Chris Carson retires: Who is Seattle’s new starting running back?

Chris Carson Seattle Seahawks
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On Tuesday afternoon Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson announced his retirement from the NFL after five seasons due to a neck injury. While the announcement itself wasn’t a surprise, it still leaves his old team with a hole to fill and two men vying for the job. 

For years, Chris Carson was a workhorse as the Seahawks’ starting running back. After being selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, Carson started 48 of his 49 games in Seattle and recorded 3,502 yards and 24 touchdowns, while also adding 804 receiving yards and seven additional scores. He was known for his hard running style but, unfortunately, was dinged up a lot during his career. 

In 2021, Chris Carson started the first five games for Seattle before landing on the injured reserve with what was then deemed a “long-term” neck issue. Carson didn’t play another game last season and wound up undergoing cervical-fusion surgery at the end of the season

While Carson had hoped the surgery would give him the ability to return to football, the 27-year-old failed a physical designation on Tuesday, which led to his retirement. While Carson will receive injury protection benefits due to the failed physical, it’s a sad end to a young career. 

“It’s a big disappointment. We took it as long as we possibly could with him, he saw a number of specialists, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to pass our physical,” said Seahawks general manager John Schneider. “He’s been an incredible pro, a guy who brings an amazing energy about him…He’s the type of runner that the whole team feeds off of. The type of player defensive players get off the bench to watch him run — they can feel his energy. He’s the type of runner whose style affects the whole team, not just the offense.”


Without Chris Carson’s energy to feed off of, the Seahawks will have to decide where to turn. The two leading candidates are last year’s leading rusher Rashaad Penny and this year’s second-round pick Kenneth Walker III. 

After being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, Penny started slowly behind Carson and then battled injuries the next two seasons, totaling only 161 carries in his first three NFL seasons. Last year, after Carson was hurt, Penny emerged from a committee that featured Alex Collins, Deejay Dallas, and Adrian Peterson.

The 26-year-old Penny played in ten games last year, starting six, and rushed for 749 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries (6.3 yards per carry). He only added 48 yards through the air, but showed Chris Carson-like toughness, breaking 20.2% of tackles and rushing for an average of 3.7 yards after contact. 

Rashaad Penny of the Seattle Seahawks looks to replace Chris Carson
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However, despite Penny’s success, the team drafted Walker III out of Michigan State in the second round this year. The rookie finished 6th in Heisman voting in 2021, rushing for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns on 263 carries in his first year as a Spartan after transferring from Wake Forest. 

Walker III had rushed for exactly 579 yards in each of his two years at Wake Forest, so there is some concern about his lack of track record. He also had just 19 career receptions during his three collegiate years, which means both Penny and Walker III will likely not be on the field for the Seahawks during passing downs. That will likely be DeeJay Dallas or Travis Homer again. 

With quarterback Russell Wilson now in Denver and Chris Carson retired, a new era is emerging in Seattle this year. Whoever takes the reins of this running back competition could be one of the faces of the Seahawks franchise for the foreseeable future.

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