No Seattle Seahawks player garnered more positive press during the offseason than running back Christine Michael.
Going all the way back to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, the Seattle coaching staff and front office has raved about the second-year pro's potential. SI.com's Doug Farrar, among others, speculated that the team's faith in Michael was one of the reasons the Seahawks took a hard-line stance with Marshawn Lynch during his short-lived holdout.
However, with the Seahawks' season opener less than a week away, Michael still finds himself third on Seattle's depth chart behind Lynch and Robert Turbin.
Potential doesn't necessarily equal production, and sometimes hype is just that.
As Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times reports, head coach Pete Carroll recently called Michael the team's most improved player in training camp. It continues a pattern of praise for Michael from Carroll that dates all the way back to February, per MLive.com's Justin Rogers:
Pete Carroll really hyped up RB Christine Michaels. Called him the Seahawks biggest breakout candidate.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) February 21, 2014
With that said, it's been an up-and-down preseason for Michael.
Sure, there were some impressive runs. There were also two fumbles in the first two weeks of the exhibition season and missed blocking assignments.
As offensive line coach Tom Cable told Jenks, the key for Michael now is consistency:
You might see the great cut one time and then not the next, and it’s the exact same scenario. He comes across and makes a great pickup and then he’s supposed to chip and then, "Oh, I’m going to get out for my route and, oops, I forgot to chip." It’s just being able to put a good play together and then a good one the next time and the next time. When that becomes his habit, then he owns it. Right now, he doesn’t own it.
Michael himself conceded that there's still a lot of work to be done. “Doing the small things right,” he said. “Knowing who to block, ball security, the passing game.”
Of course, Cable also stated that he's been impressed by the improvement he's seen from Michael in his second NFL training camp:
What’s really cool about Christine is from where he started and where he’s at is a country mile. And yet there’s another country mile to go. Some people look at that and say, "The glass is half empty and that’s not good." No, actually he’s on pace to be what you want him to be.
So, what we have essentially is a very talented young back who is still having some issues with blitz pickups and ball security.
Hom many rushing yards will Christine Michael gain in 2014?
That makes Michael...well, it makes him a second-year running back. Young ball-carriers having issues with pass protection is hardly a rarity.
With a steady backup on the roster in Turbin, the Seahawks aren't in a position where they're compelled to "rush" Michael, so he'll stay third on the depth chart for now.
Were Lynch to get hurt, though, you'd see a shake-up on that depth chart.
Turbin is a solid backup and capable running back in his own right, but he's much more bowling ball than ballerina. Turbin's a grinder, plain and simple.
Simply put, Michael brings things to the table as a runner that Turbin can't. Michael is a much more explosive player, capable of gaining yardage in chunks every time he touches the ball.
His elusiveness was on display in training camp when he made linebacker Bruce Irvin look foolish:
Michael also has a high gear that Turbin doesn't, which was on display in this play from the 2013 preseason:
It was plays like that which got the hype machine rolling to begin with. It's plays like that which have made Michael the heir apparent to Lynch in the Seattle backfield.
As it turns out, we may have gotten caught up in that hype machine a bit. Assuming that the Seahawks meant what they said while gushing about Michael all summer long, they may have, too.
However, Michael's "struggle" to climb the depth chart is no more an indictment of his ability than the "summer of love" was a coronation of Michael as the NFL's next great tailback.
As Michael told Jenks, "Everybody has a job to do out here, and everybody has their part. You have to play your part."
It's just taking Michael a bit longer than we thought to memorize his lines.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association as well as the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.