Sep 3, 2011; Auburn, AL, USA; Utah State Aggies running back Robert Turbin (6) gets past Auburn Tigers linebacker Jake Holland (5) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-US PRESSWIRE

Meet Your Week 1 Starting Running Back: Robert Turbin

News broke earlier this week that Marshawn Lynch had been arrested for a DUI, leaving the Seahawks in a difficult place. Given that this is Marshawn’s 3rd criminal offense during his time in the NFL, and he has already be suspended once in the past, it is fair to say that Lynch is virtually a mortal lock to miss Week 1, and probably a number of weeks after that. Often, in the NFL, teams must rely on their depth to succeed. This is usually due to injury rather than criminal incident but the concept remains the same. The Seahawks’ primary contingency plan in the event of the loss of Marshawn Lynch is rookie 4th round pick and former Utah State Aggie Robert Turbin. In most scenarios the idea of losing one of your marquee players and having him replaced by a rookie you drafted in the fourth round is absolutely terrifying, but the running back position is a unique case. In the past few years rookie running backs have found a great deal of success league wide, even ones that were not Adrian Peterson-like stud first round picks. The list of rookie running backs drafted outside the first round who went on to be productive in the last few years include names like Roy Helu, DeMarco Murray, Chris Ivory, Kevin Smith, Steve Slaton, LaGarrette Blount and Matt Forte. The most commonly stated reasoning for this success is that running back is simply not that difficult a position to learn. Rookies can be sheltered from difficult 3rd down blocking assignments and simply be turned loose with the ball in their hands on first and second down. If we accept that there is a precedent for running backs like Turbin to succeed in their first year, a look into his pre-draft scouting reports should give us a fairly good idea of what Turbin brings to the table and what kind of drop of from Lynch’s production we are likely to see early in the year.

To evaluate Turbin’s credentials I looked over a variety of scouting reports that surfaced about him in the lead up to the draft. The reports differ in certain areas and given that I have never seen Turbin play I don’t have any means for supporting one opinion over the other. What I’ve done instead is looked at many scouting reports and only included information that is common to either all of them or at least a solid majority. I’ve structured these pieces of information into the basic categories of “good news” and “bad news”. Most scouting reports use the terms “positives” and “negatives” but that terminology strikes me as dry.

Good News: Robert Turbin has good size and strength

We don’t have to rely on scouting reports to confirm this information. Turbin tips the scales at a solid 222 pounds and put up 28 reps on the bench press, a fantastic number for a running back. Turbin uses this strength to run downhill and break tackles. He has the ability to wear down defenses and create yards after contact in a similar manner to the man he will be stepping in for, albeit in a way that is unlikely to match the aesthetic appeal of “Beast Mode”

Bad News: Robert Turbin is not fast.

Turbin ran a 4.50 at the Combine which is respectable but approximately average. Unfortunately, multiple reports suggest that he doesn’t play up to his timed speed. Turbin lacks a second gear to break away from defenders and has been known to get caught from behind. Turbin is unlikely to turn the corner on outside runs or impress with his lateral movement. The word “plodding” is liberally used in descriptions of Turbin which is generally not a good sign.

Good News: Robert Turbin has good vision

To clarify we aren’t talking about Shaun Alexander in his prime type of vision, but most scouting reports suggest Turbin does a good job of picking the right hole and hitting it. His decisiveness is combined with a solid burst through the hole that creates consistent positive yardage. This bodes for Turbin’s ability to thrive in a zone-blocking system. This is also a factor, along with his aforementioned power, in his knack for finding the end zone. Last year Turbin had 23 total touchdowns (19 rushing, 4 receiving) for Utah State.

Bad News: Robert Turbin won’t contribute much in the passing game

This weakness is not uncommon among running backs coming out of college. Turbin is more of a power back than a receiving option and only put up 171 yards receiving last year. Turbin also can struggle with pass blocking. He tends to whiff on his blocks and gets blown back at times. These problems may well be correctable as he certainly has the requisite strength to be an effective blocker. At this point he is fairly raw in both pass catching and pass blocking and unlikely to see much time on 3rd down.

Overall Turbin has the ability to be an effective fill in for Marshawn Lynch for however long he is needed. When Turbin was first drafted some were confused as he appeared to be more of a backup feature back than a complementary back to Lynch, considering their  skill sets are somewhat similar. It now appears that a backup feature back is exactly what the Seahawks need and the pick of Turbin may well end up being wiser than it initially seemed. Robert Turbin is unlikely to wow Seahawks fans with blazing speed, incredible moves or earthquake inducing runs but he could provide solid, if unspectacular, production. As long as we don’t expect too much out of him, especially in the passing game, he may well be a pleasant surprise. NFL comparisons for Turbin range from Isaac Redman to Marshawn Lynch himself and if Turbin is able to land somewhere in the middle of those two then Seahawks nation will have to be happy.

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  • Thoder

    We could get lucky with Lynch though. Because his current troubles are of a different category than he has been in trouble before it is possible he may only get a fine. Not to mention he may be playing in week one only to get suspended later in the season. Lots of questions still to be answered so lets just keep our fingers crossed.

  • ManningChanner

    I honestly have never read a more misinformed piece on a player. At least you preface this “analysis” by stating that you have never seen Turbin play but to anyone who has, this was stating the obvious. I would invite you next time to do a little research before making such bold claims about someones strengths and weaknesses.
    For anyone who would like to know the truth about Turbin. He has been clocked several times in the 4.4 range and he rarely, if ever, has been caught from behind. The knock on him from many NFL scouts was that he tended to rely on his speed too much and always looked to pop the run to the outside or head to the edge when he may have been able to cut up field in a more direct route. One trip to YouTube and you’ll find several long TD runs by Turbin; 95+ yards vs Utah, 50+ yards vs. Texas A&M, 80 yards vs. BYU just to mention a few. No one catches him from behind and many involve Turbin making it to the edge and outrunning DB’s. Never have I heard anyone use the word “plodding” when describing Robert Turbin. His nick name is “Turbo”, not exactly a description of someone who is strictly a short yardage power back. Yes his size and strength are great but his speed makes for a rare combo for someone of his size.
    His other strength is catching the ball out of the backfield. The Seahawk coaches have already commented on that ability and have hinted that his hands are so good that he could be lined up in the slot on certain formations, something he did in college as well.
    As for his weaknesses, his pass blocking can be improved as you mentioned. Another weakness is a little too much dancing around or waiting for a play to develop once in a while. He is a very patient runner and sets up blocks well but sometimes his patience is to his detriment. Oftentimes he will not hit the hole at full speed because he waits behind the line of scrimmage for the play to develop in front of him. He will have to learn to trust his lineman more at this level and concentrate on the tempo with which he approaches the line. Too much patience at the pro level will cost him with the overall defensive speed that is found on the field in today’s game.

  • snowlover

     @ManningChanner Amen Manning.  This report is laughable.  You nailed his strengths and faults.  You should be the one wring reports, not the original bozo.  Ask the backs that failed to catch him how he fails to hit 2nd gear.  Guess they failed to even find first gear.

  • theBard

     @snowlover Amen snowlover. Would you like a cracker for all that semen you just swallowed following a 140 character old-fashioned Manning dick sucking you just gave courtesy your snowflake-loving fingertips? Or will his very own home brew suffice? Laughable wouldn’t be the correct word to describe your misinformed approval of the misinformed Manning comment. A monkey can look up a running back’s stats from 3 impressive games and rely on them to prove a point… might I add that it is ultimately the same point made by the original poster, that “Turbo” will be a great fill in for Lynch.