Carson And Hyde – The New Monster In The Seattle Seahawks Backfield

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Even in the middle of a global pandemic, news in the NFL moves pretty fast. In less that a week’s time, the Seattle Seahawks extended an offer to free-agent running back Devonta Freeman, had that offer rejected, extended a similar (if not identical) offer to a different free-agent running back, Carlos Hyde, and signed him to the team.

It was a few frenzied days for the Seattle backfield, but there’s smart thinking behind these decisions.

As I’m sure most Seahawks fans recall, the 2019 season ended with a heartbreaking succession of injuries across the roster, but the running backs were hit particularly hard with both our starter and primary backup sidelined with season-ending injuries.

Chris Carson endured a hip injury against the Cardinals in Week 16 and Rashaad Penny suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 against the Rams. In response, the Hawks promoted Travis Homer from special teams to a starting role and signed two former Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, to round out the playoff-bound backfield.

But that was 2019, and we’re all living in 2020.

Throughout the offseason, both Carson and Penny have been rehabilitating their bodies in preparation for the upcoming season, with Head Coach Pete Carroll, indicating that Carson is on track to make his return by game time.

“There’s not a whole lot Chris can do, so he hasn’t done many things wrong. It’s an injury that takes time. It’s serious because it’s a hip, but it’s not serious in that we know what’s going to happen. It’s not displaced or any of that kind of stuff. We just need to wait it out, which is really hard for Chris because he’s a workout maniac and loves to be in the weight room and all that. He’s doing the best he can and he’s done everything he can possibly do and we’re just hoping he just doesn’t overdo it, so we’re trying to monitor that. But we’re counting on a full recovery. He should be ready to go.”

However, according to Seahawks Insider Corbin Smith, Penny may be a tad further behind schedule.

“As Penny continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered last December, there’s a growing concern within the organization that he won’t be ready to return for the start of the regular season, creating a need for additional running back help.”

And that brings us to Carlos Hyde.

Originally drafted by the nefarious San Francisco 49ers, Hyde is about to play for his fifth team in seven seasons. Surprisingly though, he’s coming off his best season yet (to be fair, 2017 was very good too), clearing 1,000 yards for the first time on 245 carries. As a point of comparison, Carson put up 1,230 yards on 278 attempts last season. So, Hyde is a touch behind Carson in volume, but by a shockingly small margin given his limited value on the open market. His contact is for 1-year and worth up to $4 million.

With the Seahawks, Hyde will cede to Carson as the clear leader of the team’s rushing attack and play the role of an experienced and dependable backup. I also anticipate Hyde spelling Carson in heavy-use games.

Assuming Penny does return at some point, an additional hierarchy shakeup could take place, but that will depend on how well Carson and Hyde are playing off each other. If they look like the two-headed monster we all hope for, Penny may be relegated to the bench. Alternatively, if all three backs are healthy and playing well, don’t be surprised to see one of them traded before the deadline.

To me, the Hyde signing answers a few lingering questions about the team’s 2020 roster:

1. The rumors that Lynch could make another return to the team have been all but squashed, barring an injury. And this one hurts too, because when he returned last year, he brought back a flood of fun, Skittles-infused memories of Beastmode. He wasn’t the same player he was just a few years before, but his flying touchdown on the goal line was more than enough to satisfy the hungry 12s around the PNW.

2. Homer will likely return to an exclusively special team role. This one kinda stinks, because he brought a nice spark of energy to the offense last year when called upon, but he obviously wasn’t everything the team needed. But last year was his rookie year, so don’t be surprised if he reemerges at some point to stake a claim on some portion of the Hawks backfield.

3. Deejay Dallas, the Hawks’ fourth-round draft pick, will have a role for the upcoming season that is murkier than ever. On the one hand, it’s easy to see him filling in behind Carson and Hyde (and maybe a healthy Penny), and serving as an occasionally used backup this year before transitioning to a larger role in 2021. On the other hand, Dallas has a lot of potential, and given a shot to compete, he could make the leap this year as our explosive, change-of-pace running back. Don’t be surprised if you see his name called more frequently as the season rolls along.

Personally, I was saddened when I first saw the Freeman offer and rejection. He hadn’t been a very effective runner for the Atlanta Falcons over the last few seasons, but it appeared to be more of a team chemistry issue than anything else. He was only a few years removed from back-to-back Pro-Bowl, 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown seasons, so I still saw a lot of potential if he could land on a team that knew how to use him.

Also, I didn’t know the Hawks were looking at Hyde.

By comparing their careers, Hyde has been more effective under tougher circumstances; totaling more yards on more carries with the exact same number of touchdowns. Although, Freeman has been significantly more successful as a pass-catching weapon.

Based on how the season collapsed last year, what the Seahawks need for 2020 is reliability. And that’s the real difference between Hyde and Freeman to me. Freeman might have the higher ceiling, but Hyde has a much higher floor, especially given his recent play.

I’m excited to see Hyde on the Hawks, providing a solid backstop behind Carson and the gang. It’s too soon to know what kind of split these two might settle into, but in a run-first offense, it’s nice to feel confident about all your runners.

Go Hawks!

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About Author

Jon Aiken

Born and raised in Seattle, Jon developed a deep love for the Mariners and Seahawks and continues to watch, analyze, and discuss them on a daily basis. As a professional advertising copywriter, the blending of these two loves (sports/words) seemed like a natural creative evolution. He recently moved south to Tacoma, fully embracing his new hometeam, the Rainers.

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