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Chris Carson’s dismal game, latest costly fumble is grounds for a benching

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not even going to wait until Winners and Losers to vent on what transpired with Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson in Sunday’s 33-27 home loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Carson was a training camp/preseason revelation in 2017 and played well before an unfortunate season-ending injury in Week 4. He proved to be a very good running back who led the charge for Seattle’s revitalized rushing attack in 2018.

His start to 2019 has been disappointing and worrying.

Even acknowledging the Seahawks run-blocking has struggled significantly thus far, Carson has been held to just 3.5 yards per carry (45 rushes for 159 yards), and through Week 2 his DVOA was 32nd out of 39 qualified rushers. If Brian Schottenheimer was hellbent on throwing more to the RBs, Carson is clocking in at a nifty 59 yards on 11 catches.

What is most damaging is Carson’s fumbling. He has officially fumbled the ball three times, all deep in his own territory, with two of those resulting in opposition touchdowns. Carson got away with a fumble return TD last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers thanks to a needless penalty on the runback, but he wasn’t so fortunate against the Saints. His first fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals was not costly, as the Seahawks got the ball back on their own fumble recovery. I will abstain from adding in the botched handoff between him and Russell Wilson into the turnover category, as the fumble was officially charged to Wilson.

Three lost fumbles in three games is extremely bad for someone who was benched in JUCO for that same issue. Stretch it back to last season and he’s had five fumbles over his last ten outings, with three of them resulting in touchdowns. Christine Michael and Alex Collins were in Pete Carroll’s doghouse for fumbles, albeit without having the goodwill that Carson had accrued in 2018. If it’s “all about the ball” in Carroll’s world and he’s big on “Always Compete,” Carson’s starting spot should be in jeopardy next week. Rashaad Penny is probably going to be available and had one of the best games of his career against the Steelers. C.J. Prosise is the “veteran” on the team and could also get the start, all while being a way better receiving option than Carson.

Against the Saints, Carson was particularly self-destructive and severely damaged the Seahawks offense. On a wet field, he slipped three times; he even slipped after changing cleats. He was stuffed on a 3rd and 1 that he looked like he should’ve converted (then he was just hung out to dry on the ensuing 4th and 1). I would’ve been fine with not giving him another snap after this sequence in the 3rd quarter down 27-7:

And then the failed 4th and 5 may have been a missed throw by Wilson to Tyler Lockett that he normally hits, but Carson didn’t help matters by getting bulldozed on this blitz pick-up.

Carson’s total Expected Points Added (EPA) this year is as follows:

Week 1: -2.9 rush, -1.4 pass

Week 2: -7.6 rush, 3.0 pass

Week 3: -16.7 rush, -2.8 pass

That’s game-losing bad and Carson is a significant reason the Seahawks lost against the Saints, and nearly lost against the Steelers.

Carroll is not going to bench him and to an extent I understand. I’m almost certain I will get “overreaction!” remarks in the comments section and on Twitter. (To which I’ll reply “No no, Enemy Reaction is what I do!”) He defended all the fumbles as perfect punch-outs, but basic and advanced stats show that he’s not been an effective back even if you want to cut him slack with those turnovers. Add in the turnovers and he’s currently one of the biggest liabilities on the entire team. That should have consequences, no matter how good he’s been through his short career.