Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith spoke with enthusiasm about the two young running backs who have been ushered into the spotlight by Marshawn Lynch’s truancy.
Christine Michael has gained maturity and understanding of what it takes to be a pro, Smith said, and Robert Turbin always has been so impressive with his relentless drive to improve.
Perhaps 50 yards behind Smith, one last Seahawks player remained on the practice field, continuing to refine his pass-blocking techniques: Robert Turbin.
Turbin had coaxed linebacker K.J. Wright into executing several rushes from his repertoire so Turbin could get some extra work in on the best ways to perform his job.
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Turbin and Michael made the most of their opportunities during Saturday’s practice at the VMAC headquarters, each coming up with a number of eye-catching plays.
If the depth chart is the guide at this point, it would be Turbin who is the next man up as Lynch tries to upgrade his contract. Turbin has two years of experience, with 157 rushes for a 4.0 yard average, along with 27 catches.
Relative to Michael, entering his second season, Turbin is more assignment correct and adept at pass protection at this point.
Michael had 18 carries for 79 yards as a rookie, but has more promise as a breakaway threat.
In the past two days, each has had nice runs, and, on consecutive days, each showed an important talent for a back in the Seattle offense – finding space and pulling in a pass from quarterback Russell Wilson once he was forced to scramble.
Michael did so Friday, and Turbin’s catch Saturday was even more impressive as he might have been able to stretch the small bail-out pass into a touchdown.
Turbin is more adept at the cut-and-go style assistant head coach Tom Cable wants from his backs, preferring getting up field in a hurry to dancing at the line.
But Michael displayed a rare balance that allows him to play low, which makes him a small target as he jets through the line and into the open field. He showed it again Saturday, catching a pass at his shoe-tops and being able to stay low and spin away from defenders as he picked up extra yards.
A couple other backs had nice days, too. Spencer Ware executed a nifty jump-cut in the hole to get to the second level. Demitrius Bronson, from Kent and Eastern Washington University, has shown a nice burst, and made a good catch underneath coverage from Terrelle Pryor for a lengthy gain.
Michael is a “totally different” player than the one who showed up as a rookie, Smith said. “He’s focused and working hard … he has a lot of pride.”
And Turbin has “always been a pro from Day One; he puts in the work and is one of the most dependable players I have. He’s going out and showing he’s the player we thought he was.”
Michael needs to learn patience, Smith said, and the discipline to do things not just almost right, but absolutely right.
Lynch is 28, and his fearless style makes it likely that he can’t stay at an elite level for many seasons. The Hawks naturally have to prepare for the day he isn’t available. His holdout gives them the chance to see what they have in Turbin and Michael.
Some will bash Lynch for not showing up, as his contract mandates. And that’s fair. But also don’t forget what this guy does.
Lynch is one of the toughest backs – ever – to bring to the ground. There may be only a small handful in the history of the NFL who have run harder.
But he also does so many of the small things.
Remember the play against the Redskins in the playoffs two years ago when Wilson lost a fumble and Lynch not only recovered it out of nowhere, but picked it up cleanly and raced 20 yards with it?
Remember the time last season when he decked a free blitzer who was about to clobber Wilson on a play that became a big gainer?
Remember when he absolutely Bosworthed the 300-pound Darnell Dockett on the goal line at Arizona last year?
Sherman Smith knows what Lynch can do. And he can see the potential in both Turbin and Michael.
But until these young guys have to meet 49er linebacker Patrick Willis in the hole on an isolation run, we won’t know what it really will be like when Lynch finally is done with the Seahawks.