The most versatile member of the Seahawks backfield might also be the least talked about
For all the talk surrounding the Seattle Seahawks’ efforts to rebuild their running game and the players tasked with doing so, one name is often dismissed or forgotten about all together. C.J. Prosise has fallen behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in the pecking order and is firmly on the roster bubble after two injury-riddled seasons to begin his career.
It’s understandable for Prosise to find himself the forgotten man in a crowded backfield. The third year running back hasn’t logged a carry since Week 10 of the 2017 season, a game in which he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Prosise’s trip to the injured reserve last season came 51 weeks after the then-rookie suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
There’s no denying Prosise’s injury history and the questions surrounding his durability may ultimately cost him a chance at carving out the career first expected of him when he arrived in the league. However, there’s also no denying his talent and versatile skill set, and that might be what gives him another shot at becoming the player he was expected to become in the pros.
What separates Prosise from the rest of the Seahawks’ backfield, and what gives him the chance to be a special playmaker in the NFL, is his receiving ability. A former college wide receiver, Prosise is a mismatch for defenses and a chess piece for Seattle’s offense.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Prosise can flair out of the backfield into the flats or make himself available underneath; he’s just as efficient at lining up out wide or in the slot and going vertical. Of Prosise’s 30 career targets, 21 came out of the backfield, while nine came with him split out wide.
The threat of Prosise lining up as a receiver — both by motioning out wide and lining up there out of the huddle — is in the matchup. One-on-one against a linebacker in space results in easy wins for Prosise, and easy yardage for the Seahawks’ offense, in a variety of ways.
Against a bigger, slower-footed ‘backer in Jayon Brown, Prosise gets separation by going deep after setting up a slant-and-go, forcing the defender to crash down on the quick route:
Having Prosise start out in the backfield before splitting him out wide pulls linebacker Shea McClellin into space, where he’s entirely uncomfortable. Like the play above, McClellin is forced to crash down on the in-breaking route and is no match for Prosise’s terrific agility as he comes back to the sideline, leaving the defender in his wake:
Even without setting up the deep route and instead going vertical immediately, linebackers are simply too slow to stay with Prosise. Elandon Roberts gives Prosise a 5-yard cushion off the line of scrimmage, within 10 yards the cushion is eliminated, by 15 yards Prosise has several steps on him and a perfect pass beats the just-arriving deep safety:
For as much of a mismatch Prosise creates lined up out wide, he has the route running experience and football IQ to continuously put himself into great positions. It’s evident on underneath routes from the slot, where he wins with agility much like the shiftiest slot receivers. And it’s evident across the field against zone coverage, where Prosise can find holes and sit in space waiting for the throw.
Here, Prosise does a terrific job getting vertical in a hurry out of the backfield, before sitting in space over top of the outside cornerback and well underneath the deep safety. The throw comes a second early as pressure comes up the middle, arriving short and allowing the underneath defender back into the play. However, it’s a smart route by Prosise nonetheless.
Prosise’s intelligence as a receiver appears out of the backfield, too. Similar to the clip above, Prosise sits underneath against zone coverage, shading over slightly to give himself room to turn up field after the catch, away from the linebacker responsible for the hook/curl zone. He gives Russell Wilson a check-down option and puts himself into a position to not only bail out his quarterback, but gain a first down:
While Prosise’s receiving ability rightfully draws attention, his ability as a runner is not to be overlooked either. Although it’s a small sample size, with just 41 career carries, Prosise has been a more successful running back than any other on Seattle’s roster over the last two seasons. As the rest of the Seahawks’ backs struggled to a -5.6% success rate on all carries, Prosise flashed on the way to a 48.8% success rate — 3.1% higher than the league average over that span.
With good height-weight-speed, Prosise has the physical profile of a starting tailback, despite his body letting him down throughout the start of his career. Prosise fits the mold of a Seattle running back and runs like one, too; churning his legs upon contact and finishing with aggression.
Importantly for a Seahawks running back , Prosise is adept at creating for himself when the called run breaks down. Here, as Prosise makes the right read and heads for the hole, Britt is unable to sustain his block and the hole disappears. Prosise has the vision to spot the cutback lane and the change of direction to hit it, before bouncing off a tackle while turning no gain into positive yardage:
In what has been Prosise’s best moment as a pro, practically all of his positive traits as a runner are on display: Making the correct read and hitting the right one of two gaping lanes, shaking a defender squared up in space and finishing the run with breakaway speed.
As we saw last season, when carry-after-carry results in a tackle for no gain or a loss, it’s easy to want to get to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible even if nothing has developed — Eddie Lacy was especially guilty of this. Prosise, meanwhile, has possessed great vision and patience going back to his first year as a full-time running back at Notre Dame.
Taking a handoff out of the shotgun, Seattle does a good job up front to create space for Prosise. As he approaches the line, both the A gap and B gap is wide open:
Prosise does an excellent job allowing Britt to get to the second level for a combo block, before making the correct read and hitting the B gap as Britt seals off the linebacker shading to the left, helping Prosise gain eight yards:
Later in the same game, Prosise again takes the handoff and approaches the line of scrimmage with two open lanes.
Instead of hitting the gap closest to him — and the one he’s already square to — while trying to beat the linebacker in a foot race, he opens his hips and hops to the outside, making the correct read and going for six yards:
Helping Prosise’s case to earn touches and become an important piece in the Seahawks’ offense is his ball security. Despite having just three years of full-time running back play under his belt, Prosise takes care of the football tremendously well. He carries the ball in the correct hand running to either side, protects it with both hands as he goes to ground and is yet to lose a fumble in 293 touches across college and the NFL.
After two seasons, Prosise is yet to prove he can stand up to the beating an NFL running back takes. Early indications are he’s doing everything in his power to change that. If he does, Prosise could go from forgotten man to leading man in a hurry. An ideal-sized, tough runner with the versatility to take a hand-off from eight yards deep in the backfield one play and line up on the perimeter as a receiver the next, there’s no other back on Seattle’s roster who can do everything Prosise does, as well as he can do it.