Changing of the guard at the Seattle Seahawks running back spot?
Is 2014 the year Marshawn Lynch becomes “just a guy”?
The Seattle Seahawks’ rushing attack has been a beastly affair, of recent. How much longer can the Seahawks expect to remain a top-producing rushing offense as a mostly one-man operation?
The Seattle Seahawks’ offense goes through running back Marshawn Lynch. A rarity it today’s pass-happy NFL, the Seahawks, by default of design and available talent, are as much of a run-first, pass second offensive attack as the NFL is likely to see. In fact, according to fftoday.com, the Seahawks led the NFL in run/pass ratio in 2013 with a 55 percent run and 45 percent pass ratio — just barely edging out the San Francisco 49ers in that category.
What can the Seahawks expect going forward? Of all NFL positions, running back is the position most usually considered to be a young-man’s place. The age of 30 — with only few exceptions — is the end of the line for a starting or prominent running back. Many lose their top effectiveness years before landing on the wrong side of 30.
Lynch, Seattle’s running beast extraordinaire, concluded another remarkable season in 2013 at the age of 27. He turns 28 this month. It’s not the end of the line for Lynch, who will be less than two years from the running back’s old man status when he next plays in a game that counts, but it’s getting close.
The Seahawks are aware of the short shelf life of their battering ram and have endeavored to re-supply the position with younger talent. “Endeavored” is the key word, as the Seahawks have, as a matter of routine, relied upon Lynch as the undisputed lead back of their NFL-leading rushing attempts. While many other NFL teams have sought to minimize their exposure at the running back position by favoring a running-back-by-committee approach, the Seahawks have remained old school.
Give it to Lynch. We’ll worry about the consequences later.
Those consequences could appear in the 2014 season.
The Seattle Seahawks invested their top 2013 draft choice (second round) in running back Christine Michael. For their draft investment, they received 18 rushing attempts for 79 yards. That’s a half-game for Lynch. Michael could not rise above the third-string role behind Lynch and fellow running back Robert Turbin. He only played in four games, total.
So, at least he’s fresh. Whether he is capable of taking over the role in the near or not-so-far-off future remains to be seen. His 4.4 yards per carry are nothing to scoff at.
The Seahawks employed three fullback-type running backs last year. The combined rushing efforts of those three men: Spencer Ware, Michael Robinson and Derrick Coleman, netted a total of less than 15 rush yards. The Seahawks clearly do not waste carries on fullbacks. Rushing attempts are by the pure running backs only, apart from scrambles and the odd end-around gambit.
As it stands now, the only likely relief for the about-to-be-too-old Lynch will come from the thus-far unimpressive Turbin. Now in his third year, Turbin has logged 157 carries for 618 yards, a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. Turbin produced only 264 yards in 2013, which reflects a decrease in output from his rookie campaign. Not the right kind of trend for Seahawks fans that may be wondering if Turbin can become the next Lynch.
Of course, the Seahawks may opt to re-stock the position in the NFL draft. It is, as noted, a young man’s position. They may have short shelf-lives, but running backs are often easier to integrate into offenses than virtually any other offensive position.
Unless, of course, you’re Christine Michael or Robert Turbin. The Seahawks will certainly let Turbin and Michael try to shine in the offseason and preseason. Despite being a high draft pick, Michael can likely expect to see new competition for the last running back spot on the regular season roster in the form of one or more rookies.
Unless the Seahawks opt to select a running back high in the draft, the changing of the guard at the running back spot appears to be a future move, not the current plan. The job is still Lynch’s to lose. Unfortunately, Lynch is now at the age where productivity can fall off quickly, a la latter-day Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson. Seahawk fans will recall both players were the kings of their times, until suddenly they weren’t.
Is 2014 the year Marshawn Lynch becomes “just a guy”? Better hope not. The contenders are unproven.
An earlier version of this article appeared on Oregon Sports News.
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