A 10-yard run against the Vikings on Thursday was a small moment that illustrates Michael’s progress. Michael, in his fourth season, always had ability but struggled with reliability.
One run in the preseason doesn’t signify an overhaul, but it can help explain the difference between running back Christine Michael now and Christine Michael before.
On the Seahawks’ first drive Thursday during their preseason game against the Vikings, Michael took a hand-off out of the shotgun formation. As he neared the line, he had a few choices: He could either bounce the run outside or over the right guard, or he could cut up the middle.
Michael chose inside, squirmed through traffic and gained 10 yards.
So why is that run important? Because of what it represented. Michael, in his fourth season, always had ability but struggled with reliability. The Seahawks couldn’t trust him from play to play.
Most Read Sports Stories
- State wrestling: It's no secret why Washington's top programs keep winning titles
- XFL Dragons enjoy first experience playing for Seattle football fans, and likely earn a second chance
- What are the Seahawks' top areas of need? Here's our ranking as the offseason gets set to heat up
- UW Huskies mailbag: What will Washington's offense look like in 2020? And who will be its stars?
- Ready to take a step forward, Justus Sheffield plans on a full season in the Mariners' rotation
Would he hit the right hole? Would he pick up the blitzing linebacker?
The 10-yard run against the Vikings was a small moment that illustrates Michael’s progress.
Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, now an analyst for the NFL Network, watched the run and called it “staying in the funnel.”
“He has developed his pro eyes,” Robinson said. “He sees the second level now, so he understands where to puncture the defense.
“He would have bounced it in previous years looking for the home run. Instead, he’s trusting the integrity of the play. Again, pro eyes vs. rook eyes.”
A former Seahawks offensive lineman agreed that Michael likely wouldn’t have made that run a couple years ago.
Coaches and players have talked a lot about Michael’s maturity in his second stint with the Seahawks. That extends to the way he prepares, but it also extends to the way he runs.
This isn’t the first time Michael has looked good in the preseason only to have it lead to little in the regular season. But he does look different.
“His consistency is really much, much improved, in that he is seeing the line of scrimmage really well,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s taking advantage of the plays. He ran kind of wild at times and was impatient at times.”
A few other aspects of Michael’s game that stood out:
- His cutback ability. Carroll said Michael has always had that tool. But Michael has looked more fluid, or at least more consistent, in picking his moments to cut back. It’s important for the way the Seahawks block.
“I think he’s different in the way that he’s running the ball,” safety Earl Thomas said. “He’s very patient, he’s riding the wave, and it seems like the game is really slowing down. He really understands the scheme of this running game now. He’s not just running it all wild. He’s being creative, setting up his runs, and it’s exciting to see.”
- His ability as a receiver. Michael has four career receptions; two came in his three games last season with the Seahawks. That was never a part of his skill set, but in practice and in preseason games, Michael has lined up wide at receiver, and he looked pretty comfortable catching a pass out wide Thursday.
- His care with the football. It wasn’t long ago that Michael had fumble issues in the preseason. On Thursday, Michael switched the ball to the hand closest to the sideline during one run to better protect it. And he looked to make a concentrated effort to keep two hands on the ball while running in traffic.
Those are nice and important improvements, but they won’t mean anything if Michael can’t deliver during the regular season.
Michael seems to get that.
“Just patience, trusting, being disciplined, focusing on the task at hand and what I’m doing,” Michael said. “Just stacking good games, stacking practices. It starts with practice, man, and stacking good practices.
“Just try to come out and be clean.”