Wassell: Seahawks need to coach up Collier, draft another running back
I have two things about the Seahawks bouncing around in my head this week. Conveniently, one concerns the offense and the other lies with the defense.
One is that the Seahawks desperately need another running back. Chris Carson isn’t old, but he isn’t getting any younger either. The second issue is last year’s first-round draft pick, defensive end L.J. Collier. He needs attention from the coaching staff, and lots of it.
During last year’s training camp, if you were to ask me which position the Seahawks are set at besides quarterback, I definitely would have answered “running back.” Carson, 25, is a proven bruiser who checks all the boxes of what Pete Carroll requires in his running game, so whether or not Seattle got any production out of Rashaad Penny in 2019 seemed like it didn’t really matter.
Things have changed.
Carson got hurt and ended up missing the final three games of the season, including the playoffs. He has yet to make it through a full season and even though he isn’t an old player, even by running back standards, he isn’t getting any younger. I have major concerns for a team that relies on its running game as much as Seattle does with a running back who, although productive, has difficulty staying healthy for the whole marathon.
Add to the situation that Penny can’t be counted on week to week, and suddenly we realize that our offense is hanging by a thread. I like second-year back Travis Homer, but he’s not the solution to the problem.
The answer is in the draft. I don’t care what round you find a running back in, but they’d better draft one. We all know that the most pressing need is at pass rusher and that will likely be where Seahawks general manager John Schneider uses his early-round picks. But somewhere in there, they need to grab the next Carson.
It’s not imperative that this player have the same style/physical makeup, but he needs to be the kind of guy who could be an every-down back should the situation demand it. Think Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams during their tandem days in Carolina. We need that kind of combination. Not just an insurance guy. Carson is still our man, but we can’t rest Super Bowl expectations squarely on his shoulders.
The second thing that’s been gnawing on me is Collier. He’s a first-round pick and we all know that players who are drafted that high get chance after chance to prove themselves. That’s a good thing, but he can’t be left alone to just go out on the field and figure things out himself.
He missed essentially all of last year’s training camp with an injury, and as a rookie, that’s a devastating thing to happen. Not only did he miss getting himself into football shape, but he didn’t get a chance to learn the game. Yes, pass rusher is a position that relies mostly on natural skill and brute strength, but this is the NFL. It’s more complicated than that.
If Jadeveon Clowney is lining up next to him, Collier must be the caliber of player that can at least draw attention away from Clowney. The Seahawks have lined Collier up both on the inside and outside and hopefully he shows that he’s versatile enough to continue doing that. But to this point, he’s had next to no production. Next season has to be a do-over year for him. If I were Carroll, I would take the defensive coaching staff aside and implore them to focus on developing Collier. They have to do their part with the team’s top pick to turn him into a serviceable player.
Many of you think LJ Collier is a bust, but if they can coach him into a player that's good enough to draw a little attention away from Clowney, I'd call that a win.
And it's certainly not too much to ask from a 1st round pick.
— Tom Wassell (@tomwassell) February 26, 2020
I know you guys are mad at me for saying that a first-round pick’s ceiling should be “serviceable.” That’s fine, I understand your anger. Keep in mind though that Schneider doesn’t draft the way everyone else does. He probably saw Collier more as a second-round talent, and given where the Seahawks picked in last season’s draft (29th), he’s close enough to being a second-round pick where it’s reasonable to view him that way. With all that in mind, a second-round pick had better perform. Let’s turn him into a piece of the D-line that at least needs to be accounted for instead of ignored.
Jake Heaps, one of my co-hosts on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy, pointed out that Collier didn’t show any “flash” at all last season and I understand his worry. But obviously, the Seahawks saw something in him during his days at TCU. They need to find a way to pry that out of this player and put him in a position to succeed. Make it a special project, do whatever you have to do, but don’t just throw him out there on the field after making him a healthy scratch for a few weeks just to watch him fail.
Just take care of those two problems and everything will be fine. It can’t be that hard!