During his time as Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden surrounded his quarterback with as many weapons as possible. Those weapons included star receivers, shifty slot receivers, tight ends who create mismatches and running backs who can turn a simple screen into a 50-yard touchdown. Washington added plenty of weapons in free agency, but failed to land an explosive running back that be a legitimate threat out of the backfield. It was no surprise, then, to see the Redskins use their sixth-round pick on a running back. The surprise was who they selected.
Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk has plenty of good attributes to his game, but catching passes wasn’t something he did in college. The Baylor offense rarely threw to the running back, leaving Seastrunk with only nine catches in two seasons in college. That’s not to say he can’t catch the ball, just that he didn’t. Clearly, the Redskins feel he can develop this part of his game, but at least initially, he’ll have to contribute in other ways.
One thing Seastrunk definitely brings to the table is his home-run hitting ability. He has the explosiveness to take a routine running play all the way to the house for a touchdown.
On this play, Seastrunk takes the handoff up the middle. He begins to cut back to the outside before spotting a hole developing in the middle. He slips through the hole, then cuts past a defender to get to the sideline. From there its a foot race, and nobody is able to catch him.
Seastrunk is someone the defense absolutely cannot allow to get to the edge. If he turns the corner and gets up the sideline, it’s tough to stop him.
This is a simple outside zone play. Seastrunk presses to the outside before looking to cut back. As he is about to cut back, he spots a unblocked defender coming up to fill the gap. That forces Seastrunk to bounce the run back outside, despite the slot corner having outside leverage on his block. Seastrunk is able to dodge the slot corner and burst up the sideline for the first down. He isn’t content with the first down, cutting back inside to elude another defender before eventually being brought down inside the five-yard line.
Those outside zone plays are something Washington is expected to carry over from the Mike Shanahan regime. Seastrunk ran them regularly at Baylor, but has a tendency to try and bounce everything outside, missing cut back opportunities.
Here’s another outside zone play, this time to the left.
After securing the handoff, Seastrunk has an obvious running lane available to him. The left tackle has kicked the edge defender to the outside, while the left guard is working to cut off the linebacker on the second level. Most zone running backs would have read the defender on the outside shoulder of the tackle and known to cut it back immediately. But Seastrunk misses the lane and attempts to bounce it outside. As it turns out, he manages to get to the edge and picks up a first down. But if Seastrunk had cut it back, he would have had a two-way go on a safety for a touchdown.
Seastrunk offers a change of pace to Alfred Morris in the run game, but will have to be more disciplined as a runner if he is to take some snaps away from Morris. Ideally, Seastrunk is able to develop into a third-down back. He’ll have to prove he can catch the ball, but as we’ve seen above, he’s hard to tackle in the open field. Washington would have had a brief glimpse of his ability to catch the ball at the scouting combine back in February. He looked perfectly adept at catching the ball in that workout, but that wasn’t against a live defense. It remains to be seen just how well he catches the ball with defenders chasing him down.
One thing he will definitely have to improve on is his pass protection. The best third down backs in the NFL are also excellent blockers. Seastrunk was limited in his protection assignments, but he wasn’t effective when given the opportunity to block.
One of the first rules of pass protection taught to running backs is to block in-to-out. The most immediate threat to the quarterback is always in the A gap either side of the center, then the B gaps between the guards and tackles. On that play, Seastrunk starts outside and works back inside. He gets to the edge to help the tackle on the outside speed rush, and allows a blitzing linebacker to come free in the B gap between the left guard and tackle. The quarterback is forced to throw much earlier than he would have liked, thanks to the pressure allowed by Seastrunk.
This time, Seastrunk correctly blocks in-to-out, starting at the A gap and working outside. But when nobody appears in the A gap, Seastrunk is slow to spot that his right guard is struggling and needs help. Seastrunk fails to even get a hand on the defender and is once again bailed out thanks to a quick throw from his quarterback.
Pass protection is the hardest thing for any running back to learn entering the NFL. Running backs aren’t always asked to do it in college, certainly not as often as they will be in the NFL. But if Seastrunk is to develop into the third down back the Redskins hope he can be, he will have to learn how to block effectively. If Washington can’t trust him to identify a defensive front, recognize and pick up the blitz, then he won’t see the field in passing situations, even if he proves in training camp that he can catch the ball.
Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins without the benefit of access to the team. Here’s his closer look at second-round outside linebacker Trent Murphy from last week.
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