Can Chris Carson bounce back?

There is much frustration to digest after Pete Carroll’s first-ever September home loss against the Brees-less Saints. Through three games, the most confusing trend to this point has been the ball security of Chris Carson. After only fumbling twice over the entirety of last season, Carroll’s workhorse has amassed three fumbles in as many games, not including the fumbled exchange last week that was credited to the quarterback. There are many reasons to be upset at the Seahawks — the scores that have come off these fumbles, or more untimely penalties leading to opposing touchdowns come to mind — but there were a few folks that felt if New Orleans could make this game weird early on, they’d give themselves a shot.

Well, things got weird right away and New Orleans capitalized on seemingly every Seattle error.

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As I presumed, the offensive gameplan would revert to normal when considering the opponent, and the weather report. Without Brees, they certainly anticipated Bridgewater leaning on Kamara, but nobody anticipated such poor tackling. And I’m sure they felt with a lead, they could turn it into the Chris Carson show. Except Seattle never had a lead and Carson forgot to bring the correct pair of cleats. Play calling wasn’t terrible despite becoming one dimensional early, and the offensive line yielded no sacks. Partly due to Russell Wilson’s internal clock. His pocket awareness and sense of pressure was as sharp as it gets. As special as Russell is, he’s had to bail his team out three weeks in a row, win or lose.

I know some folks don’t want to hear it but a large part of what’s lacking is a word we’ve used frequently in the past: identity. Defensive errors against the Bengals. Special teams discipline against the Saints. Even poor clock management absent of urgency from the coaching staff. And yes, explosives on the ground have been lacking in all three games. No matter what you believe Seattle’s offense should be doing more or less of, banking on Russell Wilson’s heroics is not a stable way to win. He could be the MVP of this team or league, but he’ll need a complete effort if they’re to make a strong push for a division title.

Throughout the offseason I presumed Carson to be the Seahawks’ lead back and am on record for saying no way does Carson lose his job to the draft investment of Rashaad Penny on pure talent. I believed the only way for this to happen was if Carson became injured.

My faith in Carson is still strong, but my convictions are being tested by football demons. Seattle has talented backs behind him and Carroll obviously felt comfortable with C.J. Prosise after putting Chris in the doghouse. Had Penny been active, and outperformed Carson two weeks in a row, the narrative might be different. It’ll still be a topic of discussion throughout the week, but the timing of Penny’s injury might ultimately prevent any change from happening.

There’s an explanation in every game for the lack of production or yardage, but there’s no history of fumbling issues for Carson. It’s not an Alex Collins situation where you had a track record of ball security problems in college. Also, are you confident that Penny or Prosise do that much better in the lead role? I’m not. I can understand people wanting to see a change because it will help them cope with losing, but I feel like handing the mantle over to Penny at this point is premature. This has been the most adversity Carson has had to deal with since his leg injury in 2017. His response to both that and his team spending a first-round draft pick on another running back was overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps watching from the sidelines was what he needed.

Nobody in their right mind had the Seahawks starting 3-0 before the season began. As these weeks panned out though, like most of you, I began to envision an undefeated team heading to Arizona to face Kyler Murray and the win-less Cardinals. The perfect “trap game” scenario. Now though, it sets up as a “get right” game for the entire team. Players and staff, but especially RB1. Over the last three weeks, here’s what Arizona’s defense has yielded to the opposing team leader in rushing:

Kerryon Johnson (DET) – 16 carries, 49 yards, 3.1 YPC, 0 TD

Lamar Jackson (BAL) – 16 carries, 120 yards, 7.5 YPC, 0 TD

Christian McCaffery (CAR) – 24 carries, 153 yards, 6.4 YPC, 1 TD

Some good, some bad. This will likely not be an easy game for Seattle, as the Cardinals are starving for a victory. Crazier things have happened in that stadium no doubt, but it is one I expect Carson to be able to bounce back in and reaffirm he is the special player Carroll believes him to be.

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Great players respond when they’re called on the carpet, and Chris Carson has all the tools to be a great NFL running back.