Thomas Rawls exploded onto the scene during the 2015 season. He was running unlike any rookie the Seahawks seen for a long time. During the 2016 season, Rawls was struggling to get on the field. When he was on the field, he was not running like the year prior. So what will his role be in 2017 with Eddie Lacy now in the fold?
After Marshawn Lynch struggled with injuries in 2015, Rawls went ahead and put up Beast Mode like numbers. Filling in for Lynch after he suffered an injury, Rawls rushed for 104 yards in a game. Later in the season, he rushed for a Seahawks rookie record for most yards in a game with 204 yards. Finishing the year with 830 yards and 5.6 yards per carry, Rawls was supposed to give the Seahawks another weapon out of the backfield.
After Lynch retired in the offseason, Rawls was going to have an expanded role in 2016 while splitting carries with Christine Michael. But Rawls had issues with injuries. Only playing in 9 games, he rushed for only 349 yards and a poor 3.2 yards per carry. This created the question, what will his role be in 2017.
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The Seahawks made running back a priority this offseason, looking at most top running backs on the free agent market. Seattle would decide that Eddie Lacy would be their best option. Lacy will more than likely be the featured back for the Seahawks. But with weight and conditioning issues, Pete Carroll will want to keep Lacy fresh for the second half, creating carries for Rawls.
Rawls is a different runner than Lacy. At 5’9 and 215 pounds, Rawls has the size of a prototypical power back. He can run between the tackles, but he canalso bounce it to the perimeter if necessary. He uses a strong lower half to explode up the field to blow past defenders. Some will say he is quicker than fast, but he can get to a top speed where few can catch him.
Compare this to Lacy, who uses his bowling ball body to run over defenders and grind out extra yards. Rawls will be a good change of pace back for the Seahawks, which will give him some extra carries. He may also see times where he replaces Lacy for a full series to keep him rested.
Rawls will be coming into training camp healthier than he was last year. He did miss time in 2016 due to a broken fibula and a leg contusion, but he was able to recover and finish the year. He will be able to train all summer, which will help him show up to camp healthy and motivated.
With Lacy in the fold, Rawls will not be the featured back for Seattle. The Seahawks will likely have Rawls come in for 3rd and medium situations, or to spell Lacy for a couple of snaps. But if Lacy’s weight and conditioning become an issue, he could jump into the starter role. 2017 can be a wild year for Rawls, but hopefully he can return to his 2015 form.