2015 SEASON REVIEW – RB’s and FB’s Edition
Both the Runningback and Fullback situations in 2015 were defined primarily by health for the Seattle Seahawks. Health issues created a revolving cast of backs that produced some big surprises, some disappointments, and for sure some very mixed results all season long. Despite being very different roles on the team, these two positions had rather similar stories in 2015.
Marshawn Lynch started the year as the workhorse of the Seattle Offense once again, especially with the releases of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael (we’ll get back to him later). As Seahawks fans we were all very comfortable with that. However, awkward usage patterns and clear injury had Beastmode off to a slow start. Lynch’s 417 yards on the season were the lowest of his career, his 7 games played were the lowest of his career, and his 3.8 yards per carry was his lowest mark in a full season as a Seahawk. No matter how you chop it up, this was a down year. It shouldn’t have been especially surprising though, seeing as he was coming off of one of the most productive 4 year runs by an RB in recent NFL history. He was a 280+ carry workhorse who was ridden into the playoffs time and again, so his body failing him was a worry many of us had but few had an answer for.
Luckily for all of us, some of the few people who did have an answer work for the Seattle Seahawks organization. Thomas Rawls came out of nowhere this year (well…Central Michigan, but that is kind of like nowhere…) to be the heir apparent at RB that fans have been on the watch for the last 2 seasons. In 13 games (7 starts), Rawls piled up 830 yards and 4 TDs with a very healthy 5.6 yards per carry. More than that, he ran through contact and bullied defenses in a way that made him an instant hit in Seattle. Throw in some ability as a receiver and enough blocking to not be a liability, and the kid is looking like the real deal. He was so much of a breakout player this year that he was making a real push for Offensive Rookie of the Year right up until he was lost for the year to an ankle injury against the Ravens. Still, if he can make a recovery and pick up where he left off, Thomas Rawls has shown the tools to be the primary back in this offense.
The rest of the RB snaps went to Fred Jackson, Christine Michael, DuJuan Harris, and Bryce Brown. Jackson is a nice veteran, with solid pass catching ability and blitz pickup. He showed this year he can be productive still with 257 receiving yards and a functional 3.8 yards per carry. Christine Michael was traded away for a late pick and after washing out with Dallas was reacquired in the middle of the season. Once reacquired, Michael ran like his NFL life depended on it, which it may well have. Michael carried much of the load with Rawls out and Lynch’s recovery up in the air late in the season, and responded by averaging almost 5 yards per carry and gaining nearly 200 yards. While nothing is certain, Michael’s response to adversity makes him interesting to watch going into next year. At this point he is at least solid depth. As for Brown and Harris, both really played at a replacement level and any shift in talent has seen Harris leave and could see Brown follow.
As for FB, though the position is not as prominent the drama certainly was. With an arrest, offseason legal issues following him this year, and up and down play on the field… Derrick Coleman may have worked himself out of a job in Seattle. He really looks easy to replace right now, and I cannot see coaches leaving his position unchallenged for next year. He played a lot on special teams, but as a starting FB his 9 touches and mediocre blocking just don’t give him a big vote of confidence. As for the other FB, Will Tukuafu, he has probably earned himself a roster spot by showing he can play Offense, Defense, and Special Teams, however he hasn’t shown he can start at FB in the NFL. When he carries the ball, he looks like a lineman. When he blocks, he also looks like a lineman. This position is kind of a mess, but at least it is a mess that only sees a fraction of the snaps every game. 2015 left me wondering if Rob could un-retire.
GRADE – INCOMPLETE
I hate to do this, but with all the injuries and question marks it was just about impossible to give this position group a grade. The emergence of Thomas Rawls as a potential RB of the future is in a way overshadowed by Marshawn Lynch’s retirement. Coleman found himself in trouble with the law as well as hurt, but nobody has really stepped up to take his job either. Uncertainty lies ahead in the offseason, but that uncertainty could see itself manifest into a very bright future.