When the Seahawks surprisingly chose Christine Michael in the second round of the 2013 draft, it seemed a clear heir-apparent setup for replacing Marshawn Lynch.
As we wrote back then, Michael looked as though he could be the next Shaun Alexander — the highly drafted running back waiting to bump the veteran star from the roster.
But, two years later, Michael was sent packing and Lynch remained the main man — until now.
And now Thomas Rawls looks like the Alexander to Lynch’s Ricky Watters.
In 2000, Mike Holmgren’s Seahawks had a couple of excellent rushers in Watters and Ahman Green. But Holmgren had tired of Green and traded him to Green Bay just before the draft (one of Holmgren’s worst moves, as it turned out). Holmgren then replaced Green by using one of Seattle’s two first-round picks on Alexander, who was available at No. 19.
Watters had just put together a couple of 1,200-yard seasons for Seattle, but he was 31 and Holmgren clearly was looking to the future by selecting Alexander, who had starred at Alabama.
Watters remained Seattle’s starter in 2000, again hitting 1,200 rushing yards. But a shoulder injury early in the 2001 season forced him out for eight games, and Alexander ran for over 1,000 yards. Watters started the 13th game but injured his ankle, and that was the end of his days in Seattle as Alexander took the ball and ran with it for the next seven years.
Now Lynch finds himself in the same spot as Watters. Injuries have hindered the 29-year-old all season, and now hernia surgery will sideline him for at least a month.
That all gives Rawls the chance to “Shaun Alexander” Lynch. And Rawls has proven he is more than capable of seizing the job, just as Alexander did in 2001.
Rawls has three 100-yard games this season and just put together a 209-yard day vs. the 49ers that ranks second in team history to Alexander’s 266-yard performance vs. Oakland in that 2001 season.
Rawls is 13th in the NFL with 604 yards, and his 6-yard average is No. 1 among backs with at least 100 carries. He is averaging 132.5 yards in his four starts, putting him on pace for nearly 1,400 yards if he carries the load the rest of the way.
As tough as it might be for many to see Lynch sidelined, the simple fact is the Seahawks are better with Rawls running the rock behind this offensive line, which requires quickness to the hole for optimal success.
We said back in February that the Seahawks did not need Lynch to win, and Rawls has proven that. We said last week that the Seahawks probably should let Lynch go next year, and now everyone is saying it in the wake of Rawls’ performance and Lynch’s surgery.
As we said last week, the Seahawks would save $6.5 million by trading or releasing Lynch after the season (he is due $9 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017). The Hawks then could get the same kind of bargain out of Rawls that they got out of Russell Wilson the past three years, while using Lynch’s money to improve their offensive line or retain key members of the defensive line.
Rawls said Lynch told him Sunday, “Look young’un, I’m going to pass you the torch for the day.”
But, it sure looks like the torch will be passed for more than a day. This looks like Shaun Alexander-Ricky Watters all over again.