As I wrote on Sunday, Chris Carson had the best game by a Seattle Seahawks running back in maybe three years this past week against the LA Rams. I was not at all surprised by this because Carson has been nothing but a great player during his year and a half with the team, dating back all the way to the 2017 NFL Draft when Pete Carroll called him one of his “favorite players” in the class. As a seventh round pick, Carson had long odds just to make the final roster after the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy and expected the returns of Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise from injury, but he did way better by winning the starting gig. I even dubbed it, “The Summer of Chris Carson.”
He’s yet to do a single thing to warrant losing that job, as long as he’s healthy.
That began in Week 1 of last year when it was obvious to me and just about everyone else that Carson should be the only back to receive the ball from Seattle’s backfield. That started in Week 2 of 2017, when he received 20 carries and gained 93 yards. The totals weren’t mindblowing, but he had plenty stacked against him (a poor offensive line chief among them) and all you had to do was watch the way he ran to know that he was a special player. The broken ankle he suffered in Week 4 gave people horrific Rawls flashbacks, but as John Gilbert wrote, he had a higher probability of recovery.
Here we are: Recovery. And it feels so good.
Carson has held off first round rookie Rashaad Penny, who has looked exceptional at times. Much like Carson, the numbers haven’t always panned out for Penny in the way that you’d like (not that it matters yet, he’s only a rookie and he deserves plenty more time to develop and earn his opportunity), but as you watch him, you see that he can probably do things with his legs that neither Carson nor Mike Davis can do. That was obvious as early as his first preseason game; Penny didn’t do much that day, but he had a couple runs that made it clear that he can do a lot if he puts it all together.
On many teams, Penny would be starting right now. If many of those coaches had Penny and Carson, they’d at least be giving Penny the ball more often. Not Carroll though. While I’m not sure I love an organizational philosophy that involves drafting a running back in the first round and then not needing to use him in all of his rookie contract years, I can’t blame Carroll for sticking with Carson and Davis. I’ve been saying since the start of last season that I think Carson could be a top-five back in the league.
And that’s what we’ve seen recently. While the offensive line is also playing a lot better, probably thanks in large part to the additions of J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker at guard (I’m not sure what you do with D.J.R. Fluzy, but there you go, I’ve now put that into the universe), Carson is also making the most out of the meals provided to him.
Carson is averaging 3.3 yards per rush after contact, second in the NFL behind only Isaiah Crowell of the New York Jets.
Most Yards After Contact Per Rush— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) October 10, 2018
Isiah Crowell 4.1
Chris Carson 3.3
Melvin Gordon 3.1
Marshawn Lynch 3.1
Todd Gurley 3.0
Kareem Hunt 3.0
And to add to that, Crowell has had runs of 77, 62, 54, and 36 yards. He’s playing really well, but those long runs — assuming that he had a hand on him at the line of scrimmage — are really going to skew the numbers and bring Crowell back to the rest of the pack soon. Christopher Carson’s longest run is 24, but he’s lost yardage on only three of his 64 carries.
Crowell has lost yardage on 11 of his 54 attempts. That includes eight losses of at least -2 yards (and a safety), compared to Carson’s losses of -1, -1, and -2 yards.
We can’t know for sure how much of this has to do with Seattle’s gameplan or the offensive line as compared to the Jets or the average NFL team today, but I’m gonna go ahead and be biased as I can to say that it’s only because Carson is the best player in NFL history.
This week, the Seahawks play the Oakland Raiders, and while I am not sure how we judge the field at Wembley and how that might alter Carroll’s gameplan with Carson and the rest of the offense, we do know that the Raiders are going to provide a defense that might get him over 100 yards again. Oakland is 28th in rushing yards allowed, 27th in yards per carry allowed, and 24th against the run according to DVOA. Two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, the Raiders allowed 105 yards to Nick Chubb (on three carries), and 82 on 22 carries by Carlos Hyde.
They did a surprisingly good job against the LA Chargers this past Sunday, but that was likely because Philip Rivers had no need to hand it off when he’s going 22-of-27 for 339 yards. Hey, I’ll take a good game from Russell Wilson too.
This is definitely a good time to be Carson or Davis, who has 33 carries for 169 yards over his last two games (in that time he has just two negative rushes, both for -1 yard), and they both look like starters. The guy behind them will be a starter one day too, Seattle just doesn’t need him right now.