His Seahawks teammates call him “Turbo.”
Robert Turbin gave evidence why in the Seahawks’ win over San Diego Friday night at CenturyLink Field in their second preseason game of the season.
The third-year back made his best argument for being Marshawn Lynch’s backup this season — and perhaps his eventual replacement — with 81 yards on 12 carries in the first half.
The burly back with football-sized biceps showed the kind of burst in the open field the Seahawks want in a primary ballcarrier.
While Lynch held out the early part of training camp, Turbin and second-year back Christine Michael got work with the starting unit.
Given his experience, Turbin was considered a more reliable back who knows the scheme and can protect the passer. But Michael might be the one with the more threatening breakaway skills.
Turbin, though, grasped early the demands of the Seahawks’ zone-blocking run game, which calls for the ballcarrier to make no more than one cut before getting up the field.
Turbin did exactly that Friday, showing enough speed around the corner to get 9 yards on his first carry and 6 on the next. On the Hawks’ second possession, he headed off left tackle but saw a traffic jam. He planted his foot and cut back to the right, outrunning defenders for 47 yards.
Michael had his moments on Friday, too, but he fumbled again, the second time in the preseason. He recovered his own fumble, but his shaky security will not endear him to a staff that harps on creating, not relinquishing, turnovers.
In his two seasons, Turbin has averaged 4 yards on 157 carries. He’s had only one fumble.
Michael was a second-round draft pick last season who saw limited action with just 18 carries. That he was considered a challenger for the backup role this preseason was a testament to what coaches call his new maturity and understanding of what it takes to be a professional player.
How relevant either of them will be this season depends on Lynch.
During his holdout, coach Pete Carroll touted their readiness and stressed the Hawks’ willingness to move forward if Lynch failed to return.
It remains to be seen if Lynch carries any residual resentment over his contract circumstances, and whether that will affect his famed tenacity with the ball.
Some suggest that an angry Lynch might run even harder. A more determined Lynch is difficult to imagine, though. Can he run angrier?
In any case, Turbin appeared to validate the staff’s belief that he’s ready to be a showcase back.
Some others were not completely convincing. Left guard James Carpenter, in his first preseason action, looked strong on the run plays and spotty in pass protection. After fighting injury issues throughout his career, Carpenter showed up to this camp leaner and fitter.
But he’s been sidelined with a calf injury most of training camp. Friday, he was beaten badly on a pass rush on second play by Corey Liuget. But he created some holes on big runs, including Turbin’s touchdown run to cap the first drive.
Lynch was on the field briefly at the start of the game and did not carry the ball. As a workhorse who has carried it more than any other back in the NFL the past three seasons, Lynch doesn’t see much action in the preseason as it is.
His holdout has left him behind the others in preparation, but the Seahawks know what he can do when the games get real.
And after the game on Friday night, they should feel better about the guys they will hand off to if Lynch goes down.