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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks could find out if running backs matter as the position has been hit with injuries

Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III carries the football last season. Walker has not practiced at training camp due to a groin issue.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON – How much do running backs matter?

The Seahawks may find out the answer to the question that has been one of the biggest topics of the NFL offseason far quicker than they would have liked.

In recent practices during training camp, the Seahawks had just four running backs on hand with the top two players on the depth chart – second-year vet Kenneth Walker III and rookie Zach Charbonnet – out with injuries. Walker is dealing with a groin issue and has not practiced since the first day of camp Wednesday and Charbonnet has pain in his shoulder and has not practiced since Thursday.

Of Walker, coach Pete Carroll said: “He’s got a little groin thing that kind of bothered him getting into camp here so we’re just keeping him quiet for a bit.”

Carroll seemed to indicate the team isn’t too worried about Walker, saying “because it’s a groin we’ve got to make sure. He doesn’t feel bad. It’s not a terrible injury or anything like that. We just don’t want to aggravate it now and make it something that lingers throughout camp.”

As for Charbonnet, Carroll said: “He’s got a little shoulder thing that we’re checking out right now. Take some time to figure it out. … It just kind of creeped up on him. He didn’t get hit or anything like that. All the sudden he started to feel something – checking him out and being really cautious right now.”

Since it’s more than a month until the Seahawks play their first regular-season game on Sept. 10, any concern over the injuries might be much ado about nothing.

Still, as Carroll said, “We would love to have those guys (practicing). We’d love to have them back out there. But they’re not ready to go.”

For now, each is out indefinitely, even if they may miss only a week or two. It might not be that long, especially if nothing of concern is revealed in the tests on Charbonnet’s shoulder.

Walker was taken in the second round in 2022 and emerged as only the second rookie in Seahawks history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. He assumed the starting role when Rashaad Penny suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the fifth game of the year.

Charbonnet, a UCLA product, was taken in the second round in April, 52nd overall.

That was a pick some questioned given the presence of Walker and the increasingly popular idea that productive running backs can just as often be found in later rounds.

The Seahawks countered that with, the way they want to play offensively, they need to assure they have good depth, noting the injuries that have roiled the position the past few years. Chris Carson was forced to retire a year ago because of a neck issue, and Penny played just 28 games in his last four years.

Even for as durable as Walker was last season he also missed two games – the opener against Denver after dealing with a hernia issue in camp, and a late-season loss to Carolina with an ankle injury.

With Walker and Charbonnet out, fourth-year player DeeJay Dallas and rookie seventh-round pick Kenny McIntosh got the snaps with the starting offense with Dallas typically the starter in the two-minute/goal-line packages.

The only other two running backs on the roster are free-agent signee Bryant Koback of Toledo and Wayne Taulapapa, who was the leading rusher last season for the Washington Huskies after spending four years at Virginia. Taulapapa was a tryout player during the team’s rookie minicamp in May and was signed on Friday to add depth after the team learned of the issues with Walker and Charbonnet.

Koback spent last season on Minnesota’s practice squad before being signed by the Seahawks after the draft.

As Carroll said, the player who may benefit the most for now is McIntosh, noting that the team knows a lot about Dallas, who has played in 44 games the past three years with two starts.

“We’re getting a lot of information on him,’’ Carroll said of McIntosh. “We don’t need much on DeeJay. We know him. But for Kenny McIntosh this is really important.’’

The Seahawks weren’t necessarily intending to take another running back in the draft before their pick came at 237 overall and McIntosh was still available.

McIntosh led national champ Georgia in rushing in 2022 with 829 yards and 10 touchdowns and was expected to go in the middle rounds. But a slower-than-expected 4.62 40 time at the NFL combine helped contribute to his fall

Since McIntosh arrived last May, the Seahawks felt he has played faster than that reported time, and maybe even faster through the first four days of camp than he did in the spring.

“He looks really quick out there,” Carroll said, adding that McIntosh has dropped about 10 pounds since the spring (he’s listed at 204).

“He’s probably been one of the highlights,” Carroll said. “… He’s in great shape and he’s just razor sharp. He’s been explosive and innovative with his running and his cuts. He’s caught the ball really well.”

Even if the team knows Dallas well, he showed up with a different look this year that could make the team decide to use him in different ways.

Carroll said Dallas, who is listed at 214, is “a little bigger than he’s been,” saying he’s weighing “230 right now. I like him running with power and being physical as a different kind of guy for us. We’re going to see how that works for him.”

What the Seahawks hope is that Walker and Charbonnet will provide the kind of week-in and week-out 1-2 punch the team has tried for most of Carroll’s tenure to assemble, but too often seen go awry because of injuries.