Christine Michael was chosen by the Seahawks in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Due to the great play by incumbent running back Marshawn Lynch, Michael could never earn significant playing time behind him and backup Robert Turbin. The Cowboys traded a conditional 7th round pick to acquire Michael in early September, but he was waived two months later. He joined the Redskins practice squad before being waived again, finally returning to the Seahawks. Since both Lynch and Rawls are out for the foreseeable future, Michael looks to earn the starter position while those two are out. Let’s take a look at his 84 yard performance and see if he is a viable option against the Rams defense next week.
Against the Browns, the Seahawks started fullback Derrick Coleman at running back. Gaining only 10 yards on five carries, Bevell gave Michael a chance. His first rushing attempt didn’t occur until the start of the second quarter. When he was in the game, the Seahawks used him as a pure runner with no pass play responsibilities. his best running play versus the Browns was the outside zone stretch.
Situation: 1st and 10 at SEA 41
Description: (2:06 – 3rd) A.Bailey reported in as eligible. C.Michael left tackle to CLV 49 for 10 yards (D.Whitner)
- The Seahawks run outside zone lead to the left out of the I-formation using 22-personnel (two tight ends, two running backs).
- The Browns put eight in the box in an attempt to stop the run while walking their ninth guy, SS#31 Whitner, to the strongside of the formation.
- The right guard, right tackle, and the extra blocker (RT#78 Bailey) all cut block their designated defenders.
- Michael takes the snap and rushes to his left, the weakside of the formation.
- He sees a hole appear between the left tackle and the left guard and follows his fullback through it.
- Michael stiff arms, FS#39 Gipson, before bouncing back inside for a ten yard gain.
- Michael shows patience in this outside zone stretch to follow his blockers through the hole waiting for them to create space before he bursts into the secondary.
The one thing that stood out to me was that Michael seemed to be a very Point A to Point B runner without a strong ability to change directions quickly. This was the case on multiple running plays where he bounched off his own men in the backfield before finding the holes. Another thing I noticed is that Michael lacked vision to see all the correct holes as seen in the next play.
Situation: 1st and 15 at CLE 27
Description: (0:38 – 3rd) C.Michael left tackle to CLV 27 for no gain (K.Dansby; J.Meder)
- This is another outside zone stretch to the left from offset-I formation.
- Michael takes the handoff and reads the left tackle as the tight end cut blocks LB#58 Kirksey from the backfield.
- This creates a hole between the center and the right guard, but Michael doesn’t see it and just continues on his path towards his preset plan between the left tackle and the left guard.
Outside of his 16 runs, he was in the game for just four other snaps. All four of these plays, Michael was used as misdirection on play-action bootlegs with no pass protection or receiving duties.
The Seahawks simply prefer a traditional running back handling the ball as opposed to the scatback types like Bryce Brown on early downs. This is why in their next match versus the Rams, I strongly think the Seahawks will continue to use Michael on 1st and 2nd downs especially early in the game. But how effective will he be?
The Rams are ranked 13th against the run according to DVOA rankings, while the Browns are ranked 28th in the same category. If the Rams plan around the fact that Michael is a non-factor in the passing game they can load the box on early downs when he is in the game.
What about Byrce Brown?
Brown had the best run of the day for the Seahawks and it went for 18 yards.
Situation: 2nd and 2 at SEA 28
Description: (8:21 – 4th) (Shotgun) B.Brown right tackle to SEA 46 for 18 yards (D.Whitner)
The Seahawks are in shotgun and run inside zone to the right. The Browns’ defense plays the run perfectly by not overpursuing to the edge. This forces Brown to continue searching down the line of scrimmage for a potential cut lane. Brown sees DE#96 Cooper at the end of the line of scimmage with his helmet inside his blocker, so he steps outside.
Cooper shifts his weight in order to position himself outside the right tackle to stop the free lane to the outside. By doing this, he actually overcorrects and falls forward. This gives Brown the cut lane he needs. Brown takes it, breaks the arm tackle of cornerback #43 Gaines, and then gets tripped up for the large gain on 2nd and short.
I took a look at Doug Martin’s performance versus the Rams earlier this week. In that breakdown, Martin gained 91 yards on 18 carries showing excellent vision and cutting ability to make players miss. Aaron Donald, the star defensive tackle for the Rams, will be a tough task for this offensive line to contain. If the Seahawks can gain a quick lead, they will be able to use Michael to wear down clock like they did against the Browns in this game.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.