The Seattle Seahawks saw their season end in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers in a game that saw the running game struggle. While quarterback Russell Wilson found success with his legs, the team’s running backs managed just 39 yards on fifteen carries, or just 2.6 yards per carry.
That performance came on the heels of the less than stellar performance in the Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch combined for just 19 yards on 17 rushing attempts, good for 1.1 yards per attempt. And everyone is well aware of the issues the run game faced in the playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys to end the 2018 season, so we’ll simply summarize the situation as the run game having struggled in the postseason the last two years and call it good.
Which brings the discussion to an interesting point - the Seahawks ended the season with both of their top two running backs injured. Chris Carson suffered a hip fracture that landed him on injured reserve, while Rashaad Penny had reconstructive surgery on his knee following a torn ACL and other damage.
That leaves the team with questions at the running back position going forward into 2020. Carson is expected to be back, but because of the “additional damage” to Penny’s knee and the fact that the injury happened late in the year, the possibility exists he may start training camp, and potentially the regular season, on the PUP list. That said, let’s turn to how the Seahawks have handled uncertainty at the running back position in seasons past in order to evaluate what they might do at the position this offseason.
For starters, the team was lucky to have the indestructible Marshawn Lynch manning the position for several years, whose durability for running backs is outlierish. When Lynch’s body finally succumbed to the beating of playing running back in the NFL in 2015, fans saw Thomas Rawls burst on to the scene, only to watch Rawls suffer a devastating ankle injury.
Following Rawls’ injury, the Hawks then used the 2016 draft to address the running back position by drafting three different backs: C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zak Brooks. None of those players worked out for the Seahawks as hoped, and 2016 saw Rawls and former Seahawks second round pick Christine Michael as the leading rushers in the backfield.
However, between the inconsistency Michael and Rawls demonstrated, topped with Prosise landing on injured reserve for the first time, Seattle again addressed the position in the offseason. First they signed Eddie Lacy as a free agent in March, then drafted Chris Carson in April and finally in May claimed Mike Davis off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s no secret how the 2017 run game turned out, which led into the 2018 offseason where the team retained free agent running back Davis, as well as used a first round pick on Rashaad Penny. Even after leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2018, the team dipped its toe in running back waters in the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Travis Homer in the sixth round.
All of that brings thing to the current offseason. With Carson and Penny both coming off injury, it seems possible the Seahawks could at least be in play for some of the free agent running backs that will be on the market. There are several recognizable names at the position set to hit free agency, which could help keep the salary demands from these players lower than they might hope. Specifically, just a few of the names slated to hit the market as unrestricted free agents or are expected to be cut are:
- Derrick Henry,
- Melvin Gordon,
- David Johnson and
- Carlos Hyde.
All of those backs have the bigger body that the team has traditionally looked for at the running back position, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team involved in the market for any of them. Other backs set to hit the market who also meet the physical traits the team looks for include Lamar Miller, Spencer Ware, Isaiah Crowell and Rod Smith.
So, who exactly the team might pursue to add depth to the position remains unknown, but if the past is any indication, the Hawks seem likely to add at least one, if not more, players at the position.