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Training Camp Sleepers: A tape review of Seahawks rookie Chris Carson

Seventh round selection Chris Carson brings size, strength and skills the Seahawks covet to the table

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Central Michigan Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny’s article on Tuesday about potential sleepers during training camp got me excited for the young Seahawks we are about to see in game action for the first time in just a couple of weeks. Naturally, I spent a good portion of my day watching college tape on many of Seattle’s 2016 and 2017 draft picks.

I watched tape on both Justin Senior and Joey Hunt on accident as I was looking into the CardinalsRobert Nkemdiche, and that led me down a path that ended up with me watching a lot of film on rookie running back Chris Carson.

As those who regularly read the comments in Century Links know, Carson is a large and powerful individual, as the picture below (tweeted by Eddie Lacy) demonstrates, as Carson is the massive individual standing on Lacy’s right. Listed at an even 6 feet and 218 pounds, Carson comes with amazing explosiveness given his size, posting a 37” vertical and a 10”10” broad jump (and a 39” vertical at his Pro Day) with a 4.58 time in the 40. Now, 4.58 is not blazing fast by any stretch, but it puts him in the same range of time of other backs who have found success in the NFL including Jay Ajayi (4.57), Jordan Howard (4.57), Devonta Freeman (4.58), Le’Veon Bell (4.60), C.J. Anderson (4.60), Spencer Ware (4.62), Alfred Morris (4.63) and others. So, while he may lack the breakaway speed of Thomas Rawls or C.J. Prosise, he is fast enough that his speed won’t prevent him from being successful. Kenny took a more complete look at Carson’s physical skills back in May, so I’m not going to rehash any more of the work that he has already done.

27 is Eddie Lacy. 32 is Chris Carson. They are not small.
Eddie Lacy via Twitter

Now, for what the film showed. First of all, he plays at his size. Defenders had a tough time tackling him, which is not unexpected of a college player with his size and strength. He consistently broke tackles or left diving defenders doing little more than bouncing off him. He also showed off his athleticism on multiple occasions, using his ridiculous vertical to hurdle defenders in the open field, particularly smaller DBs. Obviously, one of the easiest ways for a smaller DB to bring down a running back of Carson’s size is to go low, and when DBs attempted this Carson did not hesitate to simply leap over them. He may be able to get away with that at the NFL level at times, but at one point against Oklahoma he attempted to hurdle a LB and a DB at the same time, with the result being exactly what one would expect it to be.

Carson’s physical, aggressive style, combined with the size and athleticism that the Hawks like in a running back, has Pete Carroll excited about what he brings to the table for the team besides simply a ridiculous physique.

In any case, rather than bore you with nothing more than a poorly worded written description of what I saw, I figured the easiest way to get many of you as excited as I am about this physical specimen of a man that has John Schneider all worked up was to simply present a video and point out what jumped out to me. As such, the following video is every snap that Carson played this past season against Oklahoma, with the bullet points below noting the parts of the tape I felt most pertinent.

  • 0:45 mark: This running play demonstrates Carson’s patience and vision, as he waits for the hole to develop before planting and going. This is an important trait and should aid in his running in the zone blocking system that the Hawks utilize. Other backs that have played for Seattle in the past have taken time to learn the patience necessary to run in the ZBS, or have never done so, but watching Carson’s college tape seems to indicate he may have an easier time.
  • 1:35 mark: As he is heading towards the right sideline, rather than slide out of bounds short of the first down marker, Carson cuts back to the inside and initiates contact with the defender. This seems to be a habit of Carson’s, and I am certain this will bring a smile to the faces of many Hawks fans.
  • 1:55 mark: At this point in the tape Carson is seen in pass protection. He doesn’t appear to be the best pass blocker in the world, but he routinely engages defenders in pass protection and at no point did I notice him shy away from engaging a defender.
  • 2:50 mark: Reminiscent of other backs the Hawks have had in recent years, it routinely takes multiple defenders to bring Carson down. Obviously defenders are bigger and stronger at the NFL level than they are in college, but this is definitely a positive for Carson.
  • 3:00 mark: My father often refers to what he calls the BTST Principle. The BTST Principle, in short, is that when a big train (BT) collides with a small train (ST), the bigger, faster train wins. This is a collision Carson has with a linebacker in which Carson is the bigger, faster train.
  • 4:00 mark: As mentioned above, Carson has a phenomenal vertical and at multiple times during the course of his career he hurdled defenders with great success. On this play, however, Carson attempts to hurdle both a linebacker and a defensive back, and the outcome is less than stellar. However, his amazingly impressive vertical skills are on display.
  • 5:35 mark: As noted in the first highlight, Carson routinely shows patience and vision, and this is another great example of this. On this 4th and inches play Oklahoma State lines up with three WRs and two RBs, with the backs on either side of the QB in the shotgun. The Oklahoma defense lines up with seven men in the box, a defensive back covering each receiver and a safety deep. This means any running play will be six blockers for Oklahoma State against seven defenders for Oklahoma. Oklahoma State gives the ball to Carson who patiently works his way to the line, and as the defenders get caught up in the wash Carson plants, cuts back and hits the hole with authority for a big gain. Just as seen in the first play I note, this play displays the type of patience and vision necessary to run successfully in the ZBS the Hawks employ.

As a seventh rounder, Carson will have his work cut out to make the roster but with the injuries that have beset the running back position for the Seahawks recently, it is great to see that they have a back who is as aggressive and powerful as Carson. He also has the vision and patience necessary to run in the system that the Hawks use, so he may prove quite useful in case the team is once again hit with the injury bug.

And just to add to the hype, in over 200 rushing attempts during his two seasons at Oklahoma State, Carson never fumbled. Not once. It is easy to see that he carries the ball high with proper technique, and with the strength in his arms, it is no surprise college defenders never pried it out of his strong right hand.

I say strong right hand because in all of the film on him I watched I never saw him carry the ball in his left hand. I watched every carry in three of his games (against TCU, Oklahoma and Iowa State) and watched all 13 touchdown runs he recorded during his time at OSU and I saw him carry the ball in his left hand zero times. When I noticed this I actually went back and rewatched all the tape I had already watched to see if I had missed him carrying the ball in his left hand, but I had not. He always carries the ball in his right hand, regardless of play direction, location on the field or position relative to a defender. It is always, always, always in his right hand.

So, in short, the Hawks have a physical specimen with great athleticism who wears number 32 and just happens to always carry the ball in his right hand. I feel like I may have seen this before sometime.

While Carson may be a longshot to make the roster as a seventh round pick, it will be exciting to see what he can do when he hits the field in preseason.