2016 Seahawks Preview: Who Carries The Load At Running Back Going Forward?

What Seattle will look like at running back following Marshawn Lynch's retirement.

For five-plus seasons, Marshawn Lynch was the No. 1 option in Seattle's backfield, but with Lynch retiring this offseason, the Seahawks are preparing for a new chapter in their running game. And despite losing a Pro Bowler like Lynch, the Seahawks are excited about the young players who will try to take over at that spot, ranging from second-year back Thomas Rawls to Christine Michael, who impressed in his second stint with the team, to a trio of rookies selected in the 2016 draft: C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks.

"I'm excited about that entire group, and they understand what we have to do," Running backs coach Sherman Smith said. "They don't want to be the ones, they don't want to be the reason why. 'We don't have Marshawn'—no one wants to hear that. We're not going to use that as an excuse. I'm not going to be out there saying to them, 'Marshawn would have done this, Marshawn would have broken this one.' I'm not going to do that to you, it's not fair to say that to you."

Returning starters:Thomas Rawls
Additions:C.J. Prosise (third-round pick)
Alex Collins (fifth-round pick)
Zac Brooks (seventh-round pick)
Tre Madden (UDFA)
Taniela Tupou (UDFA)

Key losses:

Marshawn Lynch (retired)
Fred Jackson (unsigned free agent)
Derrick Coleman (unsigned free agent)
Will Tukuafu (unsigned free agent)

Last year:

The initial 53-man roster included five backs: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael*, Thomas Rawls, Derrick Coleman, Will Tukuafu. *--Michael was traded to Dallas a day after the initial roster was set.

What's At Stake In Training Camp

Few position groups for the Seahawks head into camp with as much intrigue as running back. For starters, everyone is waiting to see when Thomas Rawls returns to practice following last year's season-ending ankle injury. Rawls expressed optimism he'll be ready for the start of camp, though head coach Pete Carroll has cautioned that, while the expectation is for Rawls to be ready for the start of the regular season, they will be careful not to rush him back too soon. In other words, don't take it as a sign that anything is wrong if Rawls isn't on the practice field from Day 1.

Whenever he is back, Rawls, who led the NFL in yards-per-carry last season, figures to have the inside edge on the No. 1 job, though with Lynch gone, Seattle could spread out running-back responsibilities more than in the past.

"When you talk about Marshawn, Marshawn was a back you wanted on the field in every situation, every down and distance," Smith said. "This year it may be a little bit different, and that's OK, because you don't just go out and pluck Marshawn Lynchs off the tree. They're rare… These backs all have different skill levels and they're all going to help us win games. We're just going to find what they do best, and say, 'OK here's what you do, here's what you do, here's what you do.' So if it's running back by committee—we're just trying to get Ws, so I don't care how we do it. Each guy will be responsible for knowing everything, but we'll go out there and give the young guys a chance to do it.

Collins was impressive in offseason workouts and figures to battle for carries, while the Seahawks plan to put Prosise into the third-down role held by Fred Jackson last season. With Michael coming on strong late last season, and with athletic talents like Brooks in the mix, training camp will be very competitive not only when it comes to the battle for carries, but also for roster spots.

At fullback, the Seahawks will feature a new look this season, it's just not clear yet who will take over. Former University of Washington defensive lineman Taniela Tupou is in the mix, as is former USC running back Tre Madden. Tight end Brandon Cottom, a former college running back, has also done work at fullback. Rookie defensive lineman Brandin Bryant also could get a look at fullback, Carroll said.  

RELATED

Check out the best photos of Seahawks running backs and fullbacks from the team's 2016 offseason workout program.

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