With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2021 season. Today we're looking at the running back depth behind Chris Carson, and tomorrow turn our focus to the offensive line.
Following his team's loss in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last season, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made it clear that he wants to see Seattle’s offense get back to running the ball more effectively, and when the game calls for it, more frequently as well.
That was before the Seahawks made a change at offensive coordinator, but while the offense might look different under new coordinator Shane Waldron, there will still be an emphasis on having a balanced offense, which is why it was a very big deal for the Seahawks that they were able to re-sign Chris Carson after their starting running back became an unrestricted free agent in March.
Carson re-signing means there isn't a ton of mystery about who will be Seattle's lead back in 2021—he has rushed for 3,062 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons, and had a career-best 287 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns last season—but what isn't as obvious is how things might shake out in the backfield behind Carson.
The hope will be that Rashaad Penny, who appeared in only three games last season due to the torn ACL than cut short his 2019 season, gets back to his pre-injury form when he rushed for 203 yards and scored three total touchdowns in his final two games before the injury. Penny had a procedure on his knee this offseason, but Carroll said he is expected back for training camp, and if Penny can indeed get back to that 2019 form, he and Penny would give the offense the one-two punch at running back that Carroll desires in an offense.
Whether or not Penny is at his best to start the season, the Seahawks will need plenty of depth at running back, which is one of the most physically demanding positions in the sport. And the battle for touches and for roster spots should be a tightly contested one in camp.
Alex Collins, a 2016 Seahawks draft pick who went on to become a starter in Baltimore, returned to Seattle last year and played well in limited opportunities in the second half of the season, rushing for 77 yards and two scores in three games. The Seahawks also have two recently-drafted running backs in Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas, who in addition to their talents as running backs, help their roster chances by being significant contributors on special teams.
The Seahawks also added an intriguing undrafted rookie to the mix this year, signing Josh Johnson out of Louisiana-Monroe. Johnson was limited by a hamstring injury in 2020, contributing to him going undrafted, but in 2019 he rushed for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry in 12 games. With one of the league's best backs in Carson and with talented depth behind him, Carroll is expecting an explosive running game to be a big part of Seattle's offense in 2021.
"With Chris and Rashaad back there running the football, and Alex looks ready to go too—and we've got a couple of other young in DeeJay and Homer—it's an exciting offense for us," Carroll said. "We've always been explosive when we're at our best, and when we're at our best, we've been able to run the football and be really explosive, and that's hard to stop."
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A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks running back Chris Carson from the 2020 season.