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If patterns hold, Chris Carson should have a zero fumble season

New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Nearly every offensive position on the Seattle Seahawks comes with question marks. Some are innocuous, like whether Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf will be WR1A or WR1B. Some are more significant, like if Mike Iupati or Will Dissly can play more than six games.

We can add in plenty more for fun: does Seattle have (or need) a third receiver? Will the Seahawks let Russell Wilson cook? Is Pete Carroll even capable of calling a good timeout?

Lots of questions on this offense, but who runs the ball is not one of them. Chris Carson is set as one of what I’d argue are three positions that contain no real competition. He’s the star running back this year, no doubt, no controversy.

But he needs to stop dropping the ball.

The biggest question in the run game this season is which Chris Carson will show up - the fumble machine or the fumble-free wizard?

Oh, how Seattle needs the latter.

That might not hold water, but Carson does

I came across this beauty earlier in the week when I was trying to justify my shiny new fantasy team, from NFL.com.

Why you biased pieces of - no wait, actually he was pretty terrible with control last year. But it begged the question: is that truly indicative of our beloved Christopher Carson?

Yes.

But only sometimes.

Carson had only three fumbles in 2018; zero his rookie season. That year is particularly impressive because it marks a three-year stretch in which Carson did not fumble the ball once.

In an interview his rookie season, Carson talked about how he dedicated incredible effort specifically to eliminate fumbles. He used to carry a water jug around, and finished his last two seasons at Oklahoma State without losing the ball.

We had water jug footballs, so I used to carry that around. (It) made me build up strength in my forearms and my biceps. And then occasionally I’d have somebody come in, try to knock it out randomly, and then if I didn’t (hang on) I had to pay them

However, the reason he put in such work was because the year prior to that two-season stretch, he fumbled the ball eight times.

For those playing along at home, that is three seasons in which Carson fumbled an average of six times a year, contrasted against three seasons with an unblemished record.

So which is it?

Put me in coach

Coach Carroll had a number of telling interview last year, perhaps none more revealing than this one after a Week 9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

I was thrilled for his game and then it was like, come on, Chris. Let’s not go here again. On the long run, Chris is supposed to know that they’re coming hawkin.’ It was a great shot by their guy and all that. The ball went out of bounds, so we escaped that one.

But the other one, he just went after the guy. He knows better. When the guy is below you, we don’t throw the football and the shoulder into the guy, for exactly what could happen. He’s done it in years past. We’ve talked about this for a couple of years. He just got too jacked up. Kind of like the head coach throwing a flag when he shouldn’t.

Carroll may be indicating that Carson is plenty capable of avoiding these types of fumbles. He knows both that the defenders are targeting him now, and that he puts the ball at unnecessary risk. It’s avoidable decision making, not flawed mechanics or physical weakness.

That would seem to back up Carson’s progression as an NFL runner alongside some advanced stats.

Pay attention to the year-to-year change in three categories: YBC/attempt, YAC/attempt, and broken tackles.

Yards Before Contact per attempt

  • 2018 - 2019 change: negative half a yard, meaning Carson is getting hit sooner than previously.

Yards After Contact per attempt

  • 2018-2019 change: slight increase, though over a greater sample size as he gained an additional 140 yards after being hit than the previous year.

Broken Tackles

I think Chris Carson likes hitting guys. We’ve all seen that while he is a truly great pure runner, he simply enjoys breaking tackles - Carson style, however, not Alvin Kamara style.

As he’s getting better at this (or more aggressive with it), he’s putting the ball at risk more frequently and in more ways.

Which is completely phenomenal news.

Because this problem can be fixed. If Carson were just an idiot, or had butterfingers, or whose biceps were just entirely the wrong size for carrying footballs viz-a-vis Robert Turbin, we’d be having a different conversation. But he completely fixed this problem once in his career, and I truly believe he will do it again. Probably this year. Because if not, they’ll have all the reason in the world to move on to Rashaad Penny and float some ridiculous $7 million offer his way.

Furthermore, if his career pattern holds up, Carson is due for a vanishing act in the fumble department after nearly setting the NFL record last year.