During the team's two previous Super Bowl runs, the Seattle Seahawks were known for their defense. Times are changing.
The acquisition of Fred Jackson is yet another positive step in making the Seahawks a far more potent offense. The veteran running back agreed to a one-year deal with the team Friday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Of course, the organization will still hang its hat on the league's best defense, but the offense should be far more complementary this fall compared to previous seasons.
Jackson's addition only adds to a unit that now features All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and electric rookie Tyler Lockett after the team's offseason maneuvers.
Usually, a 34-year-old running back wouldn't be viewed as a step in the right direction for any team. Jackson, however, is the exception to the rule due to the areas where he can still effectively contribute and his overall fit in Seattle.
First and foremost, he and Lynch are close friends. The Seahawks' workhorse can be described as owning an eccentric personality, and Jackson will likely serve as a calming influence for Lynch and the Seahawks locker room.
The two last played together five years ago, but their bond hasn't dissipated, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via NFL Media):
Bills teammates lamented Jackson's loss, and his departure will not only be felt throughout the organization but the community as well.
"To me, Fred was the governor of Buffalo," safety Aaron Williams told ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. "Everybody looked up to him. It wasn’t just the guys in the locker room. If you asked the fans in the community, they’ll tell you that No. 22 was by far the No. 1 favorite in the city."
The Seahawks aren't merely adding an aging running back with a little bit still left in the tank; Seattle will gain one of the game's best teammates and citizens.
Seattle's decision didn't hinge on Jackson's past acquaintances. Head coach Pete Carroll described why the organization was interested after his initial visit with the team, per the News Tribune's Gregg Bell.
We have tremendous respect for this player. He’s got obviously a wealth of background. He’s tough, he’s smart and sharp.
I know that Marshawn and he are very good friends and they get along. That’s always a good thing. But other than that, that didn’t feed into this. He’s just a heck of a football player that might be able to find a role. ... He’s been a very adept pass catcher, and a good pass protector. He’s always been a good runner, he’s got great feel and sense. ... He’s been a very adept pass receiver, and I think that’s something that maybe he could fit in if we got down that way with him.
Beyond Lynch and Jackson's friendship, the former Bill's presence is a practical matter to preserve the team's top offensive threat.
Lynch is entering the point of his career when age certainly becomes a factor. It feels a bit ironic to write as such since Jackson is the league's oldest running back, but the Seahawks coaching staff can start to scale back the 29-year-old's overall workload.
During his four full seasons in Seattle, Lynch averaged 326 touches per season. When Lynch's punishing running style is taken into account, his expansive usage becomes even more worrisome.
Jackson, meanwhile, can be described as a "fresh" 34-year-old running back. His 1,279 NFL carries are fewer than younger players such as Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, DeAngelo Williams, Arian Foster and Lynch.
Despite multiple injuries, Jackson simply hasn't take the same amount of punishment Lynch has during the course of his career.
Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell can now create a regular running-back rotation. None of the backup running backs had more than 80 carries at any point during the previous four seasons. In fact, Wilson served as the team's second-leading rusher in each of his professional seasons.
Jackson, on the other hand, never had fewer than 115 carries beyond his rookie season. His expectations this fall should be somewhere between six to 10 touches per game. As such, the veteran can help extend Lynch's career as a a bigger part of the Seahawks offense than any previous back on the roster.
Where Jackson can be most valuable will be on third down. The product of Coe College remains one of the league's best third-down backs.
Last season, Bills quarterbacks targeted the running back 90 times. Jackson finished the season with a career-high 66 receptions. During the past two seasons, he caught 113 balls. Jackson is a natural receiver out of the backfield and yet another weapon to add to the Seahawks' improved passing attack.
Furthermore, the running back is a stellar blocker, as SI.com's Doug Farrar noted:
Young backs tend to struggle in this particular area. Last year's backup, Robert Turbin, proved to be solid a year ago, but the team decided to waive him Friday, per Rapoport, as he deals with a high ankle sprain. Former second-round pick Christine Michael is also being shopped for the right price, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
While blocking isn't a primary role for most running backs, Seattle's unsettled offensive line could necessitate Jackson being a bigger part of the offense than initially anticipated.
The unit will start two former defensive linemen in right guard J.R. Sweezy and center Drew Nowak. The center will be a first-time starter, while right tackle Garry Gilliam only started one game in his career.
Despite the uncertainty along the unit, Carroll is confident in the group, per the official Seahawks website:
I think this is really a good group of guys. This is what we had hoped would happen—that they would come together and show us something. We’ve seen enough signs that the foundation for a really good group is there; it’s just going to take time as they just grow together. There will be trials and tribulations along the way as they come together, but they’re equipped and look like they’ll be ready to handle it.
But it takes time for an offensive line to completely jell and become a cohesive unit. The Seahawks should expect growing pains, and Jackson can help erase some of the mistakes the offensive line eventually commits in pass protection.
Jackson essentially becomes the Seahawks' new fail-safe plan. The veteran running back can provide a calming presence and even an alternative for Lynch. He's a new weapon in the team's improved passing attack. And his ability to block could prove to be vital, particularly early in the season.
Seattle might be older with Jackson in the lineup, but the team is also better overall with his inclusion.