After having one of the NFL’s steadier tailback situations since October 2010, the Seahawks have just two running backs on the roster with an NFL carry — Rawls, who is coming off a broken left ankle, and reserve Christine Michael.
With the Seahawks set to report for training camp July 29 (practices begin the next day), it’s time to look at the players I feel are most pivotal in 2016.
Call it “16 for ’16,’’ as we count down the 16 most important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
The countdown continues with No. 10, running back Thomas Rawls. He is being counted on to take over for the retired Marshawn Lynch, one of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history.
Player: Thomas Rawls.
2016 contract status: Rawls is entering the second season of a three-year contract worth $1.59 million overall, with a base salary of $525,000 in 2016.
Expected 2016 role: Starting tailback, assuming he recovers as expected from a broken left ankle suffered Dec. 13 at Baltimore.
Why he’s ranked here: After having one of the steadier tailback situations in the NFL since October 2010, when they acquired Lynch from Buffalo, the Seahawks enter the 2016 season with just two running backs on the roster with an NFL carry — Rawls and Christine Michael, who revived his career at the end of last season but hardly can be considered a sure thing.
Prosise, who also had a substantial career at Notre Dame as a receiver, figures to step into the third-down role held by Fred Jackson last season and Robert Turbin in 2012-14. Collins, a star at Arkansas who the Seahawks were surprised to see available in the fifth round, will compete for immediate playing time as an early-down back.
The best-case scenario, given what they saw of him last season when he gained 860 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry, is that Rawls returns to health quickly and picks up where he left off.
Because of Rawls’ injury, the Seahawks are tempering expectations for him this season.
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“He definitely has the talent to do it,’’ general manager John Schneider said a few months ago. “But we are going to get a couple of people in there to compete with him, and he’s recovering from a significant injury as well, too.’’
Said coach Pete Carroll at the end of minicamp in June: “The running-back thing, as young as it is, it’s going to be a great spot to watch. There’s a lot of diversity there in the styles that the guys bring. I’m really excited about that one.’’
Rawls, though, is the one proven commodity.
Nationally, a story line has persisted about how the Seahawks will replace Lynch without seeming to realize that the team was forced to do just that for the last seven regular-season games last season. The Seahawks went 6-1 during that stretch. (Lynch also missed an early-season game against Detroit that the Seahawks also won.)
Rawls rushed for 483 yards on 93 carries in the games Lynch didn’t miss, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He provided more than enough evidence that the Seahawks will have tailback life in the post-Lynch era.
First, though, Rawls must get healthy and back on the field. Carroll has said people should not be surprised if Rawls doesn’t play in the preseason. But like he said about tight end Jimmy Graham’s return from a season-ending injury, Carroll said he “absolutely’’ expects Rawls to be ready for the regular season.
That would go a long way toward answering the questions about how the Seahawks will handle life after Lynch.