The Seattle Seahawks signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett – paying them a total of $25 million – before the 2008 season knowing that the team would switch to a zone blocking scheme when Jim Mora took over as head coach after Mike Holmgren retired.
The new blocking scheme requires a one-cut runner, a running back who hits the hole and gets upfield quickly, with the offensive linemen responsible for sealing off tacklers for only a short time.
Team general manager Tim Ruskell said both Jones and Duckett, along with scat back Justin Forsett, fit the mold.
“You’ve got to hit it and go,” Ruskell said about the philosophy. “I just remember Alex Gibbs (offensive line coach when Mora coached in Atlanta) when we were in Atlanta. That was his message every day, every minute of the day, yelling at those guys. And Greg (Seattle offensive coordinator Knapp) believed that. And I think that’s an important part of the zone blocking scheme
“We like our running backs, so, yes,” Ruskell said. “Julius (Jones) is that kind of guy. Duck (T.J. Duckett), that’s the way he runs. Justin (Forsett), it’s a little bit more of an adjustment for Justin. He’s more of a slide-and-glide guy, then find the hole and go. But just in the first minicamp, he looks like he’s going to be able to adapt to that immediately.”
That said, the Seahawks could still use a speed back – a home run hitter who can break through the hole and go untouched for a long touchdown run. And they have the opportunity to grab one when they draft fourth overall in the first round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Ruskell said the Seahawks are not avoiding game-changing players, but did acknowledge that his scouts have identified those players in the draft.
One of those is Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells, a player Seattle reportedly had in for a visit. Wells is a big back at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, and he is speedy, showing the ability to run away from defenses in college. Some scouts compare Wells to Kansas City’s Larry Johnson in terms of running style, but injuries and uneven play has affected Wells’ stock, and he may slide to later in the first round.
“With Beanie Wells, I think he plays at less than his ability at times,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “So as much as I think it’s an area of need, and as much talent (as) I think he has, I think that it would be a reach at four for a lot of teams.”
Another back Seattle could consider in the first round is Georgia product Knowshon Moreno, who is probably the best all-round running back in the draft. Moreno is strong and a hard runner. However, questions about Moreno’s top-end speed have him pegged as a mid-first round pick.
The good thing about this year’s draft is there are plenty of talented runners available, so the Seahawks can get a productive runner such as Iowa’s Shonn Greene, Liberty’s Rashad Jennings or Michigan State’s Javon Ringer later in the draft.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
RUNNING BACKS TO CONSIDER
Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, reviews running backs who might be available to the Seahawks during each round of this weekend's draft:
Round 1, fourth pick
Chris “Beanie” Wells, 6-1, 235, Ohio State
Rob’s rationale: The anti-Ruskell pick. Ability and inconsistency similar to Kansas City star Larry Johnson.
Round 2, 37th pick
Donald Brown, 5-10, 210, Connecticut
Rob’s rationale: Comparable build and versatility to Tiki Barber. Led nation with 2,083 rushing yards in 2008.
Round 3, 68th pick
Shonn Greene, 5-11, 227, Iowa
Rob’s rationale: One-year wonder was the only major college back to run for 100 yards every game last year.
Round 4, 105th pick
Javon Ringer, 5-9, 205, Michigan State
Rob’s rationale: Showed great toughness last year, averaging 30 touches a game despite a torn meniscus in his knee.
Round 5, 137th pick
James Davis, 5-11, 218, Clemson
Rob’s rationale: Suffered through a disappointing 2008 season, but could surprise.
Round 6, 178th pick
Arian Foster, 6-1, 215, Tennessee
Rob’s rationale: He’s big and productive enough to consider as a late-round pick.
Round 7, 213th pick
Devin Moore, 5-10, 187, Wyoming
Rob’s rationale: Speedy back led Cowboys to an upset at Tennessee.