Seahawks 2010 Roster Analysis: RBs

Seahawks 2010 Roster Analysis: RBs

In his second season out of Cal, Seahawks running back Justin Forsett showed that he can be more than just a third-down back in the NFL.

#22 - Julius Jones
Age: 28
Signed through: 2011
2010 salary: $2.45M
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $3.67M

For the second straight season, Jones led the Seahawks in rushing, gaining 663 yards on 177 carries (3.7 avg) and scoring two of the Seahawks' seven rushing touchdowns. Jones went over 100 yards rushing once (in the season-opener), and added 35 receptions for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns out of the backfield. Jones injured his lung picking up a blitzing Karlos Dansby in the first quarter of Seattle's Week 10 game against the Arizona Cardinals, which kept him out of the following two games.

#20 – Justin Forsett
Age: 24
Signed through: 2011
2010 salary: $475,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $475,000

Forsett led the Seahawks in combined yards in 2009, gaining 1,493 yards as a runner, receiver, and return man. Forsett had a pair of 100-yard games in relief of an injured Jones, including a career-high 130 yards and two touchdowns during Seattle's road win over the St. Louis Rams. Working as a third-down back throughout the season, Forsett caught 41 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. 

#40 – Louis Rankin
Age: 24
Signed through: 2010
2010 salary: $470,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $470,000

After being let go by the Oakland Raiders, the Seahawks added the former University of Washington standout to their practice squad at the end of September, and activated him a month later after ending the Edgerrin James era in Seattle. In the 10 games Rankin was on the active roster, he only saw playing time in 5, gaining 36 yards on 8 carries and catching 5 passes for 33 yards. Rankin also averaged 22.8 yards per kick return and assisted on a special teams tackle.

#39 – Xavier Omon
Age: 24
Signed through: 2010
2010 salary: $470,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $470,000

A sixth-round pick of Northwest Missouri State by the Buffalo Bills in 2008, the Seahawks signed Omon to the practice squad in Week 11. Omon had 22 yards rushing and a 26-yard kick return for the Bills this season, after leading them in rushing during the pre-season. At 5-11 and 220 pounds, Omon is bigger than the rest of the running backs on the ‘Hawks roster.

Fullbacks

#33 – Justin Griffith
Age: 29
Signed through: Unrestricted Free Agent

Signed to a one-year contract because he fit in Greg Knapp's offensive system, Griffith helped pave the way for the NFL's 26th-ranked rush offense. Griffith himself carried the ball four times for 6 yards, and caught 19 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Griffith was slowed by a knee injury, and was released and re-signed at one point during the season to accommodate a roster shortage at another position.

#35 – Owen Schmitt
Age: 24
Signed through: 2011
2010 salary: $470,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $509,500

Schmitt's most memorable play in 2009 came when he smashed his helmet against his forehead during pre-game introductions, drawing a stream of blood down his face that would make the WWE proud. Schmitt was used primarily as a lead-blocker in short-yardage situations in 2009, adding six receptions for 21 yards and his first NFL touchdown out of the backfield. Schmitt's six special teams tackles ranked 6th on the team.

#40 – Tyler Roehl
Age: 24
Signed through: 2010
2010 salary: $320,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $320,000

Roehl tore the ACL in his left knee during a non-contact drill last April and missed the entire season.

2010 Outlook

Seattle's current group of running backs are a prime example of former general manager Tim Ruskell's flawed approach to roster building.

Instead of drafting young, hungry ball-carriers, Ruskell ignored them on draft day (Forsett, a seventh-round pick in 2008, was the only running back Ruskell drafted), bought high on Shaun Alexander ($15.1M guaranteed after his MVP season), and when that didn't work, threw more free agent dollars at Jones, T.J. Duckett, and James.

Despite a shortage of offensive play-makers, Ruskell's coup de grace may have been allowing Leonard Weaver to leave via free agency. Since Weaver wasn't deemed as good a fit for Greg Knapp's system as Griffith was, Ruskell has some plausible deniability in the matter, although re-signing Weaver wouldn't have been the first time Ruskell saddled the offensive play-caller with a running back he didn't know what to do with. (see Duckett, T.J.)

Jones started in 2009, receiving nearly 45% of the team's carries, averaging 3.7 yards per attempt for a team-high 663 yards. Forsett's primary role last season was as the third-down back, seeing action when Seattle had three or more receivers on the field (70.6% of his snaps in 2009 came with 3+ receivers on the field), usually late in the game, when the Seahawks often trailed. When Jones was injured during the second Arizona game, Forsett stepped up and topped 100 yards twice in a three-week span. This success led to an increase in his playing time in regular personnel groupings, even after Jones returned to full strength in the final month of the season.  

In many ways, Jones and Forsett are similar players.

Jones is a bit bigger, but they're both willing to fight for extra yardage, they protect the football well (1 lost fumble combined in 2009), are willing to take on opposing pass-rushers, and are solid receivers out of the backfield. Neither possess the breakaway, game-changing speed that the Seahawks are missing at the position, though, which makes upgrading the position one of the top priorities in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Even if Seattle does use one of their three picks among the first 40 selections of the NFL Draft on a running back, because there's not a lot of depth at the position on the current roster, and because 2010 will likely be an uncapped year, it's unlikely that the Seahawks will make a move with Jones, their oldest and most expensive running back, until they absolutely, positively have to do so.

Schmitt is likely the front-runner to be the starting fullback, though another player or two will be brought in to foster competition at the position.  

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.

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