Marshawn Lynch is the Seahawks’ starting running back, when available. There is literally no controversy about this. He was the best running back in the NFL in the second half last season, just signed a 4 year contract, is only 26 years old (which is still not young in running back years, but not old either) and has the ability to make defenders look absolutely lost. However, considering his DUI arrest a couple weeks back, and his litany of past legal troubles (my favorite of which has him stealing $20 from a Buffalo police officer’s wife in 2009 at a TGI Fridays), its very possible that Roger Goodell suspends him for the first few games of the season. Goodell, as illustrated by the Saints situation, is no stranger to possibly overreacting and punishing people more than necessary. I’m sure Lynch would learn a the same lesson forfeiting a couple of game checks that he could sitting on the sideline, and there certainly is no evidence of a bad culture in the Seahawks locker room for trouble with the law. Well, at least, no more of one that seems to exist in every other NFL locker room (the ‘Hawks aren’t the Lions or anything). But Goodell laying the veritable hammer down (or as he calls it, protecting the shield) could happen, so we have to look to the other running backs on the depth chart to see what this would leave the Seahawks with in the event of a league induced Marshawn absence.
Robert Turbin: According to an ESPN Insider piece, Turbin has been making strides in camp and it has been impressing assistant Head Coach Tom Cable. The article continues to say that “the expectation is that Turbin will have a fairly extensive role whether Lynch is suspended or not,” which obviously means that if Lynch is gone that Turbin will move to number 1 on the depth chart. We can talk about Turbin’s size all day, so we’ll just get it out of the way in a sentence or two; Robert Turbin is one of the most massive people that ever lived on this planet. Its obvious to see, with Lynch and now him, that Pete Carroll has a “type” when it comes to selecting running backs. And with the Seahawks having Turbin take a bigger role than, say, Justin Forsett had last year; that’s a clear indicator that they like what they see in his ability to spell Lynch effectively. And if Lynch has to sit out, logic dictates that Turbin steps in to take Lynch’s snaps.
Leon Washington: In Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com‘s look at running backs, Washington is mentioned as the main reason that Forsett was able to walk from Seattle without a fight. According to the article, when Washington was acquired, the Seahawks a player who “..does the same things as Forsett – return kickoffs and punts and serve as the counterpunch runner to Lynch.” If Lynch were unavailable for a few games, it would be hard to imagine that his role would be necessarily different. His usage, however, might expand, as he becomes the #2 back on the depth chart in that scenario, and Turbin would obviously need to rest from time to time.
Michael Robinson: Coming off a Pro-Bowl season at fullback, Robinson is seen on the Seahawks as a guy who throws good, hard blocks and helps Lynch get to the next level more often than not. If its Turbin behind him instead of Lynch, I would assume that he does the exact same thing. Seeing as how Robinson had a total of four carries last season (to couple with his nine receptions), you can’t imagine that he would see his role expanded much at all if Lynch is unavailable. If Turbin struggles, as rookies are apt to do, Robinson might see a short-yardage carry or two given his way. But Robinson isn’t going to see his role change much if at all in the event of a Lynch suspension.
The Seahawks had four running backs on the roster last season, which brings us to the end of the speculation about the guys who we know are going to be in the mix for our backfield. There are, however, a few guys who are competing for a 5th RB spot. And the Seahawks did carry 5 in 2010, so speculation on these guys isn’t useless.
Kregg Lumpkin: Another bigger-style back, Lumpkin is coming off his highest usage year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had 31 carries and 41 receptions in 16 games, totaling near 400 yards. Lumpkin has only played one full season his four years in the league, and can’t be seen as anything more than a depth move. If Lumpkin makes the team, its because he is a bigger back with the most experience, and Carroll will cement that outside of Washington, that’s the type of back that he wants on the team.
Tyrell Sutton: A back that’s Washington’s height (though a little stronger), Sutton is a guy that didn’t play in an active roster last year, and the two years prior never totaled more than 150 all-purpose yards in two seasons with the Panthers. Doesn’t seem like anything more than a back brought in for veteran depth, and to see if he can take a practice squad spot for injury reassurance.
Vai Taua: A smaller style RB, he spent his rookie season on the practice squad (which was last year). Other than this highlight of him walking through a massive hole in a pre-season game, and his mysterious four-game suspension from the team, nothing much has been heard or said about Taua. Taua isn’t even on the current Seahawks roster, he’s only being mentioned because he was reported to have been signed in January. Practice squad fodder at best, with Sutton possibly taking his spot there if he proves to be better reassurance in case of injury.
So, what we have in the above list is 3 players that could conceivably hold down the fort, and 3 more that could provide some injury depth, but the options as far as that depth is concerned is much more positive than it was last year. Everyone remembers (really, tries their hardest to forget) last year’s Cleveland debacle; without Lynch, the ground game was stagnant. Forsett and Washington alone were clearly not going to make up for an absence of Lynch’s playmaking ability, which is why Forsett is no longer with the team and the Seahawks have made the moves they did to vastly improve the depth. Instead of putting “DON’T GET HURT OR IN TROUBLE OR WE’RE SCREWED” pressure on Beast Mode this year, we now have a “We’re our best with you starting, but we could more than likely get by for a game or two without you. Still, don’t get hurt or in trouble” attitude with him now. This, is not a bad problem to have.