Nothing went as planned for the Seahawks' tailback corps in the first year without Marshawn Lynch.
The first season of life without Marshawn Lynch didn’t quite go as planned for the Seahawks. Thomas Rawls was again injured almost immediately after returning from injury, C.J. Prosise also suffered through a handful of injuries, most notably a broken shoulder blade that as it turned out, ended his season in the 10th game.
And while the team’s leading rusher, Christine Michael, may play in the Super Bowl he won’t do it for Seattle, waived in November and signed by Green Bay.
Ultimately, Seattle had 18 different players (including quarterbacks and receivers) get carries this season, a franchise record and according to NFLResearch the most for any team since the strike season of 1987.
Here’s a review of the season that was for the running backs — tailbacks and fullbacks — and a peek at the future.
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Snaps played: 303 of 1,059 total, 28.61 percent (per Pro Football Reference).
Contract situation: Signed through 2017. Can be restricted free agent following 2017 season.
2016 stats: 109 rushes, 349 yards, 3.2 yards per carry, three touchdowns.
Snaps played: 141 of 1,059, 13.31 percent.
Contract situation: Signed through 2019.
2016 stats: 31-125, 4.0, 1 TD.
Snaps played: 147 of 1,059, 13.88 percent.
2016 stats: 30-172, 5.7, 1 TD.
Contract situation: Signed through 2019.
Others who played and remain under club control for 2017 either signed or as Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Troymaine Pope, J.D. McKissic, George Farmer and Terrence Magee.
The hope was that Rawls would recover from a broken ankle suffered in December 2015 and return in time to pick up where he left off.
But in the first of many unexpected hiccups for the Seattle backfield in 2016, Rawls suffered a hairline fracture of his fibula in the second game of the season and was limited to just nine games, and only a couple when he seemed close to his 2015 form — his yards per carry was almost less than half his 5.6 as a rookie.
“Thomas was banged up the whole time and it was hard for him to overcome it and get through it,’’ Carroll said of Rawls, whose season highlight was a postseason record 161 yards in the wild card win over Detroit. “We saw what he’s like when he’s right and we were counting on Thomas being at that point when he returned.’’
His pre-season recovery time opened the door for Michael to win the job out of training camp. But after a few bright moments early, some of the exasperating aspects of Michael’s game that led to the end of his first Seattle tenure began increasingly creeping in.
And when Rawls, Prosise and Pope all appeared healthy and ready to go in mid-November — with Prosise in particular eliciting excitement after his performance in the win at New England — the Seahawks waived Michael.
The following week, Prosise and Pope suffered what turned out to be season-ending injuries, setting in motion another running back carousel as the Seahawks signed the likes of Terrence Magee and J.D. McKissic to help fill in.
Collins was the one running back to never really get hurt. But while he had a few good moments late, he struggled early — Carroll said later his weight was initially an issue.
In other words, nothing went to script, resulting in the oddity of Michael ending the season as the team’s leading rusher with 469 yards, the first time in Seattle history the team’s leading rusher was playing for another team by the end of the season.
GRADE: C-minus. This might seem a harsh grade since much of what ailed the tailbacks were injuries. On the other hand, health and durability are vital components of a successful NFL running back corps and the Seahawks simply didn’t have those this season.
OFFSEASON OBJECTIVES: Every tailback listed can return in 2017, so the Seahawks have the makings of a solid running back corps if everyone can get and stay healthy. But Carroll admitted that’s a worry when it comes to Rawls and Prosise after a season in which they combined to play just 15 of a possible 32 regular season games.
“I can’t tell you that I’m not concerned about C.J.,’’ Carroll said. “He had trouble through the offseason, he was unavailable to us throughout and there was a groin and a hammy and a wrist and the scapula thing he had. He has to show it. … Thomas, I don’t know, he broke his leg (in 2015), guys fell on it. I don’t know that you can avoid that in the sense of being durable. The next injury (the hairline fracture) might have been a product of it but I don’t think so, I mean he got crunched again. It wasn’t the same injury, it was different. I don’t know. He’s been pretty steady other than that.”
Still, it’ll be little surprise if the Seahawks add a running back or two — be it a free agent or through the draft — to compete and add depth after the merry-go-round of this season.
Snaps played: 52 of 1,059 total, 4.91 percent.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
2016 stats: 2 carries, zero yards, five receptions for 72 yards.
Reece was the third fullback to play for Seattle in 2016. Tani Tupou played the first game against Miami and was then waived with veteran Will Tukuafu — who had been released in the cutdown to 53 so the team didn’t have to guarantee his contract — then brought back (and then waived and brought back for good). Tukuafu, though, suffered a season-ending concussion against Carolina after playing just 48 snaps in eight games, with the fullback spot beginning to feel like an afterthought with the team often using tight ends to fill fullback blocking roles when needed.
Reece was signed after the injury to Tukuafu and proved a revelation in the playoff win over Detroit with his blocking out of the I-formation a significant factor in the success of Rawls’ running.
GRADE: C. Not much to really judge. Reece had some nice moments late.
The success of the running game out of the I-formation against Detroit surely reinforced to Seattle the value of the fullback in the team’s offense. Reece would undoubtedly love to be back, though he’ll be 32 when next season begins and the Seahawks might also look at younger options.
NEXT UP: Wide receivers