately. It's interesting to look at the use of different styled running backs over the years by the different coaches, but it's probably fairly futile to try and predict what they might be looking for in terms of depth.

My guess is that the talent, versatility factor is more important than the size for Carroll, but that's just a guess. It's obvious, though, that Carroll prefers the heavy use of a rotation.

I would also guess that if Cable is making the call, he'd be going with a bigger guy that can come in to spell Marshawn Lynch, pound the rock, run into people, hopefully injure them, hurt them, bruise them, and wear down the opponent. Picture Peyton Hillis.

I wouldn't know what to guess if Bevell is making that call, but I'd assume it was an all-around guy, 5'10, 5'11 - 215 with some speed and catching ability. The Toby Gerhart drafting and backup role is a little intriguing, I suppose, but again, not really sure how much of a say Bevell had in Minnesota in the first place. Rumor has it that Bevell really liked Mark Ingram in the first round last year and stumped hard for him (ultimately unsuccessfully). Ingram is 5'9, 215 and an all-around back. So, again, that seems to be Bevell's M.O.

I hope you enjoyed my rambling.