RENTON, Wash. – When Marshawn Lynch posted that photo of his cleats hanging from a wire, the Seattle Seahawks’ task became about more than finding a replacement for the yards and touchdowns he provided over the course of six seasons.
Along with Lynch’s retirement came the challenge of trying to replace what he meant to the Seahawks in terms of style and attitude.
“We’re not going to be able to replace him. Point blank,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Not his personality, his attitude, his leadership in the locker room and on the field. We’re not going to be able to replace that.”
Lynch was not an ordinary running back. He was attitude in green cleats. The Seattle swagger that led to two Super Bowl trips was amplified by the likes of Richard Sherman and Baldwin, but it was first created by Lynch when he arrived via trade early in the 2010 season.
Now the Seahawks go into a season for the first time during their rise to prominence without Lynch on the roster. It may seem a minuscule worry with all the other challenges the Seahawks face, but there is a lingering question about whether Seattle needs to replace the personality Lynch provided.
“Who he was in the locker room, it’s people like him that gel the team together. He was glue. He didn’t speak out, he wasn’t the guy to get in front and do rah-rah speeches but the few times he did, everyone shut up and listened because it was Marshawn Lynch,” Baldwin said. “To that degree it is what it is. He wasn’t the rah-rah leader, he wasn’t always saying stuff but when he spoke it meant volumes. We don’t really have a guy like that who commands the respect and attention at that level. There are only a handful of guys in the league who do anyway. We have the leaders like Richard Sherman, like Russell Wilson that can still carry that weight across the team.”
The process of finding Lynch’s replacement begins Saturday when the Seahawks face Kansas City in their preseason opener. The expectation is that Thomas Rawls will be Lynch’s heir based on his performance last season as Lynch’s backup.
Rawls rushed for 830 yards and four touchdowns, and averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season, but suffered a serious ankle injury in December against Baltimore that required surgery and a lengthy rehab. Rawls was only activated from the physically unable to perform list earlier this week and may not even see the field during the preseason.
So while Rawls seems the likely replacement, there are questions surrounding his health, leaving the likes of Alex Collins, Christine Michael, Zac Brooks and others to spend the next four weeks trying to take advantage of the opportunity.
They all seem to know what being a running back for Seattle entails.
“I’d say definitely toughness. Our (running backs) coach (Sherman Smith) likes to look at it as we set the tone and the tempo for the team. Everyone feeds off the running backs,” Collins said. “We’ve got to run down the field and get the defense chasing. You know, we set the tone so I embrace that and our group embraces that. That’s just what we try to do every day.”
Seattle got a taste of life without Lynch last season when he missed nine games due to hamstring and abdominal injuries. He rehabilitated away from the team for the latter of the two injuries, spending the final weeks of the regular season mostly absent from the team’s facility.
During that period, the Seattle offense became even more about Wilson. That evolution will continue this season because no one can completely replace Lynch.
“Our style is who we are. Marshawn just took that to a whole other level,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “What you hope is Thomas (Rawls) and Christine (Michael) and C.J. (Prosise) and Alex (Collins), all these kids can find their niche in it or their role in it or their style in it if you will. But our style is what we have here, what coach has laid out, and finding the runner that can lift that up. That’s certainly what Marshawn did.”
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