The biggest newsmaker at the running back position for the Seahawks this off-season was LenDale White.
Acquired along with defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and a swap of picks in the 4th and 6th rounds, from the Tennessee Titans on the third day of the 2010 NFL Draft of the draft, White was reunited with his college coach, Pete Carroll, and appeared slimmed down and ready to get his career back on track. However, White reportedly gave less than stellar effort during the “Organized Team Activity” sessions and mini-camps, and was released on May 28.
Since he was acquired for virtually nothing thanks to a looming four-game suspension for marijuana, some speculate that Carroll knew White would treat his new opportunity like an extension of his scholarship at ‘SC, and could therefore make an example of him, helping Carroll shed his (overly) player-friendly image.
With White out of the picture, Seattle’s running back situation is similar to how it was when the 2009 season ended.
Julius Jones remains at the top of the depth chart, and would mostly be the starter if the ‘Hawks had a game this Sunday. Jones is followed by Justin Forsett, whose experience in a ZBS-based running scheme could make for an interesting training camp battle for the starting job.
Forsett showed he had the capability to handle a larger workload when Jones was injured last season, rushing for 100+ yards twice in a three-week span. Both are about equal in terms of receiving and blitz pick-up, and neither possess the speed to be a consistent “home run hitter” in the running game. This deficiency explains why the Seahawks were linked to C.J. Spiller so frequently in the lead-up to the 2010 NFL Draft, and why running back remains a position the club must address in future drafts.
To his credit, Forsett is working on improving his speed by working with 4-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson this off-season.
Leon Washington, a 2008 Pro Bowl return specialist, was acquired from the New York Jets on the third day of the draft. Washington is coming off a gruesome leg fracture, and has not been able to take part in the team drills. If healthy, which he is expected to be for the start of the regular season, Washington gives the Seahawks a dynamic running and receiving threat, and will also provide a much needed boost to the team’s moribund kick and punt return game.
Quinton Ganther was signed to a one-year contract in the off-season. The former Utah standout has a lengthy history with running backs coach Sherman Smith, and is an excellent special teams player. A bigger back than Jones, Forsett, or Washington, Ganther can be used as a runner or blocker, and his versatility could go a long ways towards earning a roster spot.
Former University of Washington standout Louis Rankin got very little opportunity to display his talents late last season, and will need to excel on special teams and as a return man to crack the 53-man roster.
Despite moving to an offense that promises to feature more two tight-end sets, the Seahawks are expected to keep at least one true fullback. This means third-year cult hero Owen Schmitt may finally get his moment in the spotlight. Stuck behind Leonard Weaver as a rookie, and behind veteran Justin Griffith, former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s blocking binky, Schmitt hasn’t had much opportunity to do what he does best: Block and catch the occasional pass.
Ryan Powdrell, another former Trojan, will need an injury to Schmitt and Ganther to fill the fullback role.