RENTON — Caveat No. 1: Everybody in the history of training camp is in the best shape of their lives. No coach will ever say “meh” when asked about a player’s preseason condition.
Caveat No. 2: Everybody in the history of training camp is happy with the system they are in. No player is ever going to say “meh” when asked about a coach’s approach.
Sports scribes are forced to look beyond mere words to determine the veracity of various statements made this time of year. Body language, facial expressions and tone all come into play.
But after Chris Carson and coach Pete Carroll spoke to the media Wednesday, the following feels true: The Seahawks running back is poised to have his finest season yet.
Between the final game of last season and the middle of March, it was unclear whether Carson would remain in Seattle. The 26-year-old was a free agent who had established himself as one of the more productive backs in the NFL.
But he ended up inking a two-year deal with the team that had drafted him in the seventh round four years earlier. And now he has a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron.
You likely remember Carroll’s comments a couple days after the Seahawks’ playoff loss to the Rams last season. He said that not only should the team run the ball better, but that it should run it more. This caused a bit of a stir among folks who theorized that quarterback Russell Wilson’s role might diminish. And though Pete pushed back against that notion Wednesday, he noted that Carson and Waldron’s offense are an ideal fit.
“What we do with the running game and particularly now with the way we emphasize even more so, in the ways that we emphasize stuff. It’s just it’s really it’s a dream come true for a guy like Chris,” said Carroll, adding that he couldn’t imagine Carson being in better shape. “The fits of the runs, the style of things that we’re doing and how we’re coaching is — they’re (the running backs) are really excited. You probably could tell that from Chris.”
For the first half of last season, the Seahawks’ running game was Luigi to the passing game’s Mario. Wilson’s arm was the primary feature of the offense, and it netted him MVP numbers through those first two months. But then the interceptions began to pile up, and Carroll reverted to the balanced approach that has defined his tenure.
Only problem is that the Seahawks forgot how to score.
Carson said Wednesday that teams caught on to Seattle’s offense and Seattle didn’t properly adapt. This led to the Seahawks notching 20 points or fewer in four of their final six games. It’s impossible to say how Waldron’s strategy will fare once the season begins, but for now the man likely to receive the bulk of the carries is pleased with what he sees.
“I think Shane does a great job with making everything balanced. It’s not just relying on the run, it’s mixing up different schemes and making everything kind of look the same versus a run play or a pass play,” Carson said. “The defense can’t tell the difference between which one.”
Carson also said the new offense will likely allow him to be more involved in the passing game. He added that he has the best hands on the team. It’s unlikely the Seahawks’ receivers and tight ends share this opinion, but trash talk is a prerequisite for training-camp competition.
Come to think of it, so is media speculation.
On Wednesday, Carroll discussed the run-pass balance he hopes to see this year and acknowledged that, no matter what he says, it will be interpreted in myriad ways by the press. But even before he was asked about Carson specifically, he said the running-back spot “is a really exciting place.”
Carson has put up big numbers before. He ran for 1,151 yards in his second year in the league and 1,230 in his third. He averaged a career-best 4.8 yards per carry last season but missed four games because of injury.
Expectations are always high this time of year, and praise gets thrown around incessantly. But the praise thrown at Carson seems justified. High expectations would be, too.