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Clayton: Seahawks’ Thomas Rawls could be challenged for carries by Alex Collins in ‘crowded’ backfield

Thomas Rawls leads a reloaded backfield that John Clayton believes could quicken the Seahawks' pace. (AP)

After proving to be a capable Marshawn Lynch facsimile last season, odds favor Thomas Rawls as the Seahawks lead running back in 2016. But 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton says rookie Alex Collins has shown enough this offseason that he might make a case for the starting spot.

“Alex Collins looks really good and could challenge him,” Clayton said. “Thomas Rawls has to play his best to stay ahead of Alex and maybe get those 15 carries, where maybe Alex gets eight to 10. And if Alex comes and competes better, maybe he gets more… I think it sets up for a different type of running game but a very productive type of running game.”

Video: Marshawn Lynch activates Beast Mode at youth football camp

The fully revamped – and crowded – Seahawks running back room will be on display this preseason, and that will include Rawls, who has been working his way back from a fractured ankle and ligament damage he suffered in Week 14 last season against Baltimore. Rawls, who rushed for a surprising 830 yards and four touchdowns in relief of the injured Lynch before his injury last year, said Sunday before Richard Sherman’s charity softball game at Safeco Field that he will “most definitely” be ready for the start of training camp.

Head coach Pete Carroll previously said the second-year back was slightly behind injured tight end Jimmy Graham (patellar tendon) in the rehab process, which has Clayton wondering whether Rawls is being aggressive in his timetable. Either way, Clayton says it’s encouraging news that Rawls feels good enough to make that declaration.

“He’s been able to make the runs, make the cuts and do all those different things, so they’re not going to really force much on him in the preseason,” Clayton said. “If he gets one game (in preseason), it’s one game that I think will be reasonably easy. I think the big thing is they are going to go into training camp very healthy.”

The backfield competition includes Rawls, veteran Christine Michael and three draft picks – C.J. Prosise (third round), Collins (fifth round) and Zac Brooks (seventh round). Clayton said that while Rawls performed an impressive Beast Mode imitation in 2015, Collins showed a similar style and good feet in OTAs.

Mix in Prosise’s receiving ability on third downs and Clayton says the Seahawks have a “better rhythm” with the young backs than they had with Lynch.

“It was kind of a dance at the beginning – seeing what teams were going to do to adjust to Marshawn Lynch in the first quarter,” Clayton said.

“I think that now gives them a more complete backfield,” he added. “It’s totally different from what they had in Marshawn Lynch. I think what they’ll be able to do is hit holes quicker, have a little quicker pace with the offense and start games faster.”

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