Perhaps the most compelling position battle left for the Seahawks is that of starting runningback. While the team will probably share carries pretty heavily, the guy who wins the starting nod will probably touch the ball upwards of 15-20 times per game.
With two versatile backs in the running—Justin Forsett and Leon Washington—the position’s starter may be as up for grabs as it is irrelevant to the team’s ultimate success in 2010. However, as the team moves forward, each back has a chance to cement themselves as a starter, and a productive back in the NFL, all while they make very little money.
There’s no question that when healthy, Leon Washington is probably an all around better athlete. Each back catches the ball well out of the backfield, but in terms of long speed, Washington has Forsett beat by a mile.
Forsett may take the crown as the more explosive back though, as his ability to change direction and running well in space help him truly influence the running game.
We’ve seen both types of backs succeed in Alex Gibbs’ zone blocking scheme. Clinton Portis was a burner, and had two 1500 yard seasons to begin his career, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in each, before being traded to Washington for Champ Bailey, and draft picks, one of which that was used to draft Tatum Bell.
Terrell Davis, on the other hand, made his yards reading blocks and exploding in space.
Each back was enormously successful under Gibbs, and the same success can’t be expected from either Washington or Forsett, but the two offer pretty solid paradigms of the best case scenario for either back, each of which also helped the Broncos in the passing game.
That said, with two preseason games in the books, it seems prudent, albeit in a small sample, to examine what the two have done with the ball in their hands. Also somewhere in the battle is Julius Jones, though his style may not fit the new scheme as well as the other two.
Game 1: Vs. Tennessee Titans
Forsett: 7 carries, 17 yards; 1 reception, 30 yards
Jones: 5 carries, 13 yards
Carry 1: Run up the middle, O-line is stuffed, Forsett hesitates and and loses a yard.
Carry 2: Appears to be an off-tackle run, Forsett finds a lane to the outside, running underneath a good block by held by Russell Okung, and takes a line to the sideline, gaining 13 yards.
Carry 3: Forsett runs off right guard, meets several Titans defenders, finds a gap and rolls forward through it, picking up four yards.
Carry 4: Forsett starts out looking to go off right tackle, Titan defender releases from block from tight end, who was the only blocker pushed back, as Forsett dances inside, gaining two yards up the middle.
Reception 1: Forsett lines up next to Charlie Whitehurst in the Shotgun, three receivers to the right, one to the left. The receivers all run semi-vertical routes, and Whitehurst hits Forsett on a slant just past the line of scrimmage. Forsett has a lot of open field in front of him, and gains 30 yards.
Carry 5: Forsett runs a to the right, patiently waiting for a lane and finds one near the sideline, he loses his footing as he changes direction, but could have had at least eight yards, instead he settles for five.
Carry 6: Forsett runs a draw out of the shotgun, he’s swallowed up nearly as he receives the handoff, and loses five yards.
Carry 7: Forsett runs out the first half, running to the left and meeting a wall. He loses one yard.
Carry 1: Jones runs to the right, gets hit by a Titans defender a yard behind the line of scrimmage, churns his legs back to the line of scrimmage
Carry 2: Jones runs right, where there is a hole at the line of scrimmage but three Titan defenders converging, he runs into the middle of them for three yards
Carry 3: Jones runs inside of the left guard and is bounced back, the left corner is open, Jones keeps his footing, and runs straight ahead for a three yard gain.
Carry 4: Jones runs hard to the left, and straight into the defense. The offensive line didn’t get much push, but Jones didn’t read more promising lanes, and gained a yard.
Carry 5: Jones runs a draw play, the defense bites, and Jones runs hard up the middle for a gain of five.
Game 1 Edge: Forsett. Jones is really going to struggle in such a devout ZBS because he isn’t patient. Forsett is patient, and will rip off big gains when they are available.
Game 2: Vs. Green Bay Packers
Washington: 4 carries, 19 yards; 1 reception, 6 yards
Forsett: 5 carries, 13 yards
Jones: 5 carries, 14 yards, 2 receptions, 12 yards
Carry 1: Washington starts right and makes a quick cut inside, an arm tackle trips him up as he reaches speed, but had he broken the tackle, another cut and he’d have had 15 yards, instead he gains four.
Carry 2: Washington starts left, the offensive line clears to the left, Washington recognizes it, cuts inside, and runs through a seem where the left tackle started, and is fast enough to take it for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Carry 3: Washington runs to the right, and is tripped up just past the line of scrimmage. There appears to be a lane on his left that his misdirection style could have taken him through. He gains two yards
Carry 4: Washington runs through a lane to the right, the Packer end releases and tackles Washington, however the play was well read by the Packers defense, and the Washington gains the same two yards he would have likely gained despite the releasing end.
BONUS Carry 5 (Penalty): Washington runs to the left and cuts across the middle as the defense over pursues, and gains about nine yards. The play is called back on a holding call on Quinton Ganther, whose block may have sprung Washington.
Reception 1: The Seahawks run a screen out of the shotgun, Washington sneaks past first level defenders and catches the ball in open field, there were no blockers downfield but he gains six yards.
Carry 1: Forsett gets a toss to the left. Facing immediate penetration Forsett dodges one defender in the backfield and changes directions to the left side, gaining a yard.
Carry 2: Forsett runs to the right, where Seahawks are making second level blocks, but the play is well read and the Packers stop Forsett after a two yard gain.
Carry 3: Forsett runs to the right, Mansfield Wrotto falls down trying to chop block the Packers end, who cuts across the line of scrimmage and tackles Forsett from the side after a one yard gain.
Carry 4: Forsett runs a toss to the right, nine Packers converge on the sidelines and Forsett has no room to run, and runs for no gain.
Carry 5: Draw play on 3rd and 22, defense bites, Forsett runs straight forward and four yards past the line of scrimmage reads his second level blocks and goes outside, gaining nine yards total.
Carry 1: Jones runs to the right, which is walled off. Jones runs straight into the defense for a two yard loss.
Carry 2: Jones makes a quick cut, dodging a defender, and runs right. He reads a hole that closes as he reaches it, and gains six yards.
Reception 1: Screen play, Jones dodges a defender and cuts outside, he hurdles another and gains 10 yards.
Carry 3: Jones runs left, cuts inside, lowers his head five yards from the goal line, which brings his momentum to the ground and gains three yards.
Carry 4: Draw play, Packers ends penetrate and their interior line spreads, Jones gains five yards running hard up the middle.
Carry 5: Jones runs right, the Packers defense surrounds him, and he gains one yard.
Reception 2: After dropping a screen pass that could have been a five yard gain, Jones’ route takes him past the line of scrimmage by two yards where he sits, catches a pass, and is tackled immediately for a two yard gain.
Game 2 Edge: Leon Washington. The team doesn’t seem to run many traditional zone-blocking plays for Washington, and less for Jones, but Washington is successful when they do. Forsett runs nearly exclusively zone-blocking plays and looked good, but was outperformed by Washington. Jones still isn’t patient, but runs very hard, though his mental lapses will ultimately make him unproductive.