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Will Thomas Rawls hold off Christine Michael?

The Seahawks understand they are going to miss Marshawn Lynch as the bruising tackle-breaker setting the tone for the past half-decade of near-dynastic NFC dominance.

Ever since Thomas Rawlsoutshined Lynch last season, though, coach Pete Carroll has been counting on the hard-charging former Central Michigan star to headline a committee tasked with filling Seattle's backfield void.

A one-cut, downhill runner, Rawls has already inspired a litany of praise for his resolutely physical playing style.

Early last December, Carroll offered a reluctant comparison to punishing Houston Oilers Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, adding that Rawls "makes somebody miss to find somebody to hit." NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger noted that Rawls refuses to run out of bounds because he's "going to take some blood with him."

Speaking with NFL Media's Mike Garofolo this week, Rawls channeled Lynch's mindset in an apt description of both black-and-blue runners.

"Sometimes you've got to be possessed, you've got to get out of your body at the running back position. You have to be something special," Rawls explained. "You gotta be tough, play with passion, you gotta have something different -- the 'it' -- to be in the backfield, especially here with the Seahawks because this whole team is built on toughness, leadership. Just dogs -- straight savages, man."

Rawls has yet to suit up for a preseason game after missing the entire offseason program due to an ankle fracture. Carroll is confident, however, that his top back will be ready to form a lethal one-two punch with a re-awakenedChristine Michael once the regular season kicks off.

"Thomas looks really good," Carroll said Wednesday, via the team's official website. "All I can tell you is he looks great. I have no hesitation telling you he's going to play in the opener."

While offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell turned the offense over to Russell Wilson down the stretch last season, the Seahawks plans to stick with a ball-control attack that laid the groundwork for the most successful era in franchise history.

"We've built a winning formula around playing stout defense and controlling the clock with the run game," wide receiver Doug Baldwin told NFL Total Access in May. "That's not going to change.

"We have a saying in our receiver's room: You gotta learn how to block, and you gotta learn how to tackle. Because you're going to be on special teams. We're not going to change the way we play."

The question on the minds of all fantasy football drafters leading up to the season: which running back will succeed Lynch to benefit from that formula?

Rawls' 5.6 yard-per-carry average was tops in the NFL among backs with at least 100 attempts last season. He cleared the 100-yard mark in four of seven starts compared to just one of seven for Lynch. His rookie game film strongly suggests he has a future as a top-10 NFL running back.

That said, his penchant for sacrificing his body like a man "possessed" could not only leave him behind an obviously explosive Michael in the early-season pecking order, but also leave the door open for competition throughout the season.

From the Seahawks' point view, the question isn't whether Rawls or Michael will replace a franchise icon. It's whether a rusty Rawls and ascendant Michael can join forces to outproduce last year's tandem of a healthy, hungry Rawls and a ragged, rundown Lynch.

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