Due to COVID-19 Restrictions, Seahawks May Have to Get Creative at Running Back
Last December, following a 27-13 loss to the Cardinals in Week 16, the Seahawks had to work swiftly to find running back insurance after losing Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise to season-ending injuries. With those two players going down and Rashaad Penny already lost for the season, Travis Homer was the only healthy back left on the roster.
Luckily, Seattle had a few familiar options available gearing up for an NFC West championship game against San Francisco. Much to the surprise of many, star running back Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to suit up for the Seahawks once more, while veteran Robert Turbin signed for his own second stint with the team.
Fast forwarding to the present, the team again finds itself in a difficult situation in terms of running back depth. Ironically, coming off another loss to the Cardinals, Carson's status for Sunday's game against the 49ers remains uncertain with a mid-foot sprain, while reserves Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer are dealing with hamstring and knee injuries respectively and could miss practice time.
Unlike last winter, however, due to COVID-19 testing protocols, Seattle won't be able to bring in a quick fix like Lynch or Turbin. The team doesn't have a running back on the 16-player practice squad currently and free agents are required to pass five tests in six days before being allowed in the team facility, making it impossible for them to be ready to play by Sunday. This puts the team in a potential bind if more than one of its injured backs can't suit up.
"You can't make it, there's not enough time," coach Pete Carroll said when asked about signing players to play this weekend. "There's not enough time to get it done and test them all the way through it and have any opportunity to work with the player prior to the game, so we're out of days already. This is why you have to stay ahead."
As a result, without knowing whether Carson, Hyde, or Homer will be active this weekend, Carroll and the Seahawks will have to think outside the box considering other alternatives for emergency running backs behind rookie DeeJay Dallas.
Among in-house options, receiver David Moore may be the best choice among Seattle's skill position players. At 6-foot, 215 pounds, he's built like a running back with a powerful lower body and has shown a propensity for breaking tackles after the catch and as a punt returner.
In his career, Moore has ran the football six times for 46 yards, primarily being used on jet sweeps after motioning towards the backfield. He picked up three first downs on those carries, breaking a pair of tackles and averaging close to eight yards per attempt.
When asked about the possibility of Moore being used out of the backfield if needed, Carroll didn't offer any specifics but confirmed the coaching staff would need to be proactive considering versatile players already on the roster due to the COVID-19 restrictions impacting every team.
"There are players like that," Carroll said. "We'll check out what we need this week and watch our guys coming back off the injury list and see who comes back, but we have to make some moves in preparation in case the guys don't get back, so we're doing that and we'll wait and see when the weeks over so we can figure out who it is."
Away from Moore, receiver Penny Hart carried the football a fair amount during his college career at Georgia State. Tyler Lockett has also been used in the backfield for a few snaps earlier in his career, though that seems unlikely given his importance to the team as a receiver. Other players with a prior running back background could be considered as well.
Ultimately, the Seahawks will be banking on Carson, Hyde, and/or Homer to turn the corner in the next few days and be able to play. If one or two of those players can go, they shouldn't need to worry about Moore, Hart, or any other positional player for that matter having to moonlight as a running back.
Based on Carroll's comments from Wednesday, the prognosis sounds decent for Hyde, as he said his hamstring injury wasn't "major" and he may have just had cramping rather than a pulled muscle. Homer won't practice on Wednesday, but he's already making excellent progress recovering from a knee bruise, while a decision on Carson won't be made until the end of the week.
Hopefully, those players will make enough progress to play against the 49ers. If they can't, Carroll wishes the team had options to bring in running backs on short notice, but he understands the inability to do so presents a reality every NFL team has to deal with right now and the Seahawks will have to make due with what they have.
"We had four running backs last week, so we thought we were in pretty good shape. Right now, you would have another guy, a fifth guy at least, to cover what just happened. But it's just the way it is, there's nothing you can do about it. That's the way the rules are, everybody's dealing with the same situation and you can get stuck, so that's why you have to have versatility in your guys and fortunately we have some guys that could possibly help us out."