This is Part 10 in my 10-Part Second-Year Running Back Series, using NFL Game Rewind to analyze each sophomore back's rookie-season tape. For the Lamar Miller, David Wilson, Bryce Brown, Vick Ballard, Bernard Pierce, Ronnie Hillman, Daryl Richardson, LaMichael James, and Isaiah Pead writeups, click here:
My first exposure to Robert Turbin came during the 2012 Scouting Combine, where he arrived built like a 5-foot-10, 220-pound brick sh*thouse and ran a 4.50 forty time, "unofficially" clocking as fast as 4.44. At rookie camp, teammates dubbed Turbin "SeaHulk" for his sculpted physique. Although their running styles are somewhat similar, Turbin served as Marshawn Lynch's change-of-pace back and mixed in on obvious passing downs as a rookie. Turbin wound up with 92 carries and 22 receptions on the season.
I re-watched and charted all 114 of Turbin's touches over the weekend. These were my takeaways:
For a rookie back who averaged a seemingly impressive 4.4 yards per carry, Turbin's tape wasn't so impressive. Strictly as a ball carrier, he's a gets-what's-blocked runner. With few exceptions, I didn't see Turbin add yardage to runs and pass plays with broken tackles or elusiveness. Although Turbin demonstrated some open-field pop when he lowered his shoulder to take defenders head on, his ability to generate yards after contact was disappointing. Albeit in a small sample size, I noticed Turbin was ineffective in short-yardage situations as a rookie. He carried the football four times on third-and-short plays (two yards or fewer), and executed just once for the first down.
Despite his fast forty time, Turbin lacks ideal initial burst and giddy-up. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Turbin a "plodder," but there is very little quick-twitch movement to his game. Turbin does have somewhat impressive acceleration and buildup speed when his run blocking springs him onto the second level, but he's certainly not an explosive short-area back, either as a runner or receiver. While Turbin gave the Seahawks better straight-line speed than Lynch when he had a full head of steam, otherwise he was a downgrade in every tangible area from Seattle's starter.
I'd characterize Turbin's change-of-direction skills as inconsistent to poor. At times, it looked almost painful for Turbin to make cuts, and on a couple of occasions I noticed Turbin lose his footing altogether because he simply couldn't execute an attempt at a lateral move in the hole. His cutting ability was methodical and mechanical. This was not a comfortable area of Turbin's game.
Turbin's vision was also shaky. He missed too many big-yardage cutback opportunities, and frequently ran into piles. Turbin consistently fell forward to finish his runs, but left yards on the field.
For a 220-pound power back, I found it rather fascinating that the pass game was Turbin's real bread and butter. The Seahawks were very comfortable aligning Turbin in the shotgun next to Russell Wilson, where he was often asked to pick up blitzers and run pass patterns. Turbin is a plus receiver. He collects passes with his hands rather than letting the football into his body, and showed an ability to secure errant throws.
I also thought Turbin displayed excellent awareness of when to release out of the backfield and into a route. He was an intelligent, reliable checkdown target. Turbin lacks big-play receiving skills, but the Seahawks clearly felt good about his passing-game chops because it showed in the way they utilized him. Turbin ran four pick-wheel routes during his rookie year, and caught two passes after splitting out wide or into the slot. In Week 16 versus San Francisco, Turbin lined up at X receiver and caught a nine-yard pass on an in-breaking route. I charged Turbin with one drop on 25 rookie-year targets. He secured 22, good for a highly efficient "catch rate" of 88 percent.
Turbin is not an explosive runner or receiver, but as a rookie came off as a largely assignment-sound football player with a solid NFL career ahead of him. He reminds me of Giants running back Andre Brown. Turbin can gain blocked yards and function in all phases of the game. I do think Christine Michael is a significantly more gifted running back, and wouldn't be surprised if Michael passed Turbin on the Seahawks' depth chart before the 2013 season is through. Here is a link to my pre-draft evaluation of Michael, whom Seattle selected with the 62nd overall pick.