That Chris Carson may be back this season also could solidify Seattle's tailback position for the future.
A day after the Seahawks appeared to find their tailback for the rest of the season in Mike Davis, coach Pete Carroll said that more reinforcements could be coming soon.
Specifically, Carroll said on his weekly radio show on ESPN 710 Seattle that rookie Chris Carson — who emerged as the starter during the first four games before suffering an ankle injury that required surgery — is “unbelievably ahead of schedule” in his recovery and could be back in as soon as two weeks.
Carroll seemed to hedge on that slightly when he held his regular day-after-game press conference Monday afternoon. Carroll said Carson will not return to practice this week and said that workouts this week will determine how quickly Carson may be able to make it back.
“He’s healed really well,” Carroll said Monday afternoon. “He’s healing. He’s out there changing direction and hitting it pretty hard right now. This is a big week for him to prove that maybe he has a chance in the next couple of weeks. We’re not trying to push him too soon, but he is a really well-conditioned guy and he works really hard at it. This is his natural way, so it’s carried over to really being a great asset in his rehab, and he’s maxed out the process. He’s beating the time frames, so he looks good.”
Carson, a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State who still leads all of Seattle’s tailbacks with 208 yards for the season, has been on Injured Reserve since being hurt late in a win over Indianapolis on Oct. 1.
But teams can bring back two players a year off of IR and Seattle has yet to use either of its designations. One appears set to be used on Carson assuming he can show in practice he is truly ready to play.
Carroll said once Carson does return he would probably need two weeks of practice before playing.
That could mean a return for the Dec. 24 game at Dallas, or if not then maybe the regular season finale on Dec. 31 against Arizona. What the team appears to most be hoping for is that Carson could play in the post-season.
Carroll said his comment about Carson being ahead of schedule was based off of observing him in a workout that Carroll said happened Friday.
“I watched him run last week and he was flying in his first real day of changing direction,” Carroll said. “When they cut him loose you couldn’t tell that he wasn’t fine. So I don’t know what happened after that, that was like Friday or something. I don’t know what the repercussions were of that workout. But he just has to show that he’s back to full speed and can do it and get on the practice field and away we go.”
Carroll said Carson would then likely need one week of practice to get back into things and then another to show no setbacks from that week of practice before being cleared to play.
“If we can cut him loose this week or next week we’ll have him the last couple of games,” Carroll said.
Davis re-emerged Sunday night as the starting tailback for Seattle after sitting out last week with a groin injury. He had 16 of the team’s 19 tailback carries for 64 yards and was on the field for 45 of 62 snaps, 73 percent, the highest percentage for any Seattle tailback this season.
J.D. McKissic got nine snaps and Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy three each — each also getting one carry.
An underrated aspect of Davis’ game is his receiving ability — he had four catches on four targets against the Eagles for 37 yards and has caught all six passes thrown his way for 78 yards this season. That means he doesn’t have to come off the field as often in third-down or two-minute situations, which gives the Seattle offense some added flexibility.
Lacy and Rawls each appeared to get their snaps and one carry only after Davis had to take a quick break. Lacy got his carry on the play after Davis had a 23-yard catch and run that set up Seattle’s first touchdown in the first quarter while Rawls got his one carry in the third quarter on the play after Davis had a 22-yard run.
Davis showed a direct, hard-running style that caused Carroll to say “I think you can see why we’ve been excited about him.” Carroll called Davis’ 22-yard run in the third quarter in which he wove through the defense to find room down the sideline before plowing into a defender for a few final yards “the best run we’ve seen all year.”
So for now, consider Seattle’s tailback situation as set with Davis sure to get the call Sunday against the Jaguars.
But what happens when Carson comes back?
The Seahawks will undoubtedly want to ease him back some as he comes off a serious injury, so for a game or two the Carson and Davis could split reps and series some, though Seattle seems to like the idea of committing to one tailback and letting him run with it.
Davis’ receiving ability, though, means he also could effectively be the third-down back, and that means Carson and Davis could essentially be a two-man tailback corps going forward.
That’s all bad news for Lacy and Rawls, each of whom at this point may be looking at playing their final month in a Seahawks uniform.
Lacy signed a one-year contract that was worth a guaranteed $2.86 million but otherwise included a lot of incentives, few of which at this point he’s going to get.
Recall that Lacy’s contract included an escalating bonus based on gaining 800 or more yards. If he ran for at least 800 yards, he was due an additional $250,000. If he hit 900 yards, he was due a total bonus of $500,000. For a 1,000 yards he was due $750,000. For 1,100 yards he was due $1 million and for 1,200 he would have gotten $1.3 million.
Lacy has just 179 yards on 69 carries and at this point may not get a whole lot more than that and seems almost certain to become a free agent next March and likely move on.
Rawls has just 129 yards on 50 carries and can he a restricted free agent at the end of the year and at this point Seattle would seem unlikely to tender him likely letting him become an unrestricted free agent, especially if Seattle is confident that Carson is back.
Davis will also be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and at this point you’d figure Seattle will tender him to team with Carson, who is under contract through 2020. McKissic will be an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, so the team can easily bring him back, too.
Rawls could conceivably return as a UFA — Seattle re-signed Christine Michael two years after not tendering him as an RFA. But at that point he might also want to move on (and remember that C.J. Prosise will also factor into this, too, as he remains under contract through 2019).