On the Seattle Seahawks first play of the 2017 season, rookie running back Chris Carson was on the field next to Russell Wilson. Not Thomas Rawls, who is still nursing a sore ankle from what feels like childhood. Not Eddie Lacy, who may not go down easily, but also doesn’t go forward easily. And not C.J. Prosise, who for all intents and purposes still hasn’t transitioned from receiver to running back, because what we all really want to see him do is receive.
It was Carson, and it seemed like the playcall was even going to pass to him — if only the offensive line had cooperated and given us the opportunity to see the seventh round pick open the year with a banger. Instead, Wilson was the only thing getting banged around and -9 yards later, the Seahawks were punting. Don’t let that be a condemnation of Carson though, because that kid should be the back on the field for most plays at this point.
Carson did lead the Seattle offense in carries, with six. He led them in rushing with 39 yards, 30 of which came on this fantastic display of what he’s capable of:
So far, through preseason and one game against Green Bay, we’ve seen more than a glimpse of what Carson can do and his abilities to turn nothing into something is exactly what Pete Carroll looks for behind an offensive line that will consistently give you nothing. Carson is the team’s best pass blocker at running back. He may not be as good of a pass-catching threat as Prosise, but he is a good pass-catching threat, including a 10-yard reception he had against the Packers; Lacy and Prosise didn’t receive a single target.
See some of what he did in the preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs as more examples of what Carson is capable of against a top NFL defense:
And short yardage? Check.
Getting skinny? Check.
Special teams? Check.
Bail out option? Check.
Vicious cutbacks? Check.
Goal line capable? Check.
Reading a defense? Check.
The distribution on the day included five carries to Lacy (for three yards gained) and four for Prosise (11 yards), with the Seahawks handing off to their backs just 15 times on the day compared to 27 passes. That is not the type of distribution that has historically worked for Carroll, or been his preference, but obviously it’s what he felt he had to do.
Carroll of the ground game said, "we didn't run enough, 18 times, we need more." #Seahawks— Liz Mathews (@Liz_Mathews) September 11, 2017
I hope that in the future, he feels he has to give the ball to Carson more.
The rookie got just six opportunities on the ground and one through the air. The nine carries for Lacy and Prosise went nowhere. Obviously I’m not saying that Seattle needs to go back in time to an era where teams only had one running back and never mix it up, but 12-15 carries for Carson would be a welcome sight in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers, regardless of the status of Rawls. I am aware of what those vets have earned in terms of the respect and admiration they have from coaches and teammates — Lacy was the Offensive Rookie of the Year not that long ago, Rawls led the NFL in yards per carry not that long ago — but Carson is the back who looks like the best option right now. And seeing him get a lot more opportunities right now doesn’t just seem fair, it seems obvious.
We had our fun moments all summer of acting like maybe this seventh round pick out of Oklahoma State who was never a featured back in college is perhaps the best back on this “loaded” NFL backfield — hardeeharhar — but it’s not a joke anymore. Carson sure does look like the best back on the roster. Yes, he had the most touches of any back on the roster on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough. Starting next week, he should be the clear number one.
From the first play of the game, all the way to the last meaningful play of the game.