Seahawks training camp position preview: Running backs
The Seahawks kick off training camp on July 25 and there’s plenty to sort out in the weeks leading up to the August 31 roster cutdown deadline. Today’s position preview focuses on the running back group, which will look to build on the team’s best performance in years.
Entering the season as the expected starter is Chris Carson, who bounced back from a season-ending leg injury in 2017 to rush for 1,151 yards in 2018. That didn’t just set a career record for Carson; it also marked the first time since 2014 that a Seahawks running back rushed for 1,000 yards or more (for that matter, it marked the first time since 2015 that a Seahawks running back finished with more than 500 yards). If there’s one knock to Carson’s game – other than injury concerns – it’s that he wasn’t often involved as a pass-catcher. Granted, that’s a result of play-calling and Carson proved himself to be an otherwise effective contributor. But he finished the year with 20 receptions, and before you question why a running back needs to participate at all in the passing game, consider this explanation by Brock Huard, who says the top running backs in today’s NFL offenses also contribute as receivers. A prime example is Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, who finished with 77 receptions for 567 yards in addition to his 1,434 rushing yards. The Rams, an offense with threats at wide receiver, still targeted Todd Gurley 81 times.
Pushing for carries will be second-year pro Rashaad Penny. The Seahawks used a first-round pick on Penny in 2018, but his rookie year stalled after he broke a finger in training camp. It was the first major injury of his career, both in college and the pros. While he saw his first 100-yard game in Week 9, he never quite took off and finished with 419 yards on 85 carries.
Travis Homer, Marcelias Sutton, and fullback Nick Bellore are new additions in 2019.
The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Homer was a sixth-round pick out of Miami this year. He had 1,995 rushing yards in three seasons with the Hurricanes, with the bulk of that yardage coming in his final two seasons.
Bellore (6-foot-1, 250-pounds) was one of three Seahawks signed on May 9 (in addition to cornerback Jamar Taylor and guard Marcus Martin). The eight-year NFL veteran began his career at linebacker but transitioned to fullback in 2017 while playing for the Detroit Lions.
Sutton (5-foot-8, 196-pounds) is an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma who signed with the Seahawks as a tryout.
Several players looked good at OTAs and minicamp – Homer comes to mind as someone who could impress in the preseason – but this team is undoubtedly hoping for a breakout year from Penny. That he’s a first-round pick doesn’t mean he should see more snaps than Carson, but the pressure to have a breakout year is certainly there.
The pressure is there for Penny to breakout, but is the skill there as well? The Seahawks think so, and he’s certainly shown he has the potential. He reversed field for a gain of 17 yards against Minnesota, outrunning a handful of Vikings defenders along the way, and had a similar play against the Green Bay Packers. He also put up 108 yards against the Rams in Week 9. His emergence in this offense — and the split of reps between he and Carson — will be one of the top storylines this season. That’s not to say a big year isn’t also expected of Carson, who might even more fit the profile of Pete Carroll’s ideal halfback. But any offense that runs the ball as much as Seattle does would want to see a pair of running backs capable of starting.
The full group:
Chris Carson (age: 24; 5-11/222)
Rashaad Penny (age: 23; 5-11/220)
J.D. McKissic (age: 25; 5-10/195; return specialist)
C.J. Prosise (age: 25; 6-1/225)
Travis Homer (age: 20; 5-10/202)
Bo Scarbrough (age: 22; 6-1/235)
Marcelias Sutton (age: 23; 5-8/196)