The Curious Case of C.J. Prosise

On November 20th, 2016, a legend was born in Seattle. With a tumble away from Rodney McLeod and into CenturyLink Field’s south end zone, C.J. Prosise cemented himself in modern Seahawks lore. Just the week before, Seattle’s newest star had put together a 153-yard performance in a dramatic road victory over the New England Patriots. Onlookers dreamt of possibilities as the rookie’s enticing blend of explosiveness and finesse was displayed.

Then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Prosise exited the game with a fractured scapula and missed the remainder of the 2016 season. Ever since, a string of unique ailments has prevented the high-octane youngster’s return to form, limiting him to a mere six contests over the past two years.

The conundrum surrounding Prosise is simple: At what point does potential take a back seat to production? An inability to stay healthy has rendered an undeniably attractive skillset null and void.

In the 992 days since his 72-yard touchdown run through Philadelphia’s defense, Prosise has rushed 14 times for only 16 yards. His dropoff in the passing game is even more sickening.

Before Touchdown: 18 targets | 11.3 Y/A | 61% success rate | 0.70 EPA per target

After Touchdown: 16 targets | 7.13 Y/A | 44% success rate | 0.14 EPA per target

Heading into the final year of his contract, 2019 is C.J.’s last chance to inspire confidence in his reliability. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts.

A day before Seattle’s first exhibition game, it was announced that Prosise would not suit up due to a first-degree hip sprain. What a generous hip: thoughtful enough to hurry up and implode, precluding the burden of expectation.

The inconsistency of Prosise has become almost comical; a vicious circle of déjà vu that continues to spiral. It’s difficult to remember another player with such vast yet unrealized talent. Jason Verrett is the first name that comes to mind as someone whose career has been ravaged similarly and, in some cruel form of symmetry, he too was declared injured on Wednesday.

A separate parallel I drew years ago for Prosise was with Percy Harvin. For being two of the most electric skill players I’ve seen step onto a football field, Prosise and Harvin are really bad at stepping onto a football field. The main distinction between the pair? Instead of assaulting Golden Tate, Prosise has assaulted my emotions.

The argument regarding C.J.’s potential release remains contentious. Every moment of waiting works against the fourth-year back who was depending on this preseason to prove he is finally right. It doesn’t help that Seattle has a similar (if less electric) player in J.D. McKissic. In football, redundancy’s primary value is in hedging injuries, but can you classify McKissic as an injury hedge if the player he is hedging is essentially a corpse? J.D. is a quality player and, while he’s ironically a little banged up at the moment (neither he nor Prosise played in Thursday’s game), has shown that he can make plays when utilized.

Outside of McKissic, the Seahawks aren’t exactly strapped for talent in the backfield. Chris Carson is a bulldozer on the ground and surprisingly nimble in the passing game. Rashaad Penny is exceptionally talented and will see an increase in playing time during his second season. Rookie Travis Homer, while a much different player than Prosise, possesses an athletic profile conducive to aerial production. It doesn’t help that running back is the most replaceable position in football or that the Seahawks have often found effective players in the later rounds and undrafted free agency.

But Prosise isn’t just some running back. Think back to the moment that you first saw him play and an era of dominance via whip route flashed before your eyes.

Brian Schottenheimer has vowed to involve Seattle’s backfield in the passing game significantly more throughout 2019. With a receiving corps largely composed of unproven quantities, he needs all the help through the air that he can get. A healthy Prosise (who played wide receiver at Notre Dame YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THIS) truly elevates Seattle’s offense.

So that brings us to the seven-hundred-forty-five thousand dollar question: Is Prosise — a definite game-changer when healthy — worth rostering despite the fact that he hasn’t produced in nearly three years? This preseason will hopefully answer that (yeah no shit) by way of personnel groupings and snap counts. This is assuming that he takes the field at some point, which is nowhere near a given.

I can’t properly convey to you through words how badly I want Prosise to succeed in Seattle. If cut, I am certain he will thrive elsewhere, turning into an All-Pro Kamara-type with exquisite health.

But this is reality and reality is spiteful. There’s no benefit for Seattle cutting bait this early in the preseason, but — barring a drastic happenstance — it looks like we have already seen the last of C.J. Prosise in a Seahawks uniform.

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