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Making the Leap, No. 23: Christine Michael

Around The League will profile the top 25 players we see Making the Leap in 2014. No. 23 on the list: Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael.

Why Michael is on the list


He almost wasn't on the list.

Despite Michael's limited-but-juicy game film, pounding the table for a sophomore breakout campaign is a tough sell for one simple reason: Marshawn Lynch.

Beast Mode, after all, has averaged 300.3 carries per year over the past three seasons while forcing an outrageous 108 missed tackles last autumn, a whopping 31 more than the second best runner. Lynch's grip on the position kept Michael to just 18 carries as a rookie.

We initially saw Michael as a more appropriate "Making the Leap" candidate for next season, but the Seahawks are hinting the future is now.

"He's just a million miles ahead of where he was in terms of understanding what we want scheme-wise, pass protection-wise, route-wise and we know he's a natural runner," coach Pete Carroll said in May. "He's got explosive talent and we just want to get him to fit in."

The former Texas A&M thumper with freakish combine numbers brings a hard-charging, downhill style to his game that fits perfectly with Seattle's offense. "He has breakaway speed and power behind his pads," coordinator Darrell Bevell recently cooed.

I went back and watched all of Michael's regular-season snaps and preseason work from Year 1.

The sample size is thin, but Michael bursts off the screen. He runs with a low center of gravity and a heavy dose of power. While dishing out punishment, the 5-foot-10, 221-pounder still has the wheels to dart away from would-be tacklers into the second level and beyond.

Michael's burst through the line helped him regularly chew up six, seven and eight yards per rush. General manager John Schneider has labeled Michael and Percy Harvin as "two of our most explosive offensive players."

The Texas A&M strength coach who trained both Michael and Adrian Peterson told ESPN's Louis Riddick that "Christine's athletic explosiveness is on par" with the Vikings All-Pro back.

Michael's playing time was limited last autumn because -- not unlike in David Wilson's rookie year with the Giants -- he struggled as a pass protector. Having improved at the "details" of his job, Christine has impressed coaches filling in for an absent Lynch at OTAs.

Want proof? Check this out, children:

Some "Making the Leap" candidates come attached to a large body of work. When it comes to Michael, we admittedly have less evidence at our disposal. What we've witnessed, though, leads us to agree with Carroll, who called Michael the "biggest breakout candidate"on this championship roster.

Obstacles


We run the risk of jumping the gun.

Despite hints Seattle plans to spread the wealth, Lynch remains the centerpiece of Seattle's run-heavy offense.

We wouldn't be shocked if Marshawn is tapped for one more monster campaign, but with two more years on Lynch's contract, the Seahawks are planning for tomorrow.

Michael's best chance to make the leap is to make it impossible for Seattle to pull him off the field. He struggled with off-the-field issues at Texas A&M and lost time to a broken right leg and torn left ACL in college. If he can stay healthy and pull his weight protecting Russell Wilson, Michael is bound for a boost in touches.

2014 expectations


"He's going to get a ton of work," Carroll recently promised.

After Michael was activated for just four games as a rookie, we project him to leapfrog Robert Turbin and suit up from wire-to-wire in Year 2.

With Seattle locked and loaded as a playoff contender, keeping Lynch fresh for January makes sense. As Chris Wesseling opined, look for the Seahawks to employ a San Antonio Spurs-like approach to resting their stars throughout the year to prepare for postseason.

A split backfield is unrealistic, but Michael has a shot to see 100 carries and increased playing time down the stretch. He's done a lot with a little before, having scored 12 touchdowns on just 88 carries during his final collegiate campaign.

Riddick opined this week that if Michael gets the chance to eat this fall, "he'll show he's the most gifted running back drafted in past five years."

Bottom line? We anticipate Michael being viewed with confidence as Seattle's running back of the future by Christmas.

The end to the latest "Around The League Podcast" is full of shock and awe.

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