In the past, fans have accused Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of being too predictable, too bland.
But if fans saw this week’s announcement coming, they might be forced to rethink those accusations.
Speaking Wednesday night at the Seahawks’ Town Hall event, Bevell told the crowd of fans that the team would be switching to a running back “by committee” approach for the 2014 season. This, he went on, is mainly due to the fact that 2nd-year RB Christine Michael has wowed the coaching staff at OTAs with his breakaway speed. If he’s as good on the regular-season field as he is in a no-tackle practice, the Seahawks have their next pillar of the running game already in place.
Add this to the fact that Marshawn Lynch had another 300-carry season in 2013, and the coaching staff might be thinking about his workload. That doesn’t mean I expect Lynch to take a serious nosedive in production this year, but having a talent like Michael at your disposal isn’t something I see the coaching staff willing to keep on the shelf for much longer either.
Bevell also stressed the Seahawks won’t deviate from their run-first offensive mindset. They threw it 420 times last season, while going for the run 509 times. Of those 509 carries, Lynch had 301, Russell Wilson had 96, Robert Turbin had 77, and Michael had 18. While Russell Wilson may be on his way to becoming one of most complete QBs in football, the offensive philosophy Bevell had installed will never force him to put the team on his back. The run is old-school football; the bruising, battering-ram style from which the game drew its early origins. And with Lynch and now Michael to back him up, this switch makes too much sense.
But with all this talk of Christine Michael, along with the high possibility of keeping two fullbacks on the roster this year, the coaches haven’t said much about Robert Turbin. It’s possible they trade Turbin before the start of the season and roll with a backfield of Lynch, Michael, Derrick Coleman, and Spencer Ware. Rookie FB Keiro Small will have to make one hell of an impression in training camp to get beyond the practice squad in his first year. Either way, the crowded backfield and Michael’s explosiveness appears to already be making Turbin expendable. He often fell flat after paltry gains of 3-5 yards last season, and mainly served as a change-of-pace back for Lynch.
Of course, all of this could be completely irrelevant if Lynch still plays at the level he’s been playing at since he came to Seattle, and why wouldn’t he? He’s shown no signs of wearing down, regardless of the mileage on his body by now. And his salary could make him a cap casualty in 2015, which is insane to think about at this point. Seattle without Beast Mode? It seems like blasphemy just to type.
But John Schneider and Pete Carroll know how to plan for the future, and in order to maximize Lynch’s value for as long as possible, asking him to carry the rock 300+ times in a season isn’t realistic anymore – especially with the younger Michael chomping at the bit to get his chance in this league.
So by splitting carries between the two backs, you’ve got a win-win situation – you put Michael on the field now and watch your next incarnation of Beast Mode run it down their throats, and by doing that, you preserve Lynch’s legs a little longer. In an ideal world, Lynch would be signed to an extension or take a paycut before his $9M salary affects the 2015 cap, but that’s not a given right now. This is why Michael was drafted – and now it’s time for him to prove what he can do.