How will the Seahawks split fare in a stacked backfield? – ESPN – Seattle Seahawks Blog

Brady HendersonESPNJune 26, 2023, 6:00 a.m. ET5 minutes of reading

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III rushed for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns on 228 carries last season, best among rookies in all three categories.Godofredo A. Vasquez/AP Photo

RENTON, Wash. — Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III was answering questions at the podium after an OTA practice earlier this month when Chad Morton, his position coach and the loudest instigator on Pete Carroll’s staff, chimed in from a few feet away. .

“They stole the Rookie of the Year!” Morton shouted. “It should have been you!”

Morton, of course, was referring to how voters chose New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson as the 2022 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, despite Walker out-producing him with five touchdowns and more than 100 scrimmage yards.

Hardware or not, no offensive player was more productive last season than Walker, which made it a surprise when Seattle used the 52nd overall pick on UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet as their RB2.

It was a virtual certainty that the Seahawks would draft at least one running back. Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer had just left in free agency, which meant their backfield was down to Walker and DeeJay Dallas, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. But the second round, in which Seattle drafted Walker a year ago, was earlier than usually expected.

That raised eyebrows, and the obvious question of how Seattle plans to distribute the workload. Walker is still the clear-cut RB1, but it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks drafting Charbonnet as early as they did only to give him the ball five or six times a game.

Charbonnet (6-foot-0, 214) has shown those soft hands are a factor in the passing game, but he’s also looked good running between the tackles, albeit in the non-contact environment of spring practice.

“You get that real pro feel from the guy right away,” offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said. “He’s really serious about his business, and then you notice his size and speed at running back. I know you can’t tell a whole lot about what’s going to happen when the pads go on when we’re out here right now, but you get the sense where he’s playing at a high tempo. He’s a big back, he’s got a toughness about him and he really gathers all the information and picks up the offense quickly.”

Neither Waldron nor Carroll has given any indication of what the division of labor will look like in Seattle’s hinterland; they might not even know it until the pads come on in training camp. But both have made intriguing comments about the running backs’ potential to contribute as pass-catchers.

The Seahawks have never featured their running backs in the passing game under any of the four offensive coordinators Carroll has hired in Seattle. In the past five seasons, they have ranked between 20th and 32nd in targets for running backs. But they may never have had a backfield with as many skilled pass-catchers as this one.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, seventh-round pick Kenny McIntosh was one of only two players in the FBS last year with 500 rushing and 500 receiving yards. His 504 receiving yards at Georgia were third most among running backs in the FBS. He had 43 receptions last season while Charbonnet had 37. Both could be mistaken for wide receivers with now smooth they look catching the ball.

“Yeah, they’re catchers for sure,” Carroll said. “Kenny’s a really natural athlete, you just see it in everything he does. Zach does everything well. He’s just a complete ball player. He’s already shown his understanding and his instincts around blocking in the passing game — not the physical side of that, but his assignments and his footwork and stuff like that. We’ve just got to throw them out there and start giving them the ball, see what happens and see who’s producing and all of that.

“I know [Walker] been really impressed with those guys as well, and for a guy to say something like that about his young teammates – he’s come out and been open about it – that’s a statement. So they look really good.”

Walker rushed for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns on 228 carries last season, tops among rookies in all three categories. After catching just 13 passes in 2021 at Michigan State, he finished with 27 catches for 165 yards.

That gave him 1,215 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns on 255 touches in 15 games (he missed the opener after hernia surgery and a game in December with a foot injury).

Wilson’s stat line: 1,107 yards, four touchdowns on 87 touches in 17 games.

Therefore, Walker thought he would be named OROY until the moment Wilson was announced as the winner. He actually received one more first-place vote than Wilson, but the Jets receiver received more than twice as many second-place votes. Walker called Wilson a “good player” while admitting he was “a little frustrated” by the snub.

“But you know it happens,” Walker said. “I can’t make those decisions. I just have to come out here and do my best and get better.”

While enthusing about Walker’s offseason, Carroll gave an unsolicited mention of the work he put in with his pass-catching.

“He’s worked the receivers so hard,” Carroll said. “He’s been working full speed day after day after day. His confidence, his explosiveness, his quickness, his ability to run the routes and catch the ball, he does everything. He catches punts. He catches kickoffs. He does everything he can , and he’s having fun. His attitude and spirit is just such a great compliment as well, coming off the season he had.

“I’m glad we have a lot of guys in that spot. We’re not going to overuse him in the early part of the preseason … but he’s ready to go. He’s really had as good an offseason as you could have had.”

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