We’ll continue the countdown with what is one of the most-asked questions about this season — how many carries will Christine Michael get this season?
It’s a topic that has a couple of different components — specifically, how much can the Seahawks still lean on Marshawn Lynch? And is Michael ready for a bigger role if the team needs it?
I wrote in April about what a big off-season this would be for Michael, who is entering his second year with the Seahawks after being the team’s first pick in the 2013 draft (in the second round).
So far, so good on that front as Michael (above in a photo from last season) drew consistent praise from the coaches during the spring for his conditioning, increased knowledge of the playbook, better pass blocking and overall maturity.
Former Seahawk Michael Robinson had some interesting comments on Michael when he spoke to local reports last month, saying that Michael needed a year to grow up overall, and to specifically become a better pass blocker.
“In this league, defenses are too good, coaches are too smart, for you to be able to be a one-trick pony,” Robinson said.
Michael still has some proving to do on the field — which isn’t to say there is any doubt about what he can do, just that you don’t start planning to take carries away from Marshawn Lynch until you know for sure what you have.
Michael, though, figures to get a lot of work in the preseason to show he’s ready as coach Pete Carroll has already said not to expect to see much of Lynch on the field until the regular season. That means to also expect a lot of Robert Turbin, Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware, as well (and it’s probably hasty to completely discount Turbin in this conversation — recall how enthusiastic Carroll was about his play in the spring, noting that Turbin had battled a knee issue last season that has since been repaired).
Michael proving he’s ready is one part of the equation.
The other is Lynch.
At the moment, it’s probably not worth worrying too much about any potential contract holdout. It’s possible he does — no one on his side is saying anything right now — and it’s hard to know if the Seahawks will give him anything more (specifically, he wants some added money for this season, knowing that he might not be with the team for the final year of his deal in 2015). But it seems pretty unlikely that any of that would linger long enough to impact Lynch’s readiness for the 2014 season.
The bigger question will be whether Lynch will again play to the form of the last three years, when he averaged 300 carries as the foundation of the Seattle offense, or if he begins to show some signs of wear and tear.
Lynch turned 28 in April, and there are all kinds of studies out there about the declining production of running backs once they reach that age (here’s a good one here, and another here). Especially someone who runs as physically as Lynch does.
Eventually, those two points will merge — Michael’s readiness to take on more of a workload and either Lynch’s beginning to slow down or the team simply deciding to decrease the punishment he takes — and there will be your answer. It’s also an answer that figures to evolve and/or fluctuate throughout the season. Maybe Seattle decides to try to make sure Lynch is healthy and ready for the post-season. Recall that Lynch was at his best in the playoffs a year ago.
The guess here is that Lynch maybe gets a few less carries per game — he averaged 18.8 per game last season, so maybe that becomes 15-16 this season — but that he is still the focal part of the running attack. Figure Michael, meanwhile, to be a regular part of the offense, unlike last season when all of his 18 carries came in mop-up duty of three blowout wins.
Whether that becomes a true committee approach, or simply spreading the carries around a little bit more, may all depend on who is doing the defining.