Seahawks Preview 2015: Running Backs

Here’s the real truth about why the Seattle Seahawks made the “ill-fated” decision to throw the ball on second and goal near the end of the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX: Seattle knew if they handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch he would have scored, won the game for the Seahawks, and almost immediately retired thereby costing the team any future years with Lynch as the featured running back. The Seahawks gambled and it paid off. Lynch now has a new contract through the next two years that he is, as of this writing, happy with and Seattle knows that instead of their window of opportunity being two years most likely, they now have four years. What would Seahawks fans rather have: 1) two straight titles, or 2) the possibility of three in four years? Obviously, the option is number two. Darrell Bevell did not make a bad play call; he was carrying out the greater plan perfectly.

Obviously, the above paragraph is complete crap, but the fact is Lynch may have actually retired had the Seahawks won. By not retiring he returns to a team that will have the same main trio at tailback as last season. Lynch will start, and he will be backed up by Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Of course, any discussion about the Seahawks backfield starts with Beast Mode. Over the last four years, he has simply been the best back in the National Football League. Over those four years, he leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns, rushing yards and yards after first contact. And in contrast to his sassiness with the media, Lynch has been “the ultimate teammate,” according to General Manager John Schneider. “The players love him. He’s awesome with everybody (at Seahawks headquarters).” The Seahawks would not have been the Seahawks without Lynch the last several seasons. That won’t change going into 2015. The question becomes what happens if Lynch gets injured, because, simply put, Seattle has been extremely fortunate to not have Lynch nor quarterback Russell Wilson miss significant time over any of the last three years. Is either Turbin or Michael good enough to carry a much larger load and help the Seahawks into the playoffs again?

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Starting with Michael the question has never been about his talent, but more about holding on to the football well enough. Especially in pre-seasons past, Michael has shown breakaway speed and power. He has good size to have such excellent speed at 5’10” and 220 pounds. However, he has shown that he can fumble as well. No NFL team is good enough to overcome a back that puts the ball on the ground. Seahawk fans have seen the potential Michael has, but have yet to see it in the regular season. In Michael’s rookie season of 2013, he carried the ball only 18 times for 4.4 yards a carry. Last year, he ran the ball just 34 times but for a 5.1 yards per carry average. Clearly, it would be worth Seattle’s time to see what Michael could do with more work. He is under contract through 2016, so unlike his backup mate, Turbin, he should definitely be in Seattle past this year.

Turbin is in the final year of his contract, and the Seahawks will definitely have a decision to make whether to try to resign him or not. Turbin has showed himself to be a bit of a grinder and is less flashy than Michael. Turbin does not seem to scare the Seahawks staff as much as Michael with a propensity for fumbling, though. This is probably the main reason Turbin’s carries have more than doubled Michael’s over the last couple of seasons. Turbin ran 77 times for only a 3.4 yards per carry average in 2013, but in 74 carries in 2014 his average improved to 4.2. While probably never a full-time starter in the NFL, he would make a quality backup nearly everywhere and this could be his last season in Seattle.

If Seattle has to go beyond the top three running backs, there is no regular season experience currently on the roster. The team might at that point look to pick up an unsigned free agent or try to talk Barry Sanders out of retirement. Needless to say, if the Seahawks have to go to a fourth running back full-time, bad things have happened.

At fullback, Derek Coleman will return from breaking his foot last season and regain his starting role. The fullbacks in Seattle’s system, however, are mainly there to block, so it would not be surprising to see a new face or two in training camp who might take some snaps from Coleman.

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If we look beyond 2015, there is a decent possibility that only Michael remains on the roster at tailback. Lynch has hinted several times at retirement, and if the Seahawks win another Super Bowl it would not be surprising to see him actually do it. Therefore, drafting a quality running back (something the Seahawks did not do this year), signing a free agent or trading for an established back is a must for Seattle and becomes possibly the most important thing for the Seahawks to remain in contention for championships.

In 2015, though, the Seahawks are set. Lynch will lead the way, and will probably give up a few more carries to Michael and Turbin. Seattle is a run-first team, and these players will be counted on to move the team deep in the playoffs. Lynch, at least, has proven he can. All hail Beast Mode!