Chris Carson's rookie season began with so much promise. A seventh-round pick, Carson wasn't a household name when he arrived in Seattle, but he was a player that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loved in the 2017 draft, and Carson didn't take long to show why, quickly taking over the starting job. But that rookie season that started with promise unfortunately ended on an injury cart in Week 4, the result of a leg injury that landed Carson on injured reserve.
When Carson and the Seahawks went back to work in offseason workouts, his teammates and coaches couldn't stop raving about him. Despite the previous year's injury, Carson looked quicker, more explosive and had put on a bit of extra bulk. Even with a first-round pick joining the running back group, Carson emerged as the clear leader of the pack in that position group.
Throughout a 2018 season in which the Seahawks have committed strongly to the running game, Carson has backed up that offseason praise, and in Sunday's win over the Kansas City Chiefs, he became the Seahawks' first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
"He has had a great year," Carroll said after Carson rushed for 116 yards on 27 carries, including two more touchdown runs that featured a lot of physicality at the goal line. "I hope everybody just loves the way he plays. The touchdown run, I hadn't seen it clearly enough, I just know what he did. I saw him start digging in with his feet, and I knew he was going to score, and I started celebrating. He was just going to knock it in. His style and the toughness that he's brought this team and representing the O-linemen and all the guys that have been a big part of the leadership. Chris has had a great year. It's a great accomplishment. And Chris hasn't had that many years in the last four or five years where he's been able to make it though and been healthy the whole time. If you remember, I told you guys, he was the most well-conditioned guy that showed up when we returned in April. There was nobody that was more fit. Nobody was more ready for the work. I don't know how he did it, but he's just unbelievable, that commitment that he has, and it carried through the whole season."
Added quarterback Russell Wilson, "Chris Carson has been unbelievable all year. He's a 1,000 yard rusher now, that's a huge tribute to the offensive line and what they've done."
As for how Carson came back so fit this offseason, he credits some changes to his offseason workout plan, replacing some of the heavy weightlifting he did in the past with more pool work and Navy SEAL workouts.
"It's not even just the (added) weight, it's the training in general, the different type of training I did in the offseason," Carson said. "… Just being able to withstand more physical contact than last year."
Carson, who was nominated for the Ground Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Chiefs, calls reaching the 1,000-yard mark "a blessing" but like any smart running back, he quickly defers to those who helped pave the way for his success while also noting the depth of Seattle's running back group.
"Any of our running backs could have done this," he said. "We've got four great running backs. All the credit goes to the O-line."
Thanks in part to Carson and fellow running backs like Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny, who have combined to rush for 883 yards, and who both have had 100-yard games this season, the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing with 2,378 yards. For offensive linemen, a running back hitting a milestone is an accomplishment that group can take pride in even if it's another player getting credit for those stats.
"That means a lot," left tackle Duane Brown said. "As linemen, we don't have many stats to sum up our production. So to have a running back go over 1,000 yards, that means everything. We really made a point of emphasis to run the ball effectively and consistently, and we've been able to do that. He deserves a lot of that credit. We've done a decent job up front, but he runs harder than anybody in the league—that's one of the toughest runners I've ever seen. So we're really happy for him."
And making that running-game success even more impressive of late is the way the Seahawks have been able to run the ball despite some shuffling on the offensive line because of injuries. The Seahawks started last week's game without starting right guard D.J. Fluker and right tackle Germain Ifedi, then lost J.R. Sweezy to an injury during the game.
"It just shows how deep the offensive line is," Carson said. "They do a great job. Once one guy goes down, the next guy comes up and they don't miss a beat. All the credit goes to them, it just shows how dominant they are."
Said Brown, "We work extremely hard as a unit, week in and week out preparing physically and mentally for the games. The guys who are backing up are always preparing as if they have to play. As an offensive line, it's all about continuity, and when you lose two or three guys, to have other guys step in and not miss a beat, that says a lot about our unit, a lot about our coaching staff having everyone ready and prepared for those moments."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.