The Seahawks are likely to split the carries up at tailback early in the season until Thomas Rawls works back fully into form.
Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls took another step in his progress from surgery to repair a broken and dislocated ankle today by getting a little more work during team drills. Rawls lined up with the first team offense in an early team drill and got a carry or two.
Being able to practice on back-to-back days — Rawls also got a few team-session snaps on Monday — is another little sign that things appear to be going as hoped with Rawls.
Still, there’s a long way to go — a few plays during non-contact practice is a lot different than carrying it 20-25 times in an NFL game.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said again today after practice that the team’s main hope is that Rawls is ready for the regular season opener Sept. 11 and to not be surprised if you don’t see him in a game prior to that.
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“You know that he wants to be out there and he’s really champing at the bit to get out there,” Bevell said. “But we’re going to just continue to let him progress and this was part of it. Getting into team and getting some of those reps in team, may enable him to get some reps in games down the line and we’re really pushing for that first game of the regular season obviously, but if there’s a chance for him to get into a preseason game then we’ll do it.”
If Rawls doesn’t play in the preseason, then it would seem unlikely the team would expect that he could suddenly carry it 25 times in the first game of the season. That would be a lot to ask for someone who hadn’t played to that point and coming off that significant of an injury and surgery.
That, along with the progress of Christine Michael and the presence of other options at the tailback spot, is why you are hearing the team lay the groundwork to not be surprised to see something of a committee approach to the tailback spot once the team begins.
Coach Pete Carroll first laid that out after Michael’s impressive showing against the Chiefs Saturday, saying “when Thomas gets back out there, those guys give you a one-two punch that we’re excited about.”
Bevell, asked on Tuesday if he has a preference for how the carries get split up, said he doesn’t. Obviously, the team has made it work the last few years by having one tailback handle the bulk of the duties. But Bevell, like Carroll, knows that may be a lot to ask of Rawls right out of the gate.
“No, we don’t (have a preference),” Bevell said. “We want the best guys to be out there and playing. We have a lot of confidence in C-Mike, obviously we love what Thomas Rawls has done. You might see a couple guys rolling in there and then have specific roles for other guys, maybe a C.J. Prosise, for example might have another role. We’re still trying to see how that’s going to shake out.”
Indeed, it’s hard for the Seahawks to completely figure it out all right now with so many uncertainties.
Rawls appears to be doing well in his recovery, but until he plays and thrives as he did last season there will be some unknown. Prosise has had only minimal practice since the spring. Zac Brooks has also had limited practice. Alex Collins has done well in camp but also had a sore ankle last week that limited his work, and for now, it’s probably most realistic to expect him to be a complementary back.
And Michael, while having a fabulous camp, has also been here before — anyone remember when he was four in the NFL in rushing in the preseason in 2013? The point of that comment is simply that until we see Michael perform consistently for a whole season there will remain at least a little question whether he can fill that role for an entire season.
All of which is why right now the Seahawks are leaving basically every option open when it comes to their tailback position. That’s undoubtedly frustrating to fantasy football players, who’d like to be able to know that Rawls is going to get all the work from day one. But there’s simply no way for the Seahawks to know that now, and with the other options they have, no reason to box themselves into that idea publicly.