The best plays by Seahawks RBs vs. Steelers: How Ken Walker, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas fit in the plan
Seaside Joe 1259, 8/16/22: Running backs stole the show, something even analytics can agree with
I know that the topic of running backs can be a controversial one these days, so I want to remain completely objective when I describe the attributes, personalities, and value of the top four backs for the 2022 Seattle Seahawks. I will only focus on things that we can all agree on when it comes to the Seahawks running backs, facts that you’ll approve of whether you’re Ben Baldwin or Pete Carroll.
Like, for example, that everyone agrees by now, whether you were for or against the Ken Walker III pick in the draft at the time, that the wrong Walker went number one. Based on what we’ve seen in training camp and in our Seaside Joe review of his college career, pretty much the entire football world realizes now that the Jaguars should have selected Ken Walker III with the number one pick, not Travon Walker.
That’s an easy one to agree on. We all know it’s true.
In that same line of thought, it’s funny how during the whole Walker draft debate so many fans were arguing about the merits of choosing a running back when Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson were on the roster, but nobody seemed was giving any credit to DeeJay Dallas. Now the debate mostly centers around the question of whether or not Dallas is the next Marshawn Lynch…or the next Adrian Peterson.
It’s one of the two…let the debate continue.
At least we can put down our weapons when it comes to the arguments over the value of Travis Homer. Instead of asking “or” with Homer, it’s answering “and” for his comps: He’s like a bigger Darren Sproles and a faster Alvin Kamara.
Any three of those players are well-prepared to step into Rashaad Penny’s place this season, should he need any breaks during his first MVP campaign.
Finally, something that even analytics experts will get and football fans will agree with: the 2022 Seattle Seahawks running backs room. Their combined efforts are better than any one quarterback.
Read: Winners and Losers from Seahawks first 3 weeks of camp
How did they fit together during Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers? I’ll help us re-live their key moments over the weekend through GIFs and I only ask that you share Seaside Joe with your Seahawks friends.
Ken Walker III - The Heir Apparent
We didn’t see as much of “the shrewd negotiator” on Saturday as Walker had limited opportunities and there was no need to be a show-off during his NFL preseason debut. However, we did see why he is “The Heir Apparent,” not only to Penny, but to the roles that all three of his teammates will play.
As a fellow third-straight Kenneth in my family, I know what it means to be a part of a succession plan. What we know of Penny, Dallas, and Homer’s roles on the team, Walker has the skills and talent to play them all.
That’s why you draft Ken Walker as soon as you get the opportunity to do so.
Ken Walker - 7 yards
On Seattle’s first offensive play of the game, Walker sees a wealth of room in front of him, created by the Seahawks offensive line against Pittsburgh’s “first team” defensive line, for this game at least. Walker’s patience was on display at Wake Forest and Michigan State and it’ll pay off in the NFL too.
The Seahawks will also be happy with run blocking reps like these from Charles Cross all season long.
Ken Walker - 4 yards
On his second carry of the game, Walker cuts back right, takes a tough hit from former Seahawks Ahkello Witherspoon (who got hurt on the play) and gains four.
Ken Walker - 11 yards rec
As I’ve been saying all offseason, Ken Walker III will catch more passes in 2022 than he did in three years of college. He’s good at it! Dallas also says that Walker has been great at pass protection in practices, it’s just a matter of him not getting those opportunities in college based on scheme.
This 11-yard gain is an easy screen opportunity for the Seahawks that hasn’t always been there. He makes #41 look a bit foolish and gains an extra six yards because of it.
Ken Walker - 4 yards
These are the “Dance Dance Revolution” feet that I was talking about. Walker’s quick feet are perhaps his most impressive attribute, he never stops moving them, and he’s liable to gain 2.5-3.5 more yards than a replacement back thanks in part to his footwork.
Walker got a handful of snaps in the first half and sat out the second.
2022 Role: The only thing holding back Ken Walker right now is Penny, Dallas, and Homer. Unlike Najee Harris in 2021 or even Breece Hall in 2022, Walker doesn’t find himself in a situation where a team needs a number one back. He can’t be the number one yet because of Penny, but he also has to split some first/second down snaps with Dallas and third down snaps with Homer.
