RENTON, Wash. – There’s not much small about Julius Jones.
Not the size of his biceps nor the yardage he hopes to gain. He’s even got a fairly large chip on his shoulder after being phased out by Dallas.
Small? Maybe not. Stand Jones next to T.J. Duckett, though, and he’s definitely smaller.
He gives away 2 inches and more than 40 pounds to Duckett, who is 6-0, weighs 254 and tucks his practice jersey up to display his six-pack of an abdomen. Jones has the speed, Duckett the size. Jones is the jab, Duckett the uppercut and together the Seahawks hope they pose an effective combination punch in the running game. A fastball followed by a change-up, except in this case the change-up is 40 pounds heavier than the fastball and doesn’t flinch.
“I like the contrast in size,” coach Jim Mora said. “And I like the contrast in style.”
The Seahawks are banking on the possibility that these two backs – along with a smattering of second-year runner Justin Forsett – can add up to backfield capable of revitalizing a running game that has sputtered for the past two years.
They have 12 years of NFL experience between them yet only one 1,000-yard rushing season. Jones gained 1,084 yards for Dallas in 2006 and found himself phased out a year later in favor of Marion Barber. Jones started 10 games for the Seahawks last season, but lost a starting job in December because of trouble fumbling.
Now, he’s expected to lead a backfield that is considered a weak point in the roster at least by those outside the organization.
“We’re comfortable with what we have,” president Tim Ruskell said of the running backs.
Seattle is trusting a blueprint that has proven effective, pairing a quick-twitch rabbit of a running back with a blunt object battering ram.
Ruskell saw it work in Tampa Bay with Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott. Mora’s also seen the benefit. He coached Dunn in Atlanta along with Duckett, and he sees glimpses of that partnership in Seattle’s current arrangement.
“I would liken Julius a little bit to Warrick,” Mora said. “Not the biggest man in stature, but has good burst and acceleration and first-cut ability. T.J. can come in and hammer people.”
Seattle is hardly the only team trusting the formula. In fact, it’s been used often enough there are trademark disputes. When Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were being described as Smash and Dash, Tennessee’s LenDale White cried foul. That was a name he came up with to describe his Titans rushing game.
“If they want a nickname, I can nickname them: Identity and Theft,” White said, according to ESPN.com.
The Giants did those tandems one better, rolling out a three-headed backfield of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw that was dubbed Earth, Wind & Fire.
Using multiple backs has become standard-operating procedure around the league.
“You can’t really go through a season by yourself,” Jones said. “It’s impossible. So you’ve got to have two backs. Definitely a bigger back to take more of the grunt work is always a good thing, too.”
Even if it comes at the cost of touchdowns. Duckett is the team’s putter, the one built for the short game. He scored eight touchdowns despite having fewer than half as many carries as Jones, who scored twice, and hasn’t been part of his team’s goal-line offense for years now.
“If I’m not scoring from outside the 20, I’m not scoring,” he said, laughing.
No hard feelings, though.
It’s all part of a partnership. Jones is the long-distance threat, Duckett the short-yardage specialist. Jones has the speed, Duckett the size and Seattle clearly plans to use a double-barreled rushing attack even if it never goes to the shotgun formation.
Left tackle Walter Jones (back spasms), receiver Deion Branch (knee) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (back), were all out again today. Defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder) and linebacker Lance Laury (knee) were both absent for the first time this training camp as well.
A team spokesman said that Branch, who is coming off of knee surgery, a team is simply being given some rest because of a bit of soreness. At the end of Thursday’s practice, Branch jogged off the field at a pretty brisk pace with no sign of a limp.
Trufant, who is also under a new scheme with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, hasn’t practiced yet in camp. He awkwardly twisted his back reaching for a pass in a pre-camp drill last week. Mora said the injury is minor but that the team is being particularly cautious with another back injury.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been putting ice on his throwing arm after practices. He said it is as tired as he expects it would be after 10 practices in seven days. … A few days after new Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff were guests at practice, the Seahawks go to the UW campus today night for a public practice. It won’t be a scrimmage – Mora has none scheduled because he wants his guys saving heavy banging for opponents. The first exhibition game is Aug. 15 at San Diego.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.