The Seahawks were able to clear out some space in their running backs room this offseason as they allowed Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer to depart for Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively, in free agency. Tony Jones signed with the Broncos and fellow practice squad running backs Godwin Igwebuike and Wayne Gallman both still sit on the free agent market after their contracts with the team expired, leaving only Kenneth Walker and DeeJay Dallas on the roster leading up to the draft.
Seattle drafted two rookies to join Walker and Dallas and now face yet another season in which they may be rostering four or more running backs. In fact, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times is fairly sure that four backs will be retained on the 53-man roster with the likely question being who takes that fourth spot.
Walker, who finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting with an impressive debut outing, is certain to return as the team’s lead back. After amassing 1,050 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 11 starts, Walker will be looking to take the next step in his sophomore season.
Dallas returns for the final year of his rookie contract. He’s never gotten to display much as a backup running back, usually splitting touches with Homer and Penny, not to mention Chris Carson, Alex Collins, and Carlos Hyde in previous years, but this may be the year that Dallas gets to breakout out as a true primary backup behind Walker. Even if the two rookies prevent him from establishing a role as RB2, Dallas’s roster spot should be safe. Over his three years in Seattle, Dallas has been a dedicated special teams contributor and a reliable returner of both punts and kickoffs.
The Seahawks used a second-round selection, their fourth pick in the first two rounds, to select Zach Charbonnet out of UCLA. Charbonnet projects as the most likely option to unseat Dallas as the second back behind Walker. After a strong freshman season at Michigan that saw him rush for 726 yards and 11 touchdowns, Charbonnet lost carries as a sophomore to Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, leading to a transfer to the west coast. Charbonnet responded to losing his job in Ann Arbor by dominating the Pac-12, rushing for 2,496 yards and 27 touchdowns over two seasons with the Bruins. He brings a bit more size to the position than Walker or Dallas yet still provides a surprising agility to go along with great vision and reliable pass-catching.
Kenny McIntosh was the team’s final draft pick of 2023 in the seventh round. As a senior at Georgia last year, McIntosh finally got an opportunity to perform as the lead back after the NFL departures of James Cook and Zamir White. McIntosh delivered with 829 rushing yards for 10 touchdowns, but he truly thrived as a receiving back, catching 43 passes for 505 yards and two more touchdowns in 2022. Walker, Dallas, and Charbonnet all have some pass-catching ability, but McIntosh’s specialty in the area may be enough to secure him a roster spot as a rookie. McIntosh has similar size to Charbonnet and has more experience as a committee back with a receiving role from his time with the Bulldogs.
The only other back on the roster, after the team waived undrafted rookie Chris Smith this week, is Bryant Koback, a previously undrafted running back who spent last season on the Vikings’ practice squad. Koback put up ridiculous numbers at Toledo, rushing for 4,026 yards and 45 touchdowns over his career as a Rocket. That total could’ve been even higher if Koback hadn’t been limited to six games in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. While Koback has a strong college resume, Condotta is under the impression that it will take a lot in order for him to unseat McIntosh as the fourth running back on the roster.
Therein lies the plan for Seattle in 2023. Walker should continue as the team’s lead back with either Dallas or Charbonnet taking over key backup duties. Dallas can also compete for pass-catching duties with the other rookie, McIntosh. And, unless Charbonnet and McIntosh make Dallas completely superfluous with strong special teams contributions of their own, Dallas should continue to be a core special teamer for the Seahawks. All this while Koback gives his best audition to prove he deserves a chance in the regular season.