Read: Drew Lock takes over as QB1 in training camp on Tuesday
Eventually, Walker will play all three downs. Forced to guess his playing time in 2022, I’d say that attrition probably allows him the chance to start 3-4 games, but that he’ll be held between 5-15 snaps when all three other backs are active. When Walker is on the field, we should expect it to be a run more often than not. But he will be a dangerous weapon because he will prove to also be a threat in the passing game as a receiver.
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Travis Homer - The Bullet
I’ve never once asked myself this question until tonight: How popular will Travis Homer be as a free agent in 2023? Could there be multiple teams that view Homer as half of a “starting” duo? Is one of those teams the Seahawks?
Even the concept of Homer as a free agent and a workhorse back had never occurred to me before now. Because—and this is another thing that fans and analytic nerds can also agree upon wholeheartedly—it’s rare to find starting running backs in the sixth round. You gotta draft ‘em early!
We all know that.
Since 2000, 189 running backs have been drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds and the cream of that crop is Ahmad Bradshaw, Alfred Morris, Justin Forsett, Latavius Murray, and Chris Carson. Between 189 running backs, they’ve combined for five Pro Bowl seasons: two by Alfred Morris, one each by Murray, Forsett, and Cedric Peerman, as a fullback.
In fact, even a 300-yard season would rank Homer as one of the top-30 late round running backs of the 2000s and he’s barely touched the ball. The youngest running back at the 2019 combine, Homer’s 4.48 40-yard dash was the fifth-fastest at the position, he was second in the vertical and tied for first in the broad.
Last season, Homer had exceptional timing for big plays (perhaps a testament to Waldron) and he had 10 plays of at least 13 yards, including six long receptions and a 73-yard touchdown run. That was evident again on Saturday from his very first opportunity.
Travis Homer - 25 yards rec
It’s hard to say much more than “Homer executed the play.” He caught the pass and picked up the yards in front of him. That was probably the biggest difference between Homer and the other two backs on Saturday, which is that Homer’s athleticism is apparent but he doesn’t create additional yards.
Travis Homer - 16 yards
You can call it nitpicking because the play gains 16 yards, but never was it more apparent than here that Homer leaves opportunities on the field. He shows off his speed when he cuts right but then runs right into the back of Bo Melton, potentially even missing an opportunity to score if he runs to his right again.
I think I’m right too based on Homer’s own reaction.
Travis Homer - 10 yards
Watching plays like this make me want to shout out Waldron and the offensive line more than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, it is valuable to have a player with Homer’s athleticism available at running back. He makes those big plays happen too, it’s not just Waldron and the OL and the defenses. But the plays do tend to end upon first contact.
Travis Homer - 8 yards rec
Here Homer does make a player miss and gain an additional five yards.
Travis Homer - 10 yards
Draw plays are perfect opportunities for Homer to see rushing opportunities in 2022.
Travis Homer - 2-pt Conversion rec
Homer has the speed to pull off plays like the 2-point conversion, though we do have to remind ourselves of who the competition is in the preseason.
2022 role: I would expect draws, RPO, screens to be a big part of his arsenal this year as a third down back. But if he does struggle to help move the chains in those situations for a lack of creating additional yards, Walker might eventually start to out-snap him on third down.
As far as 2023 free agency? Homer still lacks a good resume. In theory, he could be getting a lot more opportunities but even players like Chase Edmonds and Nyheim Hines were well more productive in their first three seasons than Homer. On the other hand, Homer is young, as fast as ever, and has made the most of opportunities.
He’s a really unique running back free agent, assuming he has the expected role and is one-fourth of a committee.
And if Homer has the type of year for the Seahawks, I predict they will re-sign him. But Homer is one of the toughest valuations I’ve ever dealt with, either in spite of or because of how relatively cheap he will be. Maybe a two-year contract worth up to $4 million.
Breaking News: Lock tests positive for Covid, out on Thursday
DeeJay Dallas - MarSome Lynch
Once you see it, it’s hard not to see it. I’d rather you just do some quick scrolling through Dallas’s second half and tell me if you see it.
