And based on everything Pete Carroll has said about the matter, it doesn’t sound as though Carson has lost the grip on his starting job over 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny.
“Because we do believe in him, we’re going to continue to show him that,” Carroll said Monday. “He’s a terrific football player, and we want to make sure and maintain that level of play from him so we’ll work at it, work with him on it.”
“I just want to get him back out there and get going so he can show himself that he can take care of this,” Carroll said. “He’s a great competitive kind. He cares. He wants to. He did everything during the week to do a great job throughout the week, and he’ll need to do that all again. I’m going to help him believe in himself, because he’s a fantastic competitor and ballplayer. He deserves that support.”
Carson’s three fumbles this season don’t include one from last week in Pittsburgh, when he was hit and upended right as he took a handoff from Russell Wilson. That fumble — which was officially attributed to Wilson — set up a late Steelers touchdown as did the one Carson had earlier in that game when he was stripped by T.J. Watt. His fumble on Sunday was returned 33 yards for a touchdown after Eli Apple punched it loose as Carson was going to the ground.
“I just have to keep trying to get better,” Carson said. “The defense is going to try and go after the ball so I have to be aware of that.”
On his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show Monday, Carroll said the coaching point for Carson’s latest fumble is that he needs to keep both hands on the ball while going to the ground instead of taking one off to brace his fall.
But Carroll talked about Carson’s three fumbles as though they were good plays by the defenders as much as they were a function of lax ball security. He said Carson needs to fix the trend but did not issue that as any sort of ultimatum. And he described it as a break for Carson as opposed to a benching when C.J. Prosise replaced him for the start of Seattle’s next offensive possession following his latest fumble.
Carroll is never one to publicly bury a player, but the supportive terms in which he has talked about Carson stand out given how much he emphasizes that “it’s all about the ball.” Because of that emphasis, Carroll has had a particularly low tolerance for running backs putting it on the ground. It was part of the reason why Alex Collins didn’t stick in Seattle. It helped doom Christine Michael as well.
Penny, whom the Seahawks drafted 27th overall last year, was the Seahawks’ third option as a rookie as Carson ran for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns. Now the clear-cut No. 2 behind Carson, Penny ran for 80 yards on 16 carries — including a 37-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh — over Seattle’s first two games before missing the Saints game with a hamstring injury.
Carson, meanwhile, has rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown on 45 carries in three games as Seattle’s running game has struggled to find consistent footing. Prosise out-snapped Carson 46 to 37 Sunday but only managed 5 yards on is four attempts compared to 53 yards on 15 attempts for Carson.
“I like the way he’s playing,” Carroll said when asked for an assessment of Carson aside from his fumbles. “I love his style of play. Out of the backfield, he’s added to his game. He’s still running tough and physical and all of the things that we’re counting on. There’s nobody we’d rather have have the ball in short-yardage situations, down by the goal line. He’s great at it.”
Carroll said Penny ran well in pregame warmups Sunday and looked to Thursday as the day when Penny might be able to practice. Even if Penny is available for Sunday’s game at Arizona, all signs from Carroll are that it’ll still be in a backup role to Carson.
“He’s had three remarkable, remarkable punches that have knocked the ball out,” Carroll said of Carson’s fumbles. “He was covering it up, and he knew, he was conscious, it was right in the right place and it happened again. So we needed to get him out of there some, just give him some time to whatever, separate from it, and then put him back in, let him play some, and just work our way back out of it. He’s been a marvelous player on this team and he has to fix this. I can’t fix it for him, but we’ll help him, and count on him to come back and play good football for us.”