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As good as he has been, Marshawn Lynch can be even better

Posted Apr 15, 2014

Only one team in the league ran the ball more than the Seahawks last season, and only one other back had more carries than Marshawn Lynch. Don’t expect that to change for the Super Bowl champions in 2014.

In discussing the Seahawks’ running backs, the best place to start is where it all starts.

And that would be Marshawn Lynch, a rare breed of a back in this era of passing the football in the NFL. Since being acquired in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills, Lynch has averaged 1,350 rushing yards in three full seasons with the Seahawks – and done it by averaging 300 carries.

Workhorse doesn’t begin to describe Lynch’s impact on – and importance to – the Seahawks’ offense. It also isn’t the best description of Lynch, who can be Clydesdale or thoroughbred on any given run, and often morphs from one to the other on the same run.

Where would the Seahawks be without everything Lynch brings? Sherman Smith just smiles when asked that question. The franchise’s original running back who now coaches the position can smile because he doesn’t have to ponder life without Lynch. Instead, he’s working on how life can be even better for Lynch, the offense and the entire team as the Seahawks will begin preparing next Monday to defend the Super Bowl title they won in February.

The lynchpin of Smith’s self-scouting sessions that followed the 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII was Lynch. And for the obvious reasons.

“Marshawn is a special athlete,” Smith said. “I’m not going to take him for granted and I don’t think anyone in this building takes him for granted. He’s special. He’s different.

“And the other guys know that Marshawn is the guy.”

RUNNING BACKS 2014

Starters
RB Marshawn Lynch
FB Derrick Coleman

Backups
RB Robert Turbin
RB Christine Michael
FB-RB Spencer Ware

Unrestricted Free Agent
FB Michael Robinson

2013 Rushing Leaders
RB Marshawn Lynch: 1,257 yards
QB Russell Wilson: 539 yards
RB Robert Turbin: 264 yards

2013 Touchdown Leader
RB Marshawn Lynch: 14 (12 rushing)

2013 Significant Statistics
Allowed a league-low average of 273.6 yards (franchise record for a 16-game season); four rushing touchdowns allowed (tied for fewest in the league and also tied the franchise record set by the 1991 team); 44 sacks (the most since the 2007 team produced 45); allowed an average of 3.9 rushing yards per carry (tied for third best in the past 20 seasons).

Last season, Smith challenged Lynch to be even better than he was in 2012, when he produced a career-best 1,590 rushing yards and also scored 12 touchdowns. And Lynch was up to the challenge, scoring a career-high 14 touchdowns, catching the second-most passes (36) of his seven-season NFL career and also producing his second-highest yardage total (1,257).

“Marshawn was more consistent and did things better,” Smith said. “He took care of the football better (four fumbles, compared to five in 2012). He had a lot of impactful plays for us. So I just saw him improving in all aspects of the game.”

But for Smith, the real proof was in Lynch’s pass protection.

“The thing I challenged Marshawn with was, ‘You’ve got Beast Mode running, now I want you to be Beast Mode in pass protection,’ ” Smith said. “As I told him, ‘You can’t be a Beast Mode runner and then in pass protection you’re soft.’ That doesn’t correlate, and he understood that.”

This offseason, the goal remains the same for Lynch and the other backs on the roster: Be better than you were last season.

Because of Lynch’s productivity and durability, there are limited opportunities for the other backs. Robert Turbin, a fourth-round draft choice in 2012, had 77 carries for 264 yards in his role of giving Lynch an occasional respite. Because of Lynch’s productivity and Turbin’s dependability, second-round draft choice Christine Michael got 18 carries during his rookie season, when he was inactive for six games and did not play in six of the games where he was active.

That’s not an indication that Turbin and Michael aren’t good enough to carry the load, it’s a fact of life that comes with having a back like Lynch in front of them.

“Robert’s greatest ability is his dependability,” Smith said. “We don’t ask him to win it; just don’t lose it by going in there and doing something you’re not supposed to do. So he is very dependable. We can’t measure his success and what he does for us by stats. It really can’t be measured by that, because when he’s out there he’s productive.”

As for Michael, you had to see him in practice during the week to understand why the Seahawks decided to use their top draft pick last year on a player at a position where they already had Lynch and Turbin.

“For Christine, it’s just the development that he has to go through,” Smith said. “You see the physical part of his game, there’s no question about that. It’s the mental part where most guys have to develop.”

At fullback, Derrick Coleman is poised to enter the season as the starter after making the switch from running back last offseason.

“Derrick is going to develop,” said Smith, who saw an NFL-caliber blocking back in the former college running back last year before many even knew Coleman’s name. “He has shown he’s got a willingness to block. He’s smart. This is a guy who can play two positions, and then there are his contributions on special teams.

“This is a guy who’s only going to get better. He’s going to be a good one. I’m fired up about D.C.”