DeeJay Dallas - 5 yards
Staying alive in a scrum to gain two extra yards…
DeeJay Dallas - 6 yards
Bouncing off of tacklers to gain a first down…
DeeJay Dallas - 4 yards
Showing patience to let the play develop before choosing which lane to follow…
DeeJay Dallas - 6 yards
A pile of bodies that keeps moving down the field as a group… Here, Dallas isn’t even facing forward when he starts backpedaling his defender backwards to gain an extra yard.
DeeJay Dallas - 18 yards
Spinning through the defense…
DeeJay Dallas - 10 yards
Arms kinda just flailing around while he’s running…
DeeJay Dallas - 18 yards rec (TD)
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DeeJay Dallas - 13 yards
I mean, it’s not ludicrous to suggest that the Seahawks liked DeeJay Dallas because he reminded them somewhat of Marshawn Lynch. It doesn’t mean that the two are comparable running backs in terms of value and ability—Dallas is ripping up the second half Steelers preseason defense here—but I think Dallas could hold his own if the Seahawks needed him to start.
Does it mean a lot that Walker played the first half and Dallas didn’t get in until the second? It could. But with more performances like Saturday night, Carroll might feel like he has three running backs capable of standing out there with the starting quarterback…you know…that guy with the name. It could also mean that Carroll wanted to give Dallas the chance to put a lot of good football on film. And then guess what: He did!
2022 role: Dallas will be the kick returner, unless Walker takes the job there too. That’s an interesting question, whether or not the Seahawks would entertain trade offers for Dallas if Walker is ready for every role and another team suffers a running back injury a la the Rams trading for Sony Michel after Cam Akers went down. The problem is that if Penny or Walker can’t go for any reason, Dallas would become very valuable to the Seahawks. But while Penny and Walker are both active, Dallas’s role could be very limited…unless Carroll liked what he saw on Saturday and wants to expand it.
Last season was rough for Dallas in one way: Dallas got at least six touches in six games and the Seahawks went 0-6 in those contests. That’s not blame, that’s just me pointing out that his appearances have only coincided with low-scoring contests and I know Dallas wishes that every time he had an expanded role, it was in a win.
I’m just saying that it is possible the Seahawks could listen to trade offers and it’s also possible that Pete was giving Dallas a chance to prove himself and then he had a great half. The good news here for Dallas and Dallas fans is that Josh Johnson and Darwin Thompson aren’t going to take his roster spot. The Seahawks would either have to keep three running backs or add a player from outside. There is also no financial incentive to trade him.
How much Dallas plays on Thursday night and with which units will be another story worth following against the Bears. Maybe he just pairs better with Drew Lock. One of those guys with a name.
This is a great article on the RBs and what many of my posts have been about since the acquisition of Lock. It seemed many were writing the Hawks off because of the obvious subtractions, but it seemed to me--especially after the draft, the Hawks wanted the RBs to be more dynamic.
It's not just run first, but a balanced offensive attack that competes--even wins--time of possession.
Penny's burst through the line and home run potential, getting the ball to Walker in the flats, or on a wheel route, DJ and Travis spelling the top backs and creating other types of opportunities (little curls where you're getting the pass already at the second level, like they did this game).
Lock can hit those passes all day. In fact, that's the game I saw last year against KC to close the year. Lock handed the ball off, play-actioned to Fant and backs, took some shots downfield, and had the team in place to win when the RB fumbled near the 20.
Now if they can't tackle, cancel all of that
But otherwise, our RBs can make us the type of team that can go 4quarters with anyone.
As usual it is not so much we see and what we don't see... and what we don't see is Penny.
Why? He is nursing an injuiry.
The Seahawks have the *bare minimum number* of quality talibacks to be able to run Waldron's scheme. We know in a 17-game season there will be injuries.
It would not surprise me to see Penny on the shelf for 6-7 games throughout the season, and Walker will start those games.
Deejay--I was unhappy he did not get more snaps last year. Looking to 2023 Walker, Deejay, maybe Homer, and a draftee from 2023 will be the young core for this team.