Seahawks’ wealth of possibilities

When the Seattle Seahawks were fine-tuning their 53-man roster over the weekend, and the conversation turned to the running back position, their final decision came down to a comparison of apples and orange Escalades.

Five-foot-7 jitterbug Justin Forsett and 254-pound bruiser T.J. Duckett both play halfback, and they both did enough during the preseason to warrant roster spots, but the similarities pretty much end there.

In fact, all six of Seattle’s running backs bring something unique to the table. That’s why the Seahawks, for only the second time in Mike Holmgren’s 10 years as head coach, are prepared to go into a season with six runners on the roster.

“One thing I can say is that we’re a very versatile group,” said Leonard Weaver, the Seahawks’ starting fullback. “All of us can run, all of us can catch, and so we try not to look at one thing that we do.

“We try to be versatile; that’s how I look at myself. Duck’s the same way, and Forsett’s the same way. We pride ourselves on being an elite, complete group and performing every night.”

While pass receiving was never considered a strength of former Seahawks star Shaun Alexander, that’s the part of the game that ties this year’s group together. Weaver, co-starting halfbacks Julius Jones and Maurice Morris, backup fullback Owen Schmitt, Duckett and Forsett have all shown a keen ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But they’re all different backs as well.

Morris and Jones have similar running styles, with their shifty feet and non-avoidance of contact, but they have different body types. The 5-foot-11 Morris is leaner and runs more upright, while the 5-10, 208-pound Jones is a workout warrior who runs more like a bowling ball.

Forsett is a similar runner to Jones, but he has a unique way of using his small stature to his advantage. Forsett has been known to bury his helmet in an oncoming defender’s chest, making it hard to wrap the little guy up.

Duckett is the bruiser of the group, making his likely role that of a short-yardage runner. He runs better from the waist up, as tacklers have found success tripping him up at the ankles and knees.

The fullbacks, Weaver and Schmitt, are also different backs. A former tight end, Weaver flows better as a runner but is still developing as a blocker. Schmitt might one day be considered a better blocker than runner, once he figures out the intricacies of the NFL.

The last time the Seahawks carried six running backs into a season opener was in 2003, when the team opted to keep three fullbacks — Chris Davis was hurt in the opener and never returned — as well as special teams specialist Kerry Carter. In 2000, 2001 and 2002, Seattle had just four runners on the roster when the seasons began.

This year, the decision to keep six running backs really came down to Forsett and Duckett.

Forsett was a practice-squad candidate, but the Seahawks didn’t want to risk exposing him to other teams, who could have signed him to their active roster without compensation. And when wide receiver Ben Obomanu went down with a season-ending clavicle injury in Friday night’s win over Oakland, Forsett became the most logical candidate to return punts for Seattle.

Duckett’s role is less defined, although short yardage appears to be his best fit. He was successful on two short-yardage carries Friday, solidifying his spot on the team.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to come in and do it,” Duckett said after rushing 11 times for 71 yards and a touchdown Friday night. “Whether it’s short yardage or first-and-10, I’ll go out and give it me best.”

Short yardage was an area of concern for the 2007 Seahawks, who converted less than 52 percent of their opportunities on third-and-2-or-less.

The 2008 Seahawks could conceivably be down to five running backs by the middle of next week. Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and defensive back Jordan Babineaux do not count toward the 53-man roster because of one-game suspensions, so the team will have to make two more roster moves when they are activated a week from Monday.

But for now, the Seahawks have a wealth of possibilities at the running back position.

“Obviously, it means another position is going to be slim,” Weaver said Friday night, when asked about the possibility of the Seahawks keeping six running backs. “But we’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of talent. … Our (meeting) room is going to be one of the great groups around the league.”

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