Thursday, September 8, 2016

Who's at RB?

The Seahawks just concluded another successful offseason by retaining in-house talent and some minor free agent acquisitions. They got through the preseason without being dealt any significant injury blows.  Most preseason rankings have the Seahawks at or near the top.  Even the ever-troubling offensive line appears to be operating ahead of schedule. 

So, what does that leave us with to obsessively worry about before we see a moment of REAL football action?

This team has been running a championship-caliber program for the past 4 seasons and there is absolutely zero reason to believe that this season will play out any different.  Sure-- it's the NFL.  Anything can happen.  Any team can pull together when it matters most and find themselves hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February.  Still, few teams have been as consistently competitive as the Seahawks have the past few seasons.

But we STILL need something to bitch about until the opening game!

This week has shed light on the topic that sports radio, social media and water cooler talk have selected as our subject of petty, unnecessary concern that will carry us to kickoff.

The running back depth chart.

I know, that's a pretty stupid topic to parse-- but it's all we have.  Every other detail is ironed out, but for some reason, fans are overly concerned about who is going to come out of the tunnel when they announce the running back for the starting offense.

The cause of this concern?  The Seahawks depth chart was recently made available and Christine Michael is listed ahead of Thomas Rawls as the team's feature back.

Despite the fact that Pete Carroll himself pointed out in his Wednesday press conference that Senior VP of Communications & Broadcasting, Dave Pearson, compiled the 'unofficial' depth chart for the team's website, this is being read into as Rawls losing his job or otherwise being unhealthy.

However, Rawls was absent from the team's injury report for the first time since late last season.  So, it is safe to assume that his recovery hasn't suffered any dramatic setbacks.

Not only am I not concerned about the hierarchy of the backfield-- I think this is the perfect scenario for Pete Carroll.

Losing Marshawn Lynch sucks no matter how you look at it, but Seattle is excited for their young stable of backs.  Running back depth is a luxury for this team in 2016.

Just a few short months ago, this team pulled Bryce Brown off the garbage heap to ensure they had enough depth for a playoff run.  Just last week we saw Troymaine Pope, a talented undrafted rookie running back, get cut because this team simply didn't have the roster space to accommodate the slough of quality running backs they assembled this past offseason.

Thomas Rawls was electric in his rookie debut last year.  He more than proved he was a perfect fit for Carroll's system before succumbing to injury late in the season.  The confidence this staff has for Rawls allowed them to play a cool hand when it came to adding depth.  They spent a couple of mid and late round picks on running backs that possessed promising talent with specifically unique skill sets and instead focused on shoring up the offensive and defensive lines in the early rounds.

Perhaps the feel good story of the off season was the reclamation and resurgence of Christine Michael.  Michael was a high second round pick for Seattle just a few short seasons ago but he failed to carve out a role for himself.  Reports were abundant that Michael was immature and wasn't putting the work in.  After the Seahawks cut him last season coming out of camp, he bounced around the NFC East before Seattle claimed him off the Washington practice squad when Seattle was thin at the position.

Still, Seattle didn't resign Michael after last season.  They let him test the market and no one was calling.  The Seahawks agreed to bring him back at the veteran minimum and his preseason performance made it abundantly clear that Christine Michael had received his wake up call and he's not going to take another moment in this league for granted.

So, you have a young running back in Thomas Rawls who effectively earned the starting running back job last season, but is coming off a serious leg injury and you have a young, yet salty veteran in Christine Michael who is out to earn a long-term contract-- even if it's not with this team next season.

I'm telling you: Pete Carroll LOVES this!

Obviously, you don't want to rush Rawls back too quickly.  Everyone is in agreement that he appears to possess the greatest upside of all Seattle's running backs.  At the same time, this team doesn't hand people anything.  In fact, some might say, including myself, that the lack of competition was a tremendous factor in Seattle's slow start last year.

Christine Michael had a terrific offseason.  If we're not basing anything on past performance, the starting job is rightfully his.  He is healthy, he's hungry and he's playing for his next contract.  While I agree that Rawls is the eventual franchise running back, I would absolutely start Michael until I was 100% comfortable with Rawls recovery from injury.

Starting Michael pushes Rawls to keep working and not get complacent.  I never liked the idea that we would just pass the torch from Lynch to Rawls without any competition-- it goes against everything this team has repeatedly claimed to stand for.

I'm telling you to let go of your fears about this backfield heading into the new season and be thankful that we're in this situation.  Rawls will get eased into the mix over the next few games.  If Michael struggles-- we know we can count on Rawls to shoulder the load when he's back to 100% again.  If Michael succeeds-- you continue to work Rawls in but then you can just ride the hot hand.

The bottom line is that competition is the foundation that this team's recent success is built upon.  We've let that get away from us recently as superstar after superstar has emerged from this team and locked down roster spots.  While that does provide a level of security in knowing that certain positions are locked in, it does limit the amount of the internal competition that fuels this team in preparing for Sundays. 

UPDATE:  Germain Ifedi left practice yesterday with an apparent ankle injury.  He walked off the field on his own, but his status for the opener Sunday is in question.  THIS is definitely worth your concern.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Damn it.  It's a high ankle sprain.  Looks like Ifedi is going to be out until October.  

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