Earlier this offseason, the Seattle Seahawks re-signed Chris Carson to a pretty damn affordable contract to remain the team’s starting running back. Injuries have been clearly a problem for him dating back to his rookie season, but there’s no doubt that he’s the type of physical, punishing, and tackle-breaking runner Seattle has always appreciated under Pete Carroll.
...And then there’s everyone else.
I don’t think it’s a hot take to suggest that not one running back other than Carson is guaranteed a roster spot. Not even Rashaad Penny, whom I know finished 2019 with a lot of promise before the knee injury, but so did C.J. Prosise for a fair bit before his first of many season-ending injuries. Just about any running back can look like an elite talent for a game or a handful of games before returning to lesser form. I am intrigued by the idea of Penny in a new offense, but he just had clean up surgery on his knee and who knows how healthy he truly is?
2016 draft pick Alex Collins came back to the Seahawks in an emergency and contributed 18 carries for 77 yards and a couple of touchdowns in limited action. His best success was in 2017 with the Baltimore Ravens, but his fumble problems were apparent through his two years with John Harbaugh’s team and they have since found superior options.
Third-year Miami alum Travis Homer is a lightning rod of debate for no particularly good reason, but it’s conclusive that his best asset is his pass blocking. The metrics are horribly unkind and in his limited touches he was one of the worst running backs in the league by DVOA and DYAR. He’s also been a contributor on special teams but those return duties were pretty short-lived.
Second-year player Deejay Dallas was thrust into an unexpected starting role with the injuries to Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson midseason. His 34 rushes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 17 catches for 111 yards and a receiving touchdown aren’t exactly setting the world on fire but he was never meant to be getting this much playing time to begin with. Once Hyde and Carson were healthy again, Dallas was relegated to special teams.
Lastly there’s Josh Johnson, an undrafted free agent who’s received a bit of hype among draftheads. The Louisiana-Monroe star had a reduced role in 2020 as well as a positive COVID-19 test, but in 2019 he ran for almost 1,300 yards on 200 carries and broke plenty of tackles along the way. He doesn’t appear to be much of a receiving back but rather a safety valve (as was Dallas last season) but at the very least he’s someone to watch entering preseason. Seattle has had a pretty good history of finding RBs in the 7th round (duh, Carson) or UDFA.
I don’t think running backs are as fungible as some of the “RBs don’t matter” crowd imply, but it’s also the most easily replaceable and disposable skill position in the NFL. There is essentially no reason to freak out if anyone below Carson is chopped off. Dallas and Homer are the young Seahawks draft picks who have been buried in the depth chart, Penny was the first-round choice that was questioned on draft night and right now looks really unjustifiable just within the class of available running backs, and Collins is in a semi-redemption tour after an arrest and league suspension got him axed from Baltimore in 2019. Johnson has the most uphill battle by virtue of being an undrafted rookie.
This may not be the absolute biggest offseason question mark for the Seahawks but I think it’s certainly a story worth monitoring over the next couple of months. There’s a pretty huge gap from Carson to everyone else and then you have to concern yourself with Carson’s injury history. It’s gonna be a hell of a competition worth watching.