What should Seahawks do with RB/WR J.D. McKissic?
The bye week came at the perfect time for the Seattle Seahawks, as the team expects several key injured players to return to action ahead of their Week 8 game in Detroit.
Along with the much-anticipated return of Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright, the Seahawks also hope to have veteran tight end Ed Dickson back from the Non-Football Injury list and rookie Rasheem Green available after missing three games with an ankle sprain.
Lost a bit in the news cycle this week, injured Seahawks hybrid running back J.D. McKissic will soon be eligible to return from the injured reserve list. Based on NFL rules, the third-year Swiss army knife could be activated as early as Week 9 when the Chargers come to CenturyLink Field.
“J.D, his timeline is a little different than Ed’s ;Dickson]." coach Pete Carroll said on Tuesday. "He’s doing great and as soon as he can come back, he’ll be raring to come back for us.”
A rare bright spot for the Seahawks offensively in 2017, McKissic shined as the team's third-down back, rushing for 187 yards while adding 34 receptions for 266 yards and three total touchdowns. He also has past experience in college returning kicks and punts, though he's only returned one kick since entering the NFL in 2016.
Despite loving McKissic's versatility, however, his potential return creates a bit of a conundrum for the Seahawks. Though he performed well last season and could help as a return specialist, Seattle will have a tough decision figuring out who to let go if they choose to bring him back in the near future.
What options do the Seahawks have if they intend to active McKissic? Here's three scenarios that could realistically play out in the coming weeks:
Option 1: Seattle moves on from C.J. Prosise and replaces him with the more reliable McKissic.
The Seahawks have exhibited impressive patience with the injury-prone Prosise, a former third-round draft choice who hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to make a substantial impact. Stuck behind Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny in a crowded backfield, the ex-Notre Dame standout hasn't logged a single carry this season and has only been active for three games.
If he had played more than 14 games over the past two-plus seasons, running back-needy teams like the Eagles may have had interest in trading for Prosise, who has flashed plenty of promise when he's actually been on the field. But it seems far more likely the Seahawks will be forced to simply sever ties and stick with McKissic for backfield and receiver depth.
Option 2: Unwilling to give up on Prosise, Seattle carries five running backs as they did for parts of the 2017 season.
It may seem like overkill and it's unlikely, but given Seattle's recent injury woes at running back, adding more depth wouldn't be the worst of plans. Under this scenario, the team would be placing extra value on McKissic's special teams capabilities and experience playing out wide as a receiver while still believing the talented Prosise could contribute later in the season.
If the Seahawks choose to go this route, they'll have to ax a player at a different position, a luxury they may not be able to afford. Among possible alternatives, they could opt to move forward by cutting seldom-used fullback Tre Madden and using athletic tight ends Darrell Daniels and Tyrone Swoopes if they want to employ two-back sets. With Wright coming back and a surplus of safeties, Seattle could easily jettison Maurice Alexander or T.J. Green as well.
Option 3: Surprisingly, the Seahawks decide to wait it out and don't activate McKissic when he first becomes eligible to return.
Few have thrown out this idea, but it might be the most logical for the organization at this stage. As well as McKissic played last year, Seattle has received great production from the three-headed monster consisting of Carson, Davis, and Penny so far, leaving Prosise as a healthy scratch each of the past two games.
Even if they intend to do the Prosise-for-McKissic swap straight up, it might not make much sense to waste one of the team's two reserve designations on a player who might not even be active on game days. At a position with higher injury rates, the Seahawks could keep McKissic available as a quality insurance policy on injured reserve until needed later in the season.
Though the Seahawks love their current group of backs, it seems improbable that the team will try to keep both Prosise and McKissic. Due to his lack of durability, Prosise would seem to be the odd man out, but the front office doesn't have to rush into a decision necessarily and should demonstrate patience here.
With 10 games still left on the schedule, Seattle would be wise to apply the third strategy in practice and save their two return designations for now. As valuable as McKissic could be on special teams, his best asset remains his versatility out of the backfield, and the team simply doesn't need that flexibility at this very moment.
Once injuries inevitably strike, especially if one of the team's primary backs gets banged up, then McKissic's addition instantly would function like a trade deadline acquisition to bolster depth for the stretch run.