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Seahawks Training Camp positional groups preview: Running backs


"There are two kinds of thoughts in this league. You can standup and get run at, kind of be pin-cushioned all day. Or you can come off and tattoo people and give it back. I chose the latter." - Tom Cable

The Seahawks like to run the football. Maybe more accurately, they like to punish other teams by running the football. It's a physical game, and Seattle wants to out-physical their opponents. Jason Drake wrote a brilliant piece about that last week so if you missed it, go back and read it now. Why do they want to do this? Besides common sense?

"There are so many good things that come from running the football. It adds to the mentality of your team. It adds to the toughness of your football club that you present," said Pete Carroll recently at the Seahawks' offseason Town Hall Meeting. "Because you're always going to play tough defense, hopefully. We're always going to be tough in special teams. But you can be other than that on offense if you don't run the football. We want to be a physical, aggressive, tough, get-after-you football team. And that's where we can send the biggest message about that commitment to that."

Commitment. You frequently hear Carroll use that specific word when referring to the run game.

Back from January, just prior to Seattle's grind-it-out, physical battle with the Redskins:

"It starts with belief and commitment to the style and the expectations of what we want to see on the field on game day. The conviction is there."

Belief. Conviction. These are't really vague terms. It's hard to think that Carroll is going to go away from the run as the core part of their offense.

"Tom is a really, really committed guy in what we're doing," Carroll continued. "That's why we fit so well together. He's the kind of guy that I need to carry the message about the zone running game."

So. It's all about the zone running game. That starts with Marshawn Lynch. He embodies the identity of the offense - dogged toughness, tenacious physicality. Down the list, each one of Seattle's running backs could be placed into that style category:

40 Coleman, Derrick RB 6-0 233 22
24 Lynch, Marshawn RB 5-11- 215 27
33 Michael, Christine RB 5-10- 221 22
26 Robinson, Michael FB 6-1- 240 30
22 Turbin, Robert RB 5-10- 222 23
44 Ware, Spencer FB 5-10- 229 21

In fact, it's pretty weird when you notice that Lynch is actually the lightest-listed running back in the group.

We don't need to talk about Marshawn Lynch and by now you probably know what to expect from Michael Robinson in camp.

Here's a look at the other guys.

RB/FB Derrick Coleman

Coleman is a 5'11, 233 pound fullback that ran the 40 at his pro day prior to the 2012 Draft in an impressive 4.5 seconds (same time as Robert Turbin). His ten-yard split of 1.64 is impressive and his 36.5" vert and 10.05" broad jump shows some explosiveness.

Coleman had to overcome hearing problems during his time at UCLA, and often would turn off his hearing aid altogether during games and just read lips. If Coleman is anything for the Seahawks, it's as an understudy to Michael Robinson as a pass-catching and athletic fullback and probably more importantly, as a core special teamer. As a PFW scouting report points out, Coleman "was second-team All-Pacific-12 as a special-teams performer as a senior and took home team awards for outstanding special-teams play (twice) and all-around excellence according to coaches." Pete Carroll loves him some special teamers.

As a potential lead blocker and pass catcher at the fullback position, it helps that Coleman is chiseled at 233 pounds, could probably add 10 or 15 pounds if asked to, and has 10 1/8" hands an 80.5" wingspan. Big hands and long arms help in both the blocking and catching department.

To be honest, I don't know much about Coleman, but he'll be a guy to watch in training camp along with Spencer Ware, in that RB/FB hybrid role.

RB/FB Spencer Ware

Ware didn't run at the combine because of an injury, but at his Pro Day, according to Gil Brandt, "ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 and 4.63 seconds. He posted a 34 inch vertical leap and a 10-foot-1/2 inch broad jump. In the short shuttle drill, he clocked in at 4.35 seconds, and completed the three-cone drill in 7.07 seconds. He opted not to lift, as he already had at LSU's pro day. Ware had a good workout on the day, and caught the ball exceptionally well."

Those agility numbers are very good for a 229-pound back, and the 34" vert and 10'5" broad is very respectable. Ware had been on my radar pre-draft as a late-round pick - mostly due to his rigorous endorsement by Draft Analyst Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Report. He wrote, earlier this offseason:

"Ware isn't a breakaway threat; he's a hot-running, helmet-crunching, break-your-back, ball-carrying warrior. He's rugged, smart, and technically sound in most aspects of the game. If Seattle didn't have a Robert Turbin, Ware is the back I'd want backing up Marshawn Lynch."

Waldman added:

Quick feet. Pad level. Balance. Strength. Second effort. All components of an excellent short-yardage runner against one of the best defenses in college football. My colleague Ryan Lownes mentioned on Twitter that he sees an athlete of Rudi Johnson's ilk - not a breakaway runner, but a player capable of grinding it out as a bell cow back. I think if you combine the styles of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Marshawn Lynch, it captures a lot of the good that in Spencer Ware's game. Of course, name-dropping Marion Barber may suffice.

Ryan Riddle, former NFL player and now-analyst, is also very high on Ware. He wrote,

Ware is an extremely hard runner with strong leg drive. He's incredibly tough and was willing to put his head down and run over SEC linebackers. For a bigger back, Ware hits the hole fast while always running north-to-south. He's a one-cut runner with good vision, balance and will run through arm-tackles like they're wet noodles.

Sounds right.

Naturally, after the Hawks picked Christine Michael in the 2nd round, I had figured that Ware was out the window (I had targeted him prior to the Draft as a potential Seahawks' option). Guess not.

Ware is a fantastic pass-catcher out of the backfield and as a former HS Quarterback, has been schooled in reading defenses, similar to Robinson.

