One of the first things you notice about Christine Michael: His handshake.
It’s a stop-you-midsentence-to-see-if-your-hand-is-still-there handshake, and it leaves you wondering: Is he shaking yourhandor trying to vaporize it? It’s a fitting introduction for a player whose running style draws similar reactions.
“He’s 100 percent a man,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “That’s a full-grown man right there.”
Michael’s been the talk of the preseason, both locally and nationally, because when he’s played, he’s showed the potential to be a featured back. But there’s more to the position than raw ability, and it’s on those grounds that coach Pete Carroll throws up caution signs.
“He has made a really flashy first impression, and we are really excited about it,” Carroll said. “But he doesn’t have the whole thing yet. He’s got a lot of work to do, and he’s not always reading things properly. But he surely shows us the suddenness that makes you feel like he’s going to bust something.”
Take Thursday’s exhibition finale against Oakland. The Raiders corralled Michael for just 15 yards on 13 carries. It wasn’t his fault alone – the backup offensive line struggled most of the night – but Michael didn’t help his cause.
“It didn’t feel like he was roaring up in there,” Carroll said. “It felt like he was looking and trying to get some cutbacks and was kind of impatient with his reads.”
He also did this: He rumbled for 21 yards after catching a screen pass, but the highlight came at the end of the run. He zeroed in on Oakland safety Shelton Johnson in the open field, lowered his shoulder and sent Johnson’s helmet flying on impact.
It’s that cutthroat combination of speed and power that leaves people gushing, but those traits come with an asterisk.
He’s behind as a pass blocker and pass catcher, something Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin do better. He also needs to read what’s happening at the line of scrimmage better when he carries the ball.
The flash is there, but if he doesn’t become more reliable, his playing time this year could be limited.