In an effort to rebound from a dismal 2017 season, the Seahawks blueprint heading into 2018 revolved around jump-starting the running game.
Along with hiring offensive line coach Mike Solari and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Seattle signed mauling guard D.J. Fluker to strengthen its interior offensive line and used a first-round pick on running back Rashaad Penny as well as a fourth-round selection on run blocking tight end Will Dissly.
While some of those investments paid off better than others, the Seahawks accomplished their goal of reviving their dormant run game. Led by Chris Carson, Penny, and Mike Davis running behind a much-improved offensive line, the team ranked first in the NFL with 2,560 rushing yards and averaged a whopping 160 yards per game on the ground.
With Carson, Penny, and four starters along the offensive line returning for 2019, Seattle should once again boast one of the league’s most potent rushing attacks. But heading towards the third phase of their offseason program, the Seahawks must find a third down back to replace Davis, who signed with the Bears in March.
With the trio of rookie Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise, and J.D. McKissic vying for the job, who will serve as Seattle’s new third down back as a compliment to Carson and Penny?
Case for Travis Homer
Drafted in the sixth round out of Miami, Homer brings a well-rounded game to Seattle. After becoming a starter for the Hurricanes midway through his sophomore season, the 5-foot-10, 201-pound back produced over 1,900 rushing yards, scored 12 touchdowns, and averaged a healthy 6.0 yards per carry during the past two seasons.
Homer also chipped in as a receiver for the Hurricanes, catching 37 passes for 405 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. In addition, he may be arguably the best pass protecting running back from his draft class, as he’s technically sound and isn’t afraid to dish out punishment to blitzing linebackers trying to get to the quarterback.
Case for C.J. Prosise
When healthy, which has unfortunately been a rare occasion during three seasons with the Seahawks, Prosise has shown himself to be a game-changer. He proved to be most effective as a receiver, catching 17 passes in only six games as a rookie in 2016 while averaging 12.4 yards per reception and posting an impressive 89.5 percent catch rate.
Prosise also showed he could do damage as a runner in his first season, rushing for 172 yards on 30 carries, including an explosive 72-yard touchdown against Philadelphia. Since then, injuries have limited him to only 12 carries for 30 yards during the past two seasons, but he’s still only 25 years old and the team may still be hanging a hat on the potential he flashed in 2016.
Case for J.D. McKissic
The ultimate Swiss Army Knife, McKissic has given Seattle valuable contributions out of the backfield and as a receiver in limited action over the past three seasons. And unlike Prosise, he’s been able to produce for an entire season previously, as he registered 34 receptions for 266 yards in 13 games as a reserve in 2017.
Injuries prevented the 195-pound McKissic from seeing the field much last season, but he did finish the year on a strong note with a touchdown catch in a Wild Card loss to Dallas. While Seattle’s decision to draft three receivers hurts his overall stock, the explosive playmaker’s ability to create big yardage lined up all over the formation gives him a fighting chance to stick around into September.
The Seahawks always preach competition and the duo of Prosise/McKissic will receive ample opportunities to earn the job this summer, but the third down role appears to be Homer’s to lose.
Prosise hasn’t proven capable of staying healthy and even if he performs well during the summer into training camp, the Seahawks can’t be enthused about the prospect of relying on him in any capacity when the regular season begins. McKissic also battled injuries last year and though he can play receiver in a pinch, his lack of size may prevent him from ever making much of an impact as a runner between the tackles.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see McKissic stick around due to versatility and special teams contributions, but ultimately, Homer offers more upside as a runner and when combined with his soft hands and pass protection skills, he’s easily the most complete back in this group and should win the competition.