Renton – The names probably don’t put fear in the heart of most NFL defenses, but Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora says he feels fine heading into his first season in Seattle with the running-back committee of Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett.
The Seahawks completed their offseason program with a shortened, hour-long practice on Friday. Players have nearly seven weeks until the start of training camp on July 31.
But who’s counting, right?
Well, Mora is.
“It’s time to move on to the next phase, which is we have 48 days until training camp,” Mora told reporters after practice. “As I told those guys during a team meeting this morning, now is not the time to slack off; now’s the time to pick it up and come back in the best shape of their life.”
Installing new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s one-cut, zone-blocking scheme has been a focal point of the team’s offseason workouts.
Mora said the development and drill work in putting in the new offensive running scheme has gone according to plan, and that the Seahawks have the players in place to make the system work.
“I believe that we’ll be able to run the football,” Mora said. “We think that all three running backs fit our style of offense. They’re all different, yet they all fit the style we want to run.
“I’m not going to say that there’s a marquee name in our backfield that the whole nation knows, because there’s not. But, hopefully, at the end of the year there is a marquee name, and it’s one of the three guys we’ve got on our roster right now.”
Mora can take solace in that Knapp has been successful running the ball wherever he’s been. As an offensive coordinator in San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, all of Knapp’s offenses have finished in the top 10 in rushing. And he believes he can duplicate those results in Seattle.
Part of the reason for his success is Knapp has always had two or three backs share the load throughout the long season, so the running backs don’t wear out.
“I’m a believer in you’ve got to platoon the backs,” Knapp said. “You can’t just have one guy be the main ballcarrier to last the whole season. ... It’s important to me that the running backs stay fresh from September to December, and so we don’t want to use them up too early. We want to get everyone involved, and I think that helps the cause.”
Running backs coach Kasey Dunn has been charged with teaching the decisive running style. Dunn said a point of emphasis has been the Knappism “Get me a blade of grass,” reminding players to continue to move forward and avoid giving ground or reversing field in order to break the big play.
“That takes a lot of pressure off me as the running backs coach and the backs to try and create runs that may not necessarily be there,” Dunn said. “We want to play fast, get downhill and don’t get too creative with runs.”
The three backs provide different looks for defenses. Duckett is a thick, wide body who can move the pile but also has enough speed to get to the back end of a defense. Forsett is a nifty, change-of-pace back with good elusiveness who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. And Jones is a combination of both, with the ability to run through tackles and also make defenders miss.
Forsett, the least known of the three, could be the surprise of the bunch. The second-year player out of Cal showed flashes of brilliance during the exhibition season last year and became a fan favorite. He did a respectable job returning punts for the first time in his football career for the Seahawks in his rookie season, and now looks to expand his role in Seattle’s offense.
“It was definitely a big confidence boost to just go in there and get some reps, knowing that I can play at this level,” Forsett said about last year.
Mora said the rookies will stick around a couple extra weeks to work with strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark. The rookies also will take trips to Mariners and Storm games and visit the Space Needle. Rookies will report to training camp on July 30, with the veterans reporting a day after. The first practice will be held on the afternoon of July 31st. ... These players didn’t practice either at all or at some point during the three-day, minicamp because of injury: offensive tackle Walter Jones (knee), guard Mike Wahle (shoulder), defensive end Patrick Kerney (shoulder), defensive lineman Cory Redding (knee), cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring), receiver Courtney Taylor (groin), defensive end Brandon Miller (wrist), receiver Michael Bumpus (foot), safety C.J. Wallace (sprained foot), linebacker D.D. Lewis (knee) and running back Devin Moore (hamstring) all sat out of practice on Friday. However, Mora expects all of his players to be healthy for the beginning of training camp. ... Mora said cornerback Josh Wilson hyperextended his right knee but should be OK.