With Marshawn Lynch out, Seahawks will need Christine Michael to carry the load again
MINNEAPOLIS – Christine Michael has made the most of his opportunities in recent weeks as Seattle’s primary ball-carrier, filling in more than capably while Marshawn Lynch has remained sidelined.
The Seahawks will need him to do it again now that Lynch, following a strange series of events, won’t play in Sunday’s wild-card game against Minnesota after all. It began with coach Pete Carroll declaring that Lynch would indeed play – which had seemed increasingly likely throughout the week – only to then characterize his status as questionable before the team officially ruled him out.
And so Seattle will turn back to Michael, the former bust of a second-round pick who has thrived in his second stint with the team. Bryce Brown has also been a part of the Seahawks’ running-back mix of late and figures to see some early-down carries Sunday. Fred Jackson will likely remain in the third-down role he’s handled all season.
And Michael should get the majority of the work, a safe assumption considering how well he’s fared as the team’s primary ball-carrier since Thomas Rawls went down in Week 14. Michael has led the team in snaps and carries in two of the three games since then. He’s averaged more than 4.9 yards per attempt and he topped 100 yards rushing last week for the first time in his career.
Just as important as what Michael has done on the field is what he’s demonstrated off of it – traits that were missing the first time around.
Coach Pete Carroll described Michael as more humble and mature since returning to Seattle in December following a preseason trade to Dallas then a stint on Washington’s practice squad. Offensive-line coach Tom Cable, who works closely with Michael as the coordinator of Seattle’s running game, used the word discipline when asked to identify the biggest difference from then to now.
“I think he’s really tried to capture his opportunity,” Cable said. “I’m really proud of him that he saw what it is, and he’s kinda been around here and there and kicked around and then he came back, and he’s really tried to be what we’ve always asked him to be. So I’m really happy for him.”
Sunday’s game will provide another chance to assess how far Michael has come. He’ll need to be on his assignments in pass-protection, especially with all the different blitzes that Minnesota’s defense tends to bring. That has been one of Michael’s weaknesses in the past. So was his ball-security, which has been better and will be particularly important in the frigid temperatures that are expected at game-time.
Can Michael continue to make the most of his second chance? The Seahawks will need him to for another week. Given the postseason run they’re capable of making along with the reality that there are no certainties anymore with Lynch, maybe longer.