With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at some of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2019 season. Today we look at running back, which figures to be one of the most competitive position groups in camp. On Monday we'll continue with a look at linebacker, which should be a position of strength and considerable depth for Seattle.
To lead the NFL in rushing yards, which the Seahawks did in 2019, an NFL team has to be pretty talented at running back.
Yet as good as the Seahawks were in the backfield last season, with Chris Carson leading the way with 1,151 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, they could have an even stronger backfield in 2019.
Yes, Mike Davis did leave in free agency, and his loss will be felt, but with Carson back, and perhaps most significantly, with Rashaad Penny expected to make a Year 2 leap, the Seahawks figure to feature what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll referred to as a "one-two punch" at running back, and potentially formidable one at that.
"A one-two punch, and I don't know who's one and who's two, it doesn't matter to me," Carroll said at the NFL scouting combine when asked about what he hopes to get out of Carson and Penny. "I thought both guys did a really good job this year. Chris had a fantastic season. It's the first time Chris has had the opportunity to play a whole season all the way through, and it showed what he's all about. It was exhilarating to watch him have that opportunity and to see him play. The style was great. We love the way he played. Rashaad did a really good job. He got banged up a little bit and it kind of slowed his start. But once he got going, he showed the explosiveness and the speed and the dynamics. Those two guys, they're good football players and we love what they bring. They're not the same, their running style are different, but there's plenty of room for both of those guys, so I'm excited for both of them."
As Carroll noted, Penny dealt with injuries that limited him at times, though he was incredibly explosive in spurts when healthy. And for a player who never really dealt with injuries in college or high school, that presented a challenge for the rookie back.
"It is frustrating, and it was frustrating for me as a rookie," Penny said during organized team activities. "I didn't know how to take it. I've never been hurt playing football in my life, so when that happened, I just hit a wall. I'm glad that I've grown up. Over these past months and this offseason, I've just started taking everything seriously by treating my body right and doing the little things. Also I think what helped me was losing all that extra weight. Now I feel better. I don't have all those nagging injuries. I'm at my best."
If Penny and Carson can both stay healthy in 2019 and if Penny has indeed grown up and made that step forward, it will be interesting to see how the carries are split—as Carroll said, "I don't know who's one and who's two"—but for a team that wants to run the ball as often as Seattle does, there should be plenty of touches to go around.
And the running back competition doesn't end with the battle between Carson and Penny for the bulk of the carries. There will also be a really interesting battle throughout camp and the preseason games to see who can win the third-down role and who can make the team. C.J. Prosise, who showed a lot of promise as a rookie, has the pass-catching ability and explosiveness to be an ideal third-down back, but he also has been unable to stay healthy during his first three seasons. He and the Seahawks hope this is the year he can put it all together and be a big part of the offense.
"It has been great to see him healthy," Carroll said during June minicamp. "He has been fit throughout, he's really strong, worked out really hard in the offseason to get his strength right, and his weight is up, but he's fit and has really been able to do a little bit of everything. So to add him into the competition is really nice. So we're fired up about C.J. being back."
The Seahawks also drafted Travis Homer out of Miami and general manager John Schneider noted after the draft that they see him as a third-down back candidate. J.D. McKissic, while listed as a return specialist, also has shown in the past the ability to be explosive out of the backfield.
With plenty of talent and depth in the backfield—the Seahawks also have Bo Scarbrough, a late-season addition in 2018, and undrafted rookie Marcelias Sutton—the competition at running back, both for lead roles and for roster spots, will be one to watch in when camp kicks off later this month.
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