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Seahawks 90-man roster review: Meet the running backs

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the hopefuls on the Seattle Seahawks’ 90-man roster. Seattle had 11 draft picks this year and made several significant moves in free agency. These are some simple thoughts on the new players and things to look for as we head into mini-camp on June 11th.

The Backfield:

Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, JD McKissic, Travis Homer, CJ Prosise, Nick Bellore (Fullback), Marcelias Sutton, Bo Scarborough.

Who’s already in Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Nobody, nobody else has a guaranteed spot on this team. The safe bets would be JD McKissic and CJ Prosise, but their injury history means that something could very easily go wrong anywhere from walking to practice to the final preseason game. Prepare for one big open competition this summer.

Most to prove Rashaad Penny. Representing only the second time GM John Schneider used a first-round pick from 2013-2018, Penny has the added pressure of high expectations. Some fans compared Penny’s numbers last year to Sony Michel of the New England Patriots – whom the Seahawks passed up - and felt like they got the short end of the stick. At first glance Michel had significantly higher productivity: more yards (931-419), TDs (7-2), and attempts (209-85). Penny did not progress into what some thought would be the lead role, seeing 150 fewer touches than Carson. But the narrative is off a bit. It doesn’t make sense to punish Penny because Carson has become a top-level back. I’ve got a very promising stat on Penny at the end of this preview, but try these out: he had a higher YPA and YPC than Michel (4.9 and 8.3, respectively). His averages in both were actually even higher than Chris Carson. This season, Penny’s best step forward will be to prove that he has the consistency to be a true 1b to Carson’s 1a, a possibility I find quite exciting.

Most to lose - sixth round pick Travis Homer. Late round running backs are given plenty of chances and often thrive in the Seahawk culture. However, if there’s one thing that can land someone in the doghouse in Seattle, it’s not taking care of the football. “It’s the number one thing that we emphasize and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” Carroll said in December. “What our challenge is, is how well can we emphasize it? And how well can we transfer than emphasis so they adopt that as part of their play.” Homer struggles with this, as his scouting report on NFL.com lists his biggest weakness as his propensity to fumble. One lost ball per 42 carries does not a Seahawk make, and if Homer shows the same carelessness in camp he may not make this team.

If it looks like a receiver… JD McKissic’s versatility has made his position on this team somewhat complicated this summer. Statistically, he has more receiving yards than rushing yards (282-197). He has more receiving TD than rushing TD (2-1). He has virtually the same receiving targets as rush attempts (49-50). He has also only played one significant season of football in his three years as a pro. He’s shown great flashes in limited work, primarily in his mismatch ability as a receiver as demonstrated with this TD against the Eagles. Notice linebacker and current teammate Mychal Kendricks was on coverage but barely even in the screen, and he has more than impressed since coming to Seattle. McKissic is simply hard to deal with when he motions outside, and even caught a TD against a corner in last season’s playoff game. Seattle recently designated him as a return specialist, which means he’s definitely in the mix to remain on the roster this year. Where he plays remains to be seen.

Biggest Factor in a playoff run - Chris Carson. At this point even casual fans are becoming familiar with Carson and his significance to this team. Not much commentary is needed here. There is quite a bit of potential in the guys backing him up, but Carson is the workhorse and the only real change would come if his knee doesn’t recover the way he hopes.

Most confusing relationship with head coach CJ Prosise. There’s a group of guys around the NFL who are known as “track athletes.” If you think that’s because they’re fast, you’d be mostly wrong. It’s an insider insult about those who struggle making it to game time unless they feel one hundred percent. I ran track for half my life, and it’s a very fair assessment. Unfortunately, Prosise has built a strong case for landing himself in this undesirable category. He has never played even half of an NFL season, and yet continues to make the roster, even receiving heaps of praise from coach Carroll time and again. “It’ll be a great, competitive position for us, and I love CJ’s play,” Carroll said this offseason. “I think he’s a fantastic player. He has that bug about staying healthy, but he’s a terrific competitor when he’s out there”. That injury “bug” (understatement of the offseason) resulted in one carry for negative three yards during the 2018 seaons. That’s the play that coach loves? Somehow Prosise has earned an unlimited amount of favor to this point, but it sure feels like his potential needs to turn into some production.

Intriguing Newcomer - Nick Bellore. Seattle is one of a handful of teams still interested in the services of a fullback. Bellore comes to the Seahawks from the Detroit Lions, having only last year converted to fullback. He served seven seasons as a special teams specialist with some linebacker experience before making the switch last year. If they decide to keep him, consider something…
On the roster this year, they have a RB who might be a WR, an Australian kicker turned Pro Bowl punter, a second baseman for the NY Yankees playing QB, and a basketball player cutting his teeth as the NFL’s largest TE. Why not Bellore, after seven season of DEF/ST now in his second year at fullback? Seattle is not afraid of innovation; in fact they often seek it. Add in past stories like Richard Sherman, J.R. Sweezy; the list goes on. I don’t know if the Seahawks will keep a fullback this year, but if they do, Bellore fits in a very rich tradition of creativity and change.

Best Madden 2019 Rating Chris Carson, 84. Behind Lamar Miller, Dion Lewis, Dalvin Cook and Jay Ajayi. Thoughts?

Who flipped it best? Carson went viral in 2018 for landing one of the most impressive flips we’ve ever witnessed on a football field. If you haven’t seen this version yet, NFL.com has a very nifty 360° view of it here.

However, there’s a new challenger for the Seahawks, and his name is Marcelias Sutton. As Field Gulls highlighted earlier, he brings his own disregard for self-preservation to Seattle.

Most interesting stat heading into 2019 -

46, Number of runs over ten yards, Carson and Penny. They were tied for the most explosive RB tandem in the NFL last year with Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekler. The Seahawk backfield had more long runs than Rams Todd Gurley/CJ Anderson (45), Broncos Philip Lindsay/Royce Freeman, and Patriots Sony Michel/James White (38). Carson had 33 long runs of his own, more than several teams. In fact, the only duo with more double digit runs would be the not-yet-seen Cleveland Browns combo of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb (51).

Important here: Rashaad Penny had thirteen 10+ yard runs of his own, as much as Latavius Murray, James White, Royce Freeman, and Dak Prescott. Even more importantly, he had less attempts than any of them – QB Prescott excluded.

Like before, I’m not saying Penny will – or should – have a similar number of carries as Carson. But I am saying Penny is not a bad running back. He’s closer to good. The door is still open to very good. He was a rookie who showed great burst, promising reception ability making good on nine of his twelve targets, and had no fumbles. Look for this to be a very dangerous duo this season.