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Christine Michael and Robert Turbin race to be Marshawn Lynch's backup
As former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox used to say, “What you do speaks so loud, I don’t need to hear what you say.”
That was the case for Christine Michael on Monday, as the rookie running back sat out practice for the second consecutive day at the team’s training camp because of back spasms. But the downright chattiness of his performance during the Seahawks’ 31-10 victory in their preseason opener on Thursday night continued to reverberate despite his absence.
“Christine Michael looked great,” second-year quarterback Russell Wilson said Monday when asked about this year’s top draft choice rushing for 89 yards against the Chargers in San Diego. “So explosive. Really quick guy. Loves to run the football, that’s for sure. Every time, every play, he wants the football.”
Michael got the ball 16 times against the Chargers and averaged 5.6 yards, with a long run of 24 yards. The second-round draft choice from Texas A&M was featured because All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch did not get a carry in his brief stint and incumbent backup Robert Turbin was out because of the foot injury that forced him to start camp on the physically unable to perform list.
It was the presence of Lynch, who rushed for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and Turbin, who added 354, that made the selection of Michael with the team’s top draft choice so surprising.
Until general manager John Schneider explained the method behind the perceived madness.
“He was the highest-rated player on our board,” Schneider said after the Seahawks made Michael the 62nd player selected in April’s draft. “We lost Leon Washington (who was released), so we were looking for a little bit of depth there. And he is just our kind of runner. He’s a tough, intense, up-field, one-cut guy. And he’s a very good football player.”
Not to mention a back who brings a wrinkle that differs from everything Lynch and Turbin were able to deliver last season.
“He’s a different pace runner from Marshawn in the sense of how he hits it,” said Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back who now coaches the position. “He showed the speed that we thought he had and the acceleration.
“So yeah, we liked what we saw in the opener.”
So now there’s Lynch, who was acquired in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills; Turbin, a fourth-round draft choice in 2012; and Michael, whose first name is pronounced CHRIS-tin.
And each brings something to the mix. With Michael, it’s that quickness to the hole and explosion through it that Smith mentioned.
“He accelerates a lot faster. Just a different type of runner,” Smith said. “But still that physical style. He’s got speed and he’s got power, so he gives us a combination of both.”
But Smith still considers Turbin as the backup to a back who has done so much for the Seahawks in allowing them to establish their aggressive nature on offense – as Lynch has rushed for 573 yards (in 12 games), 1,204 yards and 1,590 yards in his three seasons in Seattle.
“I’m glad Rob is back,” Smith said of Turbin, who practiced for the first time on Sunday. “The thing about Rob, he knows. He’s such a professional. He doesn’t like making mistakes. He very seldom makes mistakes.
“And that’s what Christine has to get, the mental part of doing things not almost right, but doing it right. And that’s Robert’s thing, he wants to do it perfectly. That’s why it’s great to have him.”
Also in the mix are rookie Spencer Ware, a sixth-round draft choice who is playing fullback as well as running back; and Derrick Coleman, who spent the end of last season on the practice squad and also is getting reps at fullback.
“It’s not easy,” Smith of the transition from being the ball carrier to blocking for the ball carrier. “Derrick shows that he can do it. He’s got the want-to and he’s a very intelligent guy, so he’s handling it mentally. He’s doing a nice job. I think the guy has a chance to be a good fullback in this league.”
It takes time, of course. Just as it did for Michael Robinson, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl-caliber fullback. He was a quarterback in college and a seldom-used running back in his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Seahawks in 2010 and morphing into Lynch’s lead blocker.
As for Ware, Smith offered, “He’s got nice feet. He can run the football real nice and he has a chance, too.”
Ware is scheduled to play more fullback than tailback in Saturday night’s preseason home opener against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field.
“And we’ll see what he can do,” Smith said.
Just as Michael showed what he can do in the opener, and needs to continue showing once he gets back on the field.
“As for who’s going to back up Marshawn, right now Rob is the guy that’s more dependable, plus he’s a good player,” Smith said. “So for Christine to crack that thing and be the backup to Marshawn, he’s got to overcome 22 (Turbin’s uniform number). And 22 is not backing down.”
But then Smith wouldn’t want it any other way.
“The thing is, you’ve got to have a pair and a spare,” Smith said. “And Christine can become that spare for us, or we have a good spare. Because we know who the main guy is. But we need that second guy to go in there and keep pounding when Marshawn is out. And that third guy, if we need him.”