You may have heard by now that the NFL is a passing league. Contracts for quarterbacks keep getting bigger and bigger, even for mediocre players like Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler. Meanwhile running backs are getting devalued more and more as teams move away from the traditional running attack that dominated the NFL for the last several decades.
One team that has defied this trend is the Seattle Seahawks. In a town hall meeting last month with fans, Pete Carroll said that running was his core philosophy in the game of football: he wants to control the ball and run it down their frickin throats on principle.
Seattle is well positioned to do just that as they have one of the best groups of running backs in the game. Buffallo has a great core of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. LeSean Mccoy and Darren Sproles in Philadelphia represent a deadly one-two punch as well, but the Seahawks may just be the deepest and most talented at the position.
Every Wednesday I’ll be grading Seahawks personnel groups. Last week I rated the Seahawks wide receivers, and before that it was the quarterbacks. Neither of those were particularly easy to grade, but the running backs is a relatively straight-forward matter. I’ll be using three key metrics to grade the running backs: power, elusiveness, and blocking. Let’s get started with the obvious fact that Seattle has power at running back like no other team.
Marshawn Lynch is a unique talent in the NFL. He’s a throwback to an era when running backs were asked to carry the ball (and their teams) so often that they were often the highest paid players on the roster. No other player takes the kind of physical punishment that Lynch does during the NFL season, which is why the Seahawks are careful to rest him in the spring and summer to allow his body to recover.
For his part, Beast Mode seems to absolutely revel in the brutal nature of his job. He doesn’t avoid contact. He lines up like a steam-powered locomotive, looks contact in the eye, and runs it right the hell over.
Lynch specializes at old-school power runs up the middle: 62 percent of his carries were inside in 2013, and he made good use of most of them. During the regular season Lynch tallied 397 yards after contact between the tackles: more than any other player in the NFL. Only Adrian Peterson (373) and Alfred Morris (382) even came close.
He also gets it done in the clutch: Lynch led all postseason rushers with 288 yards (over 100 more than the next guy on the list) and four touchdowns.
Although the Seahawks try to use him as a change-of-pace kind of guy, Robert Turbin is not about finesse.The best runs Turbo has shown so far have come when he lowers his shoulder and embraces contact with incoming defenders. He stands ready to step in as the power back in case anything happens to Beast Mode.