Thomas Rawls has emerged as Seahawks' No. 1 running back
RENTON, Wash. -- It's unlikely anyone questioned the sincerity of Thomas Rawls' comments in June, because the Seahawks running back often speaks with undeniable candor.
Asked about the tailback depth chart, which the Seahawks addressed this offseason with the signing of free agent Eddie Lacy, this was (a piece of) Rawls' answer:
"If there was a depth chart with three selective players, I look at it as Thomas Rawls, Thomas Rawls and Thomas Rawls. I've always been in competition with myself."
That response came at a time when it was unclear who would be Seattle's starting running back -- Lacy, Rawls or even C.J. Prosise, a second-year player with potential that also serves as a pass-catching threat.
Two months later, as Seattle prepares for its first preseason game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, it appears we have an answer: Rawls.
The third-year undrafted ball of energy has emerged as the No. 1 option in the backfield, judging by the team's mock game Monday and how the reps have been shared in the practices since.
Knowing that, Rawls was asked Friday what he's proven to earn the top spot on the depth chart. He's still not focused on anyone but himself.
"I think I've proved that I'm just myself," Rawls said. "It doesn't matter about the first-, second-, third-down back, it doesn't matter. I just know on game day, on Sunday, whenever my name is called, I'm a be ready; 34 gon' be ready. I'm excited, too."
Coach Pete Carroll said Friday that Rawls looks "fantastic," which matches the performance he's put on through 11 days of training camp. Rawls runs with a combination of speed and power, with a burst of someone no longer bothered by the fibula injury that forced him to miss half of the 2016 season.
"He's really on his game. He's been hitting everything right," Carroll said. "He's very confident, he's playing fast, he looks like he's raring to go and I'm really fired up for him because it was a really difficult start last year. ... So to see him so clear and so prepared — so well prepared and he's applied himself beautifully. I feel like he's got a really good chance to have a good start to the season."
Rawls spent much of the offseason in Seattle recovering and fine-tuning elements of his game -- route running, pass catching and gathering a better overall understanding of the offense.
The objective, Rawls said, was to learn positions other than his and reach a mental understanding of the offense that mirrors that of assistant coaches Tom Cable, Darrell Bevell and Chad Morton, and quarterback Russell Wilson.
"I think I'm better than my first year because I'm smarter, I know the game a little bit more," Rawls said. "I actually invested my time wisely this offseason. Just really dedicating myself to my craft and trying to get better."
Rawls rushed for 349 yards and three touchdowns on 109 carries in the regular season, his most productive outing coming in Seattle's wild-card win over Detroit, when he rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
As a rookie, he rushed for 830 yards and four TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry in 13 games before suffering a season-ending leg injury.
"He's really clear on what he wants to do and how he wants to do it," Wilson said, "and to have a guy like that in the backfield right next to me is super exciting."
Now fully healthy, Rawls leads a running-back room with Lacy, Prosise, second-year man Alex Collins, Mike Davis and rookie seventh-round pick Chris Carson. Lacy's the bruiser, Prosise moonlights as a receiver, as does Alex Collins, and Carson, the youngest of the bunch, brings another physical runner to the group.
Rawls has a bit of all those skills, which is perhaps why he's the frontrunner at the moment. As for the competition, it's one that Rawls embraces, of course, because at the end of the day his focus is Thomas Rawls, Thomas Rawls, Thomas Rawls.
"The competition is crazy," he said, complementing each player on their specific skills. "I mean, it's a very versatile backfield. I think it's only beneficial to the backfield, to the team. Being a part of this group, it just elevates everybody's game. And also, not just that, mentally learning the game even more. It's a good deal all around."
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