Russell Wilson may be the Seahawks biggest star but don't think that just because Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls are sidelined that Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are going to abandon their run-first principles Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
This is a Browns team, after all, that has shown an improved ability to get after the quarterback - registering nine sacks a week ago in a surprisingly complete 24-10 win over the 49ers. Meanwhile, Cleveland remains among the league's worst in run defense, surrendering an average of 131.3 yards per game.
Bevell spoke about Seattle's commitment to the run on Thursday.
"I think we just keep rolling, rolling with the guys that we have and continue to have confidence in it," Bevell said. "That's our philosophy, that's where we're going to start and whether it's Marshawn, next man up was Thomas, now the next man up is who it's going to end up being for this game. We'll work through those guys in practice here, we'll gain confidence with who we think needs to be in there, and then we'll roll. We're going to do the exact same thing that we've always done. We're not afraid to turn around and hand it to the running back, and we'll start it that way."
But just how many carries? And who will tote the rock the most and near the goal line? Reading through the tea leaves, Carroll and Bevell provided a few hints over the course of the week, touting Brown, preaching caution with Michael, re-affirming Fred Jackson's role as primarily a third down receiving option and consistently reminding that former fullback Derrick Coleman is "in the mix too."
When asked about Brown, Carroll raved.
"He's fast and he can catch the ball really well," Carroll said. "I watched him grow up, so I knew him from his high school days, and I've seen him through those college days and all of that. I know he's a good football player. I watched him extensively at Philadelphia and at Buffalo. He's big, I think he's 228 or something like that. He's got a good burst to him, he's got good sense. He's got a lot of good qualities, and it showed up on film and showed up in our practices as well. We couldn't get caught up with the right timing for him. He's come and gone a couple of times here, but this is a great opportunity for him."
While the flashy Michael - Seattle's second round pick in 2013 - is perhaps most well-known, he's a back who has previously struggled in his assignments, missing holes, failing to pick up blitzers and occasionally struggling with ball security. That's not a recipe for consistent carries.
"He'd been with us for a long time, so he does have a lot of background," Carroll said when explaining why Seattle re-signed Michael. "That doesn't mean that he's going to be the featured guy or starter or anything like that. He's just coming here to try to help us out. We'll see how that works out."
Coleman, 6-0, 233 pounds, only got one carry in Seattle's win last week against the Baltimore Ravens and it came late in the fourth quarter of a blowout. However, the former running back at UCLA turned fullback for the Seahawks broke through the right side for an impressive 19-yard jaunt that showed aggression and burst.
So, how will the final numbers work out? Here's an educated guess.
Seattle will use multiple backs against Cleveland and ultimately ride the hot hand. Brown is expected to get the first opportunity and if he performs as expected, he'll get the bulk of the carries, including near the goal line. As such, it isn't difficult to imagine Brown rushing for 100+ yards and a touchdown and sprinkling in a few catches, as well. Though that kind of success might surprise some nationally given that Brown was a street free agent just a week ago, it wouldn't be unprecedented for the four-year veteran and certainly fits into Seattle's run-first approach.
The 24-year old Brown, in fact, has done it three times over his career. The last time came over two years ago, when as a member of the Eagles he rushed for a career-high 115 and a score (on just nine carries) against the Chicago Bears on December 22, 2013.
If Seattle "runs" away with this game as many expect, it is possible that Michael and Coleman get in on the scoring action. Projecting either back to log more than five carries, however, is risky.
Jackson could play a big role in the game, as well, though it will likely come mostly via the passing game. With Cleveland's varied pass rush attempting to get to Wilson, Bevell could frequently call upon Jackson as an outlet option.