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 2023 season. So far, we've looked at special teams, tight end and defensive line, and today, we take a look at running back. Check back tomorrow when we focus on linebacker and what Bobby Wagner's return means to the team.
Key Running Back Additions: Zach Charbonnet (draft), Kenny McIntosh (draft).
Key Running Back Departures: Rashaad Penny (signed with Eagles), Travis Homer (signed with Bears).
The Seahawks struck gold in the 2022 draft when they selected Kenneth Walker III with one of their two second-round picks.
The former Michigan State standout and Doak Walker Award winner thrived as a rookie, taking over for an injured Rashaad Penny on his way to becoming the second rookie in Seahawks history to rush for 1,000 yards. Walker led all NFL rookies in rushing yards (1,050) and touchdowns (nine), and finished a close second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting despite receiving the most first-place votes.
Yet even after adding an elite talent like Walker, running back became a position of need for Seattle this offseason due to a couple of free-agency departures, with Rashaad Penny signing with the Eagles and Travis Homer signing with the Bears. Those moves left Seattle with only two running backs on the roster heading into the draft, Walker and DeeJay Dallas, so it hardly came as a surprise that the Seahawks addressed that position with not just one but two of their 10 picks.
The Seahawks first added Zach Charbonnet with the second of their two second-round picks, then later in the draft they selected Kenny McIntosh, who was highly productive at SEC powerhouse Georgia, but who fell in the draft due to what by his own admission were poor testing numbers in the pre-draft process.
After coaching Reggie Bush and LenDale White at USC, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has long sought to have a highly productive one-two punch at running back. Seattle has had plenty of talented backs over the years, from Marshawn Lynch to Chris Carson to Penny to Walker, but due to injuries and other factors, they've rarely had two top-end backs available at the same time to put an extra strain on a defense. Carroll might just have that coveted one-two punch this year in Walker, who already proved himself at the NFL level last season, and Charbonnet, a bigger, more physical back who ran for 2,496 yards and 27 touchdowns in two seasons at UCLA, averaging 7.0 yards per carry last year.
"Zach is legitimately that; he's going to be right in there with Ken," Carroll said after Day 2 of the draft. "It's going to take both guys to get the workload with some help from DeeJay. I really like the versatility, because he can block, can catch the ball out of the backfield, he's good in the screen game, he makes big plays, and he's been the workhorse, so I think he will be a great complement to Ken. I got Ken on the phone just to talk to him about that, how much we see them fitting together. I'm pretty excited about this one."
What makes this year's group of running backs particularly exciting is the variety of styles and skillsets in the group. Walker is a home-run hitter with elite speed, while Charbonnet is a bigger back who brings a pass-catching element and physicality to the spot. Dallas, meanwhile, is a versatile player who can protect on third down, catch passes out of the backfield and do just about anything else asked of him—not to mention he is one of Seattle's best special teams players—while McIntosh was one of college football's most productive pass-catching running backs at Georgia.
"(Charbonnet) can be a third down back for us, (Walker) can do it too," Carroll said. "There will be a rotation there as well. We'll have to see how it plays its way out. Is there a strength that we should stay with Zach and he should get more of that time or Kenny should? We'll wait and see. The versatility is awesome. We know we're not restricted at all with these guys. And we know that DeeJay does a nice job helping us. DeeJay had a very productive season last year. That group is shaping up really nicely."
And of course, any look at the backfield for Seattle would be incomplete if it didn't also mention fullback/linebacker/special teams standout Nick Bellore, who last season finished just two yards short of matching his career high with three rushing yards on one carry.
Take a look at photos of running back Zach Charbonnet during his two years at Michigan (2019-2020) and two years at UCLA (2021-2022). Charbonnet was selected by the Seahawks with the 52nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.