For a team that’s tried for months to resuscitate itself via created competition, running back is one position that’s been in dire need.
It’s been four years since Seattle last had a 1000-yard rusher. The team’s brought in the likes of Julius Jones, TJ Duckett and Edgerrin James in addition to resigning the franchise’s all-time leading rusher in Shaun Alexander and drafting Justin Forsett. None of whom have provided the kind of returns on the Seahawks’ investments that the organization and its fans would have liked. In fact, the production from Seattle’s leading rusher every season since 2005 has dwindled so much that the Seahawks haven’t had a running back eclipse the 700-yard mark in the past two seasons.
Enter new offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, known for his work with the prolific ground games in Atlanta from 2004-2006 and the Denver Broncos from 1995-2003, and a couple fresh running backs to battle returners Jones and Forsett in an effort to bring life back to one of the team’s most stagnant aspects.
In this installment of SeahawksGab’s Preseason Preview, Editor Devon Heinen breaks down the 2010-2011 Seattle running game.
Sharing the running responsibilities during his days with the Dallas Cowboys, Julius Jones’ best games were against the Seahawks at Qwest Field. In two games against Seattle, Jones rushed for 310 yards on 52 attempts and reached the end zone three times. However, when the Notre Dame product inked a deal with Seattle, the jury was out.
Was Jones going to be able to produce like he did when he tore up the Qwest Field turf while wearing a star on his helmet? Or was Seattle getting the running back that averaged just 3.6 yards per carry the year that he had been phased out in Dallas by a young Marion Barber? Unfortunately for Seattle, the latter depiction has thus far proven to be the more accurate one.
In Jones’ second season with the Seahawks, he averaged 3.7 yards per rush, down from 4.4 yards per rush in his first year with them, and scored a paltry two times while leading the team in rushing. Yes Seahawks fans, Julius Jones, not Justin Forsett, led your team in rushing this past season.
What does the 2010-2011 season have in store for Jones? A similar role to the one he had in his final year with the Cowboys. He’ll continue to get touches, but look for him to be phased out in favor of Justin Forsett or a player acquired via trade during training camp.
Prediction: 150-plus carries, but less than 200 for 500 yards and 3 touchdowns
Despite his lack of height, Justin Forsett’s been the darling of Seahawks fans since 2008, his first season in a Seattle uniform.
After spending his first two seasons in the National Football League doing special teams work, the 5-foot-8 Forsett tallied his first-ever offensive touches in 2009. With the opportunity Forsett shined, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, totaling six runs of 20 yards or more and four touchdowns. What’s more, he finished sixth overall in running backs in yards after contact per attempt with 3.2 yards, outperforming Beanie Wells, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson.
Glowing geports out of Seattle’s Renton, Wash. training facilities this offseason point to Forsett becoming the team’s focal point out of the backfield. Should Seattle opt to not go out and acquire a true workhorse during training camp for the team’s stable of running backs, expect big totals for Forsett.
Prediction: 250+ total offensive touches (rushes and catches combined) for 1000 yards from scrimmage and 5 offensive touchdowns
Injuries to Seattle’s running backs sent Louis Rankin from the team’s practice squad to the playing field on game days, where he carried the football eight times in 2009.
Don’t expect much from Rankin in a Seahawks uniform this season, as he is a long shot to make the team.
Prediction: Cut from roster prior to Week One.
LenDale White was brought in during the 2010 NFL Draft to make a difference; however, he never left his mark on the field, as he was let go by the team in late May.
Like White, Leon Washington was picked up in a draft-day trade during the 2010 Draft. Unlike White, Washington’s still with the team, though the former New York Jet is still recovering from a broken leg. It remains to be seen how available he’ll be during Seattle’s preseason.
If Washington’s leg doesn’t limit him this season, he could be used by new head coach Pete Carroll as a complimentary piece to Justin Forsett out of the backfield since Washington and Forsett are similar in style of play and size to each other. Where Washington could make his presence felt the most for Seattle is in the team’s kick and return games, something he’s been excellent at in the past with the Jets.
Prediction: Less than 50 offensive touches, but 20 total returns in special teams
Quinton Ganther was brought in during the offseason to help fuel competition after spending 2009 with the Washington Redskins; however, don’t expect Ganther to make the final roster, as he should find himself lower on the depth chart than Louis Rankin.
Prediction: Cut from roster prior to Week One.
Throughout the piece there’s been hints about Seattle possibly picking up another running back prior to the start of the regular season. Should Seattle do that, look for the Seahawks to make a deal with the Buffalo Bills for Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle’s been linked to Lynch dating back to the 2010 Draft, but, according to reports, Seattle didn’t want to part with what Buffalo was asking for in return for the former Pro Bowl running back.
I don’t see Seattle coughing up the kind of draft picks Buffalo has been reportedly asking for, although if a trade were to take place Seattle would have the kind of workhorse needed to produce consistently not only this year but down the road as well.
Prediction: Seattle sticks with what it has on its roster and addresses its need at the position via the 2011 NFL Draft.
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