Here is Derek Stephens' pre-Draft scouting report on Ware:

Positives: Committed, decisive runner who doesn't waste time stepping to the hole. Trusts his line and doesn't do a lot of analyzing before making his cut. Loves contact and keeps the pads forward with churning legs. Balanced runner through contact, who gets low in tight spaces and adjusts his body nicely to thread the tighter creases. Looks for opportunities laterally when in the open field and approaching a defender, and possesses better-than-expected agility for his size. Good hands as a receiver.

Negatives: Lacks elite straight-line speed and a 2nd gear to pull away from secondaries at the next level. Doesn't always spot cutback opportunities and will drop his head on contact rather than leading with his shoulder. Had a reduced role in '12 due to LSU having more explosive options out of the backfield. Very capable blocker in pass protection but looks sloppy and a bit loose at times as he tends to drop his shoulder or head, rather than setting his feet and extending his arms.

Summary: Ware is a simple one-cut runner who does the majority of his damage after contact, as he possesses natural power to move the pile and break tackles. His reduced playing time in '12 prompted him leaving for the NFL but some question his judgement in doing so, being that he's choosing to leave on a low note. Potential nice fit in a zone blocking system where his decisiveness, strong initial burst and physical style of play could earn him reps early in his career.

Pete Carroll has mentioned several times that they saw Ware as the 'toughest runner in all of college football last year.'

Let me re-post that Carroll quote on toughness here, because it certainly applies:

"There are so many good things that come from running the football. It adds to the mentality of your team. It adds to the toughness of your football club that you present," said Pete Carroll recently at the Seahawks' offseason Town Hall Meeting. "Because you're always going to play tough defense, hopefully. We're always going to be tough in special teams. But you can be other than that on offense if you don't run the football. We want to be a physical, aggressive, tough, get-after-you football team. And that's where we can send the biggest message about that commitment to that."

The theoretical advantage that Ware brings to the fullback position is a better open field agility and more, for lack of a better term, 'juice'. Michael Robinson is a physical north-south runner but I am not sure I've ever seen him make a juke with the ball in his hands. That's a luxury at the fullback position, but I would imagine Seattle sees Ware as Robinson's replacement down the road, and Ware's style as a runner adds some dynamic playmaking ability to an otherwise smashmouth-style role. Just one more way to get the ball into the hands of an offensive weapon.

Here's a video. Watch it, and then imagine Spider Y Banana with Ware as the target.


RB Robert Turbin

I came away from last year very impressed with Turbin. The one thing that you notice about him is that he has insane burst once he gets to daylight. He regularly turned what I thought might be a 1-yard gain into a five or six yarder because he was able to sneak past an oncoming defender or through a tight gap in the interior.

Turbin is also a very good pass-catcher out of the backfield and I think the Seahawks are going to utilize this a lot in 2013, possibly even incorporating shotgun split-back looks with Lynch and Turbin on the field at the same time to add another dimension to their sets.

Regardless, while Turbin is not necessarily the same kind of runner as Lynch, I'm confident in his abilities should Lynch sit out a a series or two, or even a game or two.

RB Christine Michael:

I wrote the following about Michael prior to the Draft, and I'm pretty much sticking with this until I see him in camp:

Michael has eye popping measureables - he is very fast (4.54 40) for his size (220) but he's also probably the most laterally explosive running back in this class. His 6.69 3-cone drill was tops among RBs, his 4.02 short shuttle was tops among RBs, and his 125" broad jump was 2nd among RBs. At 220 pounds.

His 43" vert was tops.... among all players at the Combine. Lower. Body. Explosiveness. Quick-twitch athlete on a world-class scale.

Luckily, - and this doesn't always happen - this quickness and agility shows up in his running style and from my untrained eye, makes him a perfect candidate for a zone blocking scheme. His downfield cut is explosive, but once past the offensive line, it's improvisation time, which is where the lateral agility comes into play. As Tom Cable put it once, the Seahawks expect their running backs to do what they're supposed to do from Point A to Point B, but once you get to Point B, how you get to Point C is up to you.

Michael excels at picking his way through the garbage on the second level and his open field shiftiness helps him break tackles. If he's got a guy in front of him that he can't evade, he's not afraid to put his head down and barrel through him. I like Michael. He reminds me of a more athletic, shifty version of Robert Turbin, which is saying a lot. Michael certainly fits their profile as a 'big back' that can put the hurt on a defense. There are a good amount of scouts out there that rated Michael the #1 back in the Draft this year.

Additionally, though it was previously published here as well, here is Derek Stephens' scouting report on Michael:

Positives: Explosive first step to the hole, maintains low center of gravity, and keeps his weight forward. Is not afraid of contact, and utilizes leverage extremely well to get under tacklers and drive them back. Will initiate contact, and does a good job of keeping himself clean within effective stiff arm and good balance through contact. Can stop and redirect with explosiveness and Is a tough open field tackle due to his agility and sudden change of direction ability. Is capable of being a consistent pass catcher out of the backfield, but gets a bit sloppy in his routes, and doesn't always look the ball in before turning upfield.

Negatives: Needs to do a better job of blocking in pass protection, as he'll get a bit lazy and just "throw" himself at the defender, rather than squaring up and engaging with technique. Has a history of injuries, so will probably slip a bit in this one due to health concerns. Character questions also abound, as he has been known to have issues with authority figures. At times, he will choose to engage defenders physically When there is seemingly plenty of space to elude laterally.

Summary: Michael is a dynamic back with first round talent, but character questions and health concerns could lead to a Draft day fall. His combination of physicality, explosiveness and agility give him the make up of an every down back at the next level, but he'll need to convince teams that he'll submit to authority, and that health issues are behind him.

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