Seattle Seahawks' Running Backs Looking For Bounce-Back Season

In a down year for the Seahawks' run game, Ken Walker III didn't have the sophomore campaign most expected. How can the group improve this coming fall?
Dec 18, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) rushes
Dec 18, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) rushes / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2022, leading all rookies in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. His 1,215 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns earned him a second place finish in AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, narrowly losing to Garrett Wilson of the Jets in voting.

Walker's patience and vision in the backfield is among the best in the NFL. He has one of the most sudden changes in direction of any back in the league. However, last season saw a dip in production for "K9." He ran for 905 yards and eight scores and his average yards per carry dropped from 4.6 to 4.1.

Not all of this regression in production can be blamed on the Seahawks' main running back. The offensive line had their share of issues last year. Plus, the defense failed to stop offenses at an acceptable rate, forcing the Seahawks to abandon the run more than they would prefer. The new coaching staff hopes to have improved these aspects heading into 2024.

Now, Walker enters his third year as a pro looking to rebound. Clearly, he is a talented back with tons of untapped upside and has the traits to be a Pro Bowl running back. Plus, it appears he will continue to get the lion's share of the carries in Seattle. It's not unfair to expect a bounce-back season for Walker and for him to get back into the 1,000-yard club. New offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb looks to return Seattle to the ways of prolific offensive productio with a balanced attack.

Nov 23, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet (26) breaks a tackle attempt by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet (26) breaks a tackle attempt by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It's tough to quantify how much of Walker's "sophomore slump" should be blamed on him alone. At times, the offense, especially the run blocking, was a mess. Per Pro Football Focus, the team ranked 15th in the NFL in run blocking. A deeper dive shows many of the starting offensive linemen with less-than-stellar run blocking grades including Evan Brown (57.2), Damien Lewis (57.9), and Charles Cross (58.3). Hopefully, an improved offensive line will naturally boost the running backs.

It's not all the Ken Walker III show either. Zach Charbonnet cannot be dismissed as a second round pick from a year ago. He actually had a better rushing average (4.3 yards per carry) than Walker (4.1). In fact, it was the best on the team. He totaled 462 rushing yards in mostly a reserve role. Despite his limited role, he established a reputation as a physical runner. That included him winning the popular weekly "Angry Runs" award from the NFL Network's Good Morning Football show.

Seattle has potentially one of the better one-two punches at running back in the NFL. Certainly, they have one of the better ones with both backs under the age of 24. Both backs are still very young with perhaps another gear we have not yet seen.

While Walker and Charbonnet take up most of the oxygen in the running back room, 2023 seventh rounder Kenny McIntosh should not be forgotten. He was one of the pieces that helped the Georgia Bulldogs beat Alabama and win the College Football Playoff national championship two years ago. During that senior season, he ran for 829 yards and caught 43 passes for 505 yards for 12 total touchdowns.

McIntosh has the ability to make plays out of the backfield, which is crucial to his chances of replacing DeeJay Dallas as the new third down-type back. Unfortunately, he landed on injured reserve before the season started as a rookie. In November, he was activated but only played sparingly on special teams, never receiving a carry on offense last year with the Seahawks.

Now, with a healthier offseason and another year in an NFL program under his belt, hopefully McIntosh can contribute more out of the backfield, adding more juice to a group that has enough talent to be one of the NFL's best.

The Seahawks have a few question marks around their roster heading into the 2024 season. But one of those question marks is not the talent and depth of their running back room. With better health and an improved offensive line ahead of them, this group should be much more productive this fall, which would help the team's chances of competing in the NFC West.


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Nick Lee

NICK LEE

Nick Lee grew in San Diego, California and graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2017. He married a Washington native and moved to the Pacific Northwest after 2014. He began his writing career for Bolt Beat on Fansided in 2015 while also coaching high school football locally in Olympia, Washington. A husband and father of a two-year old son, he writes for East Village Times covering the San Diego Padres as well as Vanquish the Foe of SB Nation, covering the BYU Cougars. He joined Seahawk Maven in August 2018 and is a cohost of the Locked on Seahawks podcast.