Judging by the poll readers here participated in a few weeks ago, many expect LenDale White to emerge from the Seattle Seahawks running back competition. Nationally, the fantasy football gurus expect the same thing, rating White as a sleeper prospect in the upcoming season.
That sentiment is understandable. White, 25, should have fresh legs after rushing for a career-low 222 yards in 2009, watching much of the second half of last season while teammate Chris Johnson marched to 2,000 yards. And he’s playing for his former coach at USC Pete Carroll, who understands how to you use White’s physical running style.
Explosive playmaker Leon Washington is another possible candidate for the starting job, but questions linger on how he will return from a broken leg. I’m still bullish on Julius Jones, although the readers are not, giving him a three percent chance of earning the starting job. Jones seems to have a better feel in the zone blocking scheme during OTAs, and probably has the best overall package of strength, speed and pass-catching and pass-blocking ability out of all the candidates.
Quinton Ganther and Louis Rankin also have had their moments of brilliance in camp, but a somewhat forgotten player who could emerge as Seattle’s starter come Sept. 12 is third-year pro Justin Forsett.
Forsett, 24, looks even quicker and more explosive than he did last season. And although he’s only 5-8, 195 pounds, Forsett is a good runner in between the tackles. The humble RB out of Cal believes he could be an every down runner in the league.
“Definitely I think I can do it,” Forsett said. “In college I’ve had over 300 carries in a season, and that’s nothing for me. I work hard during the summer to make sure my body is right. I’m ready for it, whatever they want to with me.
“I can do it all. I can go inside of the tackles or go outside. I’m not afraid to bring it inside just because of my stature.”
Forsett is efficient in the zone blocking scheme because he’s been working in that type of running offense for seven years – since his days with Jeff Tedford at Cal. So he is one of Seattle’s best runners at reading the line blocking and finding the creases and gaps created in the defense in the inside and outside zone plays, a staple of the zone scheme.
“Just like when I was back with Coach Tedford at Cal, we’ve been running this same zone scheme, one cut and go, so I’m used to it,” Forsett said. “I’m trying to get better every day. And it’s not just me, there are a lot of guys that’s been in a zone scheme before, so I’m taking it in stride.”
For Forsett, the proof is in the numbers.
For hose concerned about Forsett’s durability, he carried the ball 305 times his senior season at Cal in 2007, finishing with 1,546 yards and 15 touchdowns, and posting 5.1 yards per carry.
And last year in a smaller sample set Forsett put up similar numbers, finishing with 619 yards on 114 carries for 5.4 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
Forsett started two games last season, struggling against one of the best defenses in the league in Minnesota and finishing with just eight yards on nine carries.
But the next week in St. Louis, Forsett broke out with 130 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Forsett also rushed for over 100 yards at Arizona two weeks earlier when Julius Jones went down early in the game with a bruised lung, finishing with 123 yards on 17 carries and a score.
Forsett said the experience last season let him know that he can get it done at this level.
“It meant a lot, just knowing I could start and get the ball,” Forsett said. “I’m OK with getting the ball, 22-23 times a game. And I’m excited about the opportunity. It’s been going well so far, so I’m ready for the season to start.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I’m getting an opportunity and everybody’s fighting for the job. It’s open competition, and every time you get competition everybody’s level is going to rise a little bit. We’re getting better everyday and fighting everyday, so it’s going well.”
While Forsett continues to get reps with the first unit along with Jones and White, he’s also working on special teams as a punt and kick returner. So no matter who emerges as the starting running back come September, expect Forsett to be an important playmaker for Seattle on offense and special teams.
“When everything is settled and whatever my role is, I want to excel at it,” he said. “If it’s me coming in and helping out the offense sometimes and doing kickoff and punt returns, I’m going to do that. I’m going to settle into it and help this team win.”
Any questions? Watch the tape.