The 7th Most Important Seahawks Player After Russell Wilson: Chris Carson

Here is the Home Page for this series of posts.

You can’t really have this list for the Seahawks without throwing a running back on there. I mean, we like to run! It’s what we gotta do!

I’ll be really interested in how this season goes with respect to our running back rotation. Chris Carson is still the unquestioned #1 back – at least in my mind – but by all accounts Rashaad Penny will be more than just a traditional #2.

Penny was a disappointment in so many ways during his rookie season, not the least of which because he was selected in the first round of the draft, when most people would argue against taking a running back earlier than the 4th round. Teams can and do find great running backs all up and down the draft (Carson himself was a 7th round pick), so it seems silly to waste a first rounder when there might be a more capable starter or prospect on the board.

Then, Penny injured his hand and missed a bunch of the pre-season. Then, he didn’t really play all that well when he got in games, finishing third on the team in rushing behind veteran Mike Davis (less than 50 yards ahead of our quarterback). Penny had 2 rushing TDs and only one 100-yard game. He did flash his big-play potential a small handful of times, but clearly that’s not what you expect from a running back you deem to be good enough to be selected in the first round. When it came out recently that Penny was out of shape, and didn’t really take things all that seriously in his first year in the pros, that was sort of the final nail in the coffin. He’s largely been written off as a bust really before his career has even gotten started.

To his credit, he appears to have rededicated himself. Now that he knows what it takes, he’s eating better and working smarter. Whether that translates to increased production on the field is something we’ll have to wait to see. Either way, with Davis now playing for the Bears, there’s no one standing in his way from increased playing time.

This is a post about Carson, and I’ve spent most of the time talking about his backup; let’s fix that.

The hand injury, being a rookie, being out of shape, none of it really would’ve mattered because the main reason why Penny didn’t play as much as we expected is because Carson was clearly the best running back on this team. Indeed, I would argue he was one of the most dynamic and impactful running backs in the league. His knock has always been – dating back to his college days – staying healthy.

Carson, unfortunately, saw his rookie year in 2017 cut short due to injury, and the team ultimately never recovered. With such a nadir, the Seahawks almost had no choice but to target the running back position high in last year’s draft, if for nothing else than to reasonably ensure we’d have healthy bodies available. Thankfully, we saw a MOSTLY healthy season out of Carson, and reaped the benefits accordingly. 1,151 yards, 4.7 yards per carry average, and 9 TDs in 14 games. If you offered me that right now for 2019, I’d gladly accept. I feel like his ceiling COULD be higher, but ultimately I don’t think I’ll ever trust him to be healthy for a full 16-game season (and, for that reason, he’d be the last person I’d ever give a second contract to).

I also don’t believe the Seahawks are actively looking to take his ceiling much higher than what he did in 2018. Oh sure, they’d gladly have him healthy for the full slate, but if both he and Penny avoid injury, I really do see 2019 as being a 50/50 timeshare.

So, why didn’t I list both of these guys in the subject of this post? Because when it’s all said and done, whereas I have more trust in Penny staying healthy, I have more trust in Carson as an every-down back WHEN he’s healthy, and I have more belief in his big-play ability. When he’s on the field and doing his thing, this offense is completely energized in a way that the other running backs couldn’t possibly approach. If we’re talking about a Seahawks team that’s going to legitimately contend for a Super Bowl in 2019, we’re talking about a team with an MVP quarterback, with some emerging stars coming from out of nowhere on defense … and Chris Carson doing his best Beastmode impression.

Getting through the 2018 season without a huge injury to rehab might be the best thing for 2019 Chris Carson’s chances. Here’s hoping that he was able to build himself up to endure for the long haul.

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