Christine Michael, a second-round pick in 2012, will get his biggest test to date on Sunday.
Just this week Seahawks coach Pete Carroll revealed the most honest assessment of running back Christine Michael.
“I’ll throw this out at you,” Carroll said. “I think he’s more humble than he was. I think he was really trying to be flashy and all of that.”
The Seahawks have made a big deal of the little things Michael has done since returning last month: his focus, the fact he doesn’t celebrate after big (or small) runs anymore, his attention to detail. These things sound cliché, and they are, but for good reason. They were the very things coaches and teammates pointed to when Christine Michael was traded to Dallas before the season.
Here’s the reality: All the talk about how Michael has changed and matured will get put to the test on Sunday. Marshawn Lynch informed the team on Friday that he couldn’t play in Sunday’s playoff game against Minnesota because of his health, meaning the reins belong to Michael and, to a lesser extent, Bryce Brown.
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Michael has been solid and sometimes better than that in his three games with the Seahawks. Throw out the dud against the Rams, when he had only six carries, and Michael has looked like a productive running back. He has more consistently hit the right holes, at the right time. Basically, he has done what’s been asked of him more often than he did before.
In his three games with the Seahawks, he has 39 carries for 192 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and is coming off the first 100-yard performance of his three-year career.
In that most recent game, at Arizona last week, Michael looked explosive and powerful. He impressed his offensive linemen by turning no gains and short losses into positive plays, the way Lynch often did.
But the playoffs are a different beast, and the attention to detail required is magnified. Can Michael pick up a blitzing defender against a Vikings defense that is particularly effective at blitzing? Can he gain that difficult yard on 3rd and 1?
Michael has never lacked for talent, but he was hindered by a lack of discipline, which is perhaps what Carroll was referring to this week. As offensive line coach Tom Cable said a couple years ago, Michael might do the right thing one play but the wrong thing the next play. The consequences of that inconsistency can be devastating in a close game.
He has been better about that in his return, which is why everyone says he is more focused. And because he has been more focused and more prepared, his natural ability has become more obvious, even if it is a small sample size.
It was not long ago that Michael didn’t have a team. He had been traded or released from three teams in less than a year, and then Thomas Rawls joined Lynch on the injured list, so very quickly Michael had another chance.
To this point he has taken full advantage of it and has openly acknowledged that if he doesn’t perform this time around, this could be it. That’s a heavy weight to carry, but it can also be inspiring.
It was said by some, including yours truly, that selecting Michael in the second round of the 2013 draft was the biggest miss of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era.
That was a fair and valid argument even just a month ago, but Michael has a shot to erase such talk on Sunday. He just has to take advantage.