The Seattle Seahawks threw a little more than 100 passes to running backs in 2017, almost half of which went to J.D. McKissic. That was a significant uptick from the eight targets over four games that went to opening day starter Chris Carson, but it sounds like Carson expects to be a bigger part of the passing game under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
In an interview with Brock Huard and Mike Walk on 710 ESPN Seattle, Carson said that Schottenheimer gives the backs “a chance to be more of a receiver.”
Chris Carson was on with @BrockESPN and @TheMikeSalk. Among other things, said new(-ish) offense under Schottenheimer "gives us [RBs] a chance to be more of a receiver." Another sign to expect a return of the screens that had been oddly non-existent. https://t.co/sNRoMeeHDv— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) June 1, 2018
In his last season as an OC with the St. Louis Rams in 2014, running back Benny Cunningham was targeted 52 times despite being the number three back. The Rams still had 26 targets to starter Tre Mason and 23 to backup Zac Stacy. Tavon Austin, a pseudo-running back, had 44 targets.
The Seahawks also seem to have a running backs corps that’s strength lies more in its depth and versatility than in building around a single player like they used to with Marshawn Lynch.
In addition to Carson, who played like a legit number one in his small sample size in 2017, Seattle used a first round pick on Rashaad Penny and are expecting the return of C.J. Prosise, a former receiver at Notre Dame. With those three alone, it would seem like they have their starter and backup — Penny and Carson — plus a “pocket knife” in Prosise potentially playing the Austin role to much greater success.
There’s also McKissic and Mike Davis, the starter to end the season.
The New England Patriots threw 35 passes to Dion Lewis (with 32 catches), 36 to Rex Burkhead (30 catches), and 72 to James White. That’s 144 passes to running backs with a significantly high catch rate and nine touchdowns. The Patriots let Lewis parlay his success into a contract with the Tennessee Titans, but drafted running back Sony Michel in the first round. They gave White a three-year contract extension in 2017 with the intention of him basically remaining a receiver in the backfield.
Prosise or McKissic could easily be the “James White” of the Seahawks, while Penny is Michel and Burkhead is Carson. Or something.
So expect some sort of increase in targets to running backs in 2018, which will make up some of the difference between last season and the losses of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson.