One week left in the preseason and Pete Carroll still doesn’t have an answer for Seattle’s stumbling run game.
Carroll doesn’t need one back to emerge from his group of three competing for playing time. He just wants to see something more than a couple of yards at a time.
“I don’t think we’ve had enough success running the football to allow the guys to distinguish themselves,” Carroll said on Monday. “They’ve all run hard and I’ve looked at all of their runs in groups to make sure I can see them and styles of runs to see if there’s anything going there and right now all these guys are battling.”
The Seahawks’ coach said all three of his running backs – Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and Leon Washington – will get playing time on Thursday night when Seattle closes out the preseason at Oakland.
So far, none of the three have shown enough in the preseason to claim the job outright. Carroll said the job won’t revolve around just one back when the season starts, but he wants to see improvement from the paltry statistics posted so far.
In three games, the Seahawks are averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Only Washington is averaging more than 3 yards, but he has just 10 carries.
Forsett, the 5-foot-8 speedster, has received the most work of all three, getting 18 carries. Carroll said the dimension Forsett brings as a pass catcher, especially in third down situations, perhaps gives him a nudge ahead of the other two.
“He’s a good player for us there and maybe he has a little bit more to offer there at this point from what we’ve seen. He has an edge on that aspect,” Carroll said. “But that doesn’t mean he’s the third down back and the other two guys are the first and second down guys. I don’t see it that way.”
Last season, Forsett was Seattle’s second-leading rusher with 545 yards. While the total wasn’t very significant, it was his 5.2 yards per carry that grabbed attention.
Washington showed his speed in Seattle’s second preseason game, bursting through the line for an 11-yard touchdown run that for the moment ended questions that lingered following his gruesome broken leg last year with the New York Jets.
Julius Jones, the Seahawks’ leading rusher the past two seasons, might be the odd man out, based on opportunity so far. Jones has received just 12 carries this preseason and his longest run is 6 yards.
In Seattle’s second preseason game against Green Bay, Jones didn’t play until the second half. Against Minnesota on Saturday, Jones carried just twice, while Forsett and Washington both got a half-dozen attempts.
Even running back-fullback Quinton Ganther has gotten more carries than Jones.
“We’re going to go with the guys who are giving us the most juice and making it happen and doing well,” Carroll said. “It gets frustrating sometimes for those guys, I’ve been through that before, but I don’t really worry about that. I want them hungry to get out there and fighting for their snaps.”
Carroll said he’s still hopeful injured left tackle Russell Okung will be back to help the run game for the season opener. Okung, the No. 6 pick in April’s draft and the heir to Walter Jones at left tackle for the Seahawks, suffered a high right ankle sprain on the first play of Seattle’s second preseason game.
Okung watched practice on Monday, but Carroll said it would be a “pretty special recovery” if he’s ready to go against San Francisco on Sept. 12.