RENTON Paging C.J. Prosise.
That appeared to be the Seahawks’ situation at running back as the team left for Boston Friday night ahead of Sunday night’s test at favored New England. Seattle added running back Christine Michael to its injury list well after practice with a new hamstring injury. That leaves rookie Prosise, drafted out of Notre Dame in the third round in May, as increasingly likely to make his first career start or at least get his most extensive work of his young career against the Patriots.
Michael was on the practice field Friday and participated, though the team listed him as limited.
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Michael has been showing wear for weeks as the lone primary back while Thomas Rawls has been out since Sept. 18 with a cracked fibula. Though coach Pete Carroll said following Friday’s indoor practice that Rawls looked great running this week, the replacement for retired Marshawn Lynch as the Seahawks’ lead back this season won’t play at New England. Carroll said “I think we really have a chance” to have Rawls play Nov. 20 at home against Philadelphia.
Prosise has carried the ball just nine times for 30 yards this season. That’s because he missed six weeks with a broken hand. Sunday will be his fourth game back from that.
Carroll sounded like Prosise’s workload is about to jump. Dramatically.
“He fits very well,” Carroll said, citing the Notre Dame wide receiver until his senior season for his versatility as a running, receiver and even as a capable pass blocker. “Just trying to grow with him and figure out where he fits. ... It’s just all positives.”
Carroll said the team is still seeking “how to fit him in,” adding: “We hope he can contribute in a bigger way.”
The timing is more than coincidental.
Michael had his career day of 106 yards on 20 carries and his first two touchdowns of the season on Sept. 25 against San Francisco. But since that big day against the worst run defense in the Western Hemisphere, he has rushed for just 58, 64, 52, 40 and -- Monday night against Buffalo -- 1 yard. Yes, five carries for 1 yard against a Bills defense that had been 25th in the league against the run entering that game.
For the season, Michael has 447 of Seattle’s 603 yards on the ground in this his second stint with the team since the Seahawks drafted him in the second round in 2013. He’s averaging 4 yards per rush with six of the team’s eight rushing touchdowns.
He’s also made mistakes that were relapses into his failed, first go-round with the Seahawks. He went out of bounds untouched short of the line to gain at Arizona. He flinched out of his tailback stance on second and goal at the 5 on a drive at New Orleans the next week that ended in a field goal instead of a touchdown -- in a game Seattle lost by five, 25-20.
Seattle is 30th in the NFL in rushing offense, a precipitous fall for a team that for the last five years has had one of the league’s top running games. A large part of that has been quarterback Russell Wilson’s high-ankle sprain on his right leg and sprained medial collateral ligament on his left knee. But when your running backs rush eight times for a total of 10 yards, as Michael and Prosise did against Buffalo, that’s an issue.
This week line coach Tom Cable said the Seahawks linemen and backs did not target defenders or holes correctly on seven of 10 runs against Buffalo. Two of those three correct reads, Cable said, were by Prosise: on a dive play and a wide zone-read run off right tackle.
“By a tight end, by a tackle, by a guard, (the running backs) they weren’t reading it. So it’s kind of everybody,” Cable said of the plentiful read errors in the running game.
I asked Cable how much of all these running woes -- and the Seahawks increasingly becoming a passing team -- are simply Seattle missing Lynch.
“We do (miss him); let’s just make that statement,” Cable said. “But at the same time we have other very capable runners and it’s not the runners. You can’t put it on them, you have to put it on everybody. We had a play to the left, we missed it at one of the tight end spots, it would have been a big run. Christine read it right, they didn’t block it right. Things like that.”
The Seahawks also have rookie fifth-round pick Alex Collins at running back, but it’s clear by this midpoint of the regular season, they don’t trust him to be a productive, every-down back. Collins has nine carries for 17 yards with one touchdown.
Just as a reminder: Seattle last week signed preseason rushing leader Troymaine Pope to the practice squad.
THE LEFT TACKLE IS...?
You see above Bradley Sowell is questionable to play Sunday. Carroll wouldn’t say whether it will be Sowell, the starter there for the first six games, or undrafted rookie George Fant, who has started the last two games, will be the left tackle against New England.
The coach gave one of his standard Friday lines of having to wait and see at game time who is starting.
BENNETT PROGRESSING WELL
Carroll said Michael Bennett is already running on a treadmill, one week after the Pro Bowl defensive end had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in Los Angeles. Carroll said all is going “really well” with Bennett’s recovery. The team still expects Bennett to return in one to two weeks.