Seahawks offensive line coach and run game coordinator Tom Cable has been impressed early by the team's potential depth at running back this season.
The Seahawks will enter the 2016 season without Marshawn Lynch as the starting tailback for the first time since Pete Carroll’s first year in Seattle in 2010.
But they may also enter it with what offensive line coach and run game coordinator Tom Cable feels is as much depth as the team has ever had.
Cable said Wednesday that each of the three running backs the Seahawks selected in the 2016 draft — C.J. Prosise of Notre Dame in the third round, Alex Collins of Arkansas in the fifth and Zac Brooks of Clemson in the seventh — has a chance to be a contributor this season.
“They all look like they can give something to this football team,’’ Cable said. “I think we will be really deep there. So that’s pretty exciting.’’
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Those three joined a group that is headed by Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael and also includes undrafted free agent Tre Madden, whose ability to play fullback also intrigues the team and could give him a legitimate shot to make the roster.
Six would probably be the maximum number of running backs the Seahawks would keep on their final 53-man roster.
Seattle had five running backs on the roster to begin last year, including fullbacks. But depending on how Rawls recovers from a broken left ankle, the Seahawks could also be looking to carry an extra body at that spot entering the regular season.
Rawls is present at OTAs but is not doing anything during team drills and not expected to return until well into training camp. Recall that coach Pete Carroll said last week the team remains optimistic Rawls will be ready for the regular season while warning not to probably expect to see him much before then.
Speaking of both Rawls and tight end Jimmy Graham, Carroll said last week that “we won’t rush them at that point. We will use all of the six weeks (of training camp and pre-season) in there and take advantage of it.’’
Also currently sidelined are Prosise, who suffered a hip flexor last week, and Brooks (unknown).
That has left the bulk of the work in OTAs to Michael, Collins and Madden, the only other three running backs on the roster.
Contact is not allowed during OTAs, so judging the play of running backs can be tricky. The no-contact nature also makes a little difficult for the team to get much of a sense of what was regarded as one of Collins’ big weaknesses in college — fumbling (he had 16 in 696 touches during his three years at Arkansas).
But Cable said that of what they can see of Collins right now that “he is showing you some really good stuff every day.’’
Cable also said that what he has been able to see of each of the three has essentially confirmed what was regarded as the styles of each coming out of the draft — Collins as a physical runner who could be particularly effective between the tackles; Prosise, a former college receiver, as one who could flourish as a pass catcher and on the perimeter; and Brooks, who also has an extensive receiving background, as potentially able to proficient inside and out, running and catching.
“I think (Collins) is going to be a heavier runner, more physical,’’ Cable said. “C.J. is going to be a very athletic runner that in space is an incredible accelerator, can catch it really well. Zac has a little bit of both of those. So they kind of fit what we have been.’’
Indeed, the thought has been since the moment he was drafted that Prosise could slide right into an immediate role as a third-down back, a spot filled last year primarily by Fred Jackson, with Collins competing/complementing Rawls and/or Michael as early-down backs.
What will be a key is seeing how each of the new backs fits in with the Seahawks’ zone blocking scheme, which requires vision and patience and the ability to cut quickly into open lanes, particularly on the back side.
“There’s a system in place here and a way it’s got to be read,’’ Cable said.
Mastering that system has been regarded as a reason it took Michael a while (and basically, being waived and then returning) before making much of an impact, while Rawls’ quick fit was a key to his immediate success.
Mastering the subtleties of the system may be particularly key for Collins, given his projected role as an early-down back. Collins said after the draft that Arkansas used a similar system and he was confident the transition would be fairly seamless.
“It’s definitely similar and I feel good about that,’’ Collins said.
There’s a long way to go. But Cable comments reiterate the thought that the running back competition could be as intriguing as any other position during training camp.