Play-caller Brian Schottenheimer reinforces C.J. Prosise remains firmly in Seahawks’ plans

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C.J. Prosise finds a generous hole on the right side and rushes for a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)


When J.D. McKissic broke a bone in his foot this week, the latest injury to the Seahawks’ running-back unit didn’t increase C.J. Prosise’s chances of making the regular-season roster at month’s end.

No, Prosise was already way on this team. Barring him getting another injury, of course.

“He has a great scope that he fills for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

The Seahawks have not just a section but cross sections of their playbook specifically for Prosise’s unique skills, size and versatility. Darrell Bevell’s did, until Seattle fired him as its offensive coordinator in January.

Bevell’s replacement already has a section of his plans, and his heart, for Prosise, too.

Brian Schottenheimer made that clear on Wednesday.

I asked the Seahawks’ first-year play caller if, though Prosise has missed a chunk of this preseason with his seventh injury in 28 months on the team, he’s seen enough of Prosise to know he’s got a unique talent to use in multiple ways.

“Absolutely,” Schottenheimer said. “I’ve noticed that going back to the spring.”

In fact, the team’s new coordinator got the C.J. Prosise starter kit when he arrived in Seattle in January.

You know, the New England Game.

It’s the shining moment of Prosise’s frustrating, start-and-stop career so far.

Nov. 13, 2016. Thomas Rawls was out with a cracked bone in his leg. Rawls’ replacement as Seattle’s lead back, Christine Michael, was failing again. After a wrist injury cost Prosise four games early in his rookie season, the rookie ran wild over, around and through the mighty Patriots in a nationally televised Sunday-night showcase in Foxborough, Mass., that remains lore around Seahawks headquarters.

Prosise ran 17 times--eight more rushes than he’d gotten in his first four NFL games combined--and bolted for 66 yards. The former Notre Dame wide receiver also caught seven passes for another 87 yards that night. Many of those yards came as he slammed his deceptively large 6-foot-1, 225-pound body into Patriots who crumbled beneath him.

Yes, 153 total yards in his first career start.

“He lights up our sideline with what he does,” Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said that night.

“A couple of those (sideline) catches, he didn’t step out of bounds,” Baldwin said. “He didn’t shy away from contact--and he’s been limited with injuries.”

Prosise became the first player to lead the Seahawks in both rushing and receiving yards in a game since some guy named Marshawn Lynch in 2014.

“I kept hearing about C.J.,” Schottenheimer said Wednesday. “And they said, ‘Go watch the New England game’ or ‘Go watch this game.’”

“This” other game was Seattle’s next one after that New England win in November 2016, at home against Philadelphia. It was Prosise’s second consecutive start. In the first quarter he sped off tackle and outraced all the Eagles 72 yards for a stunning touchdown. It was the eighth-longest run in Seahawks history.

Those remain the only two starts of Prosise’s two-year career.

In the second quarter of that game against Philadelphia, at the moment he was asserting himself as the next starter to lead Seattle’s running game that’s been a staple of Carroll’s championship Seahawks teams, Prosise fractured his shoulder.

Last season, an ongoing ankle injury limited him to just five games and 11 carries all year. He’s played just 11 of a possible 32 regular-season games.

McKissic has been Seattle’s Prosise insurance plan the last two years, another former wide receiver and special-teams player who’s been the third-down back when Prosise has been out. Which, again, has been about two-thirds of the time in his career.

But now McKissic is expected to miss four to six weeks. That’s on top of rookie running back and first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny’s broken finger and surgery last week.

Re-enter Prosise. Yet again.

“So I’d go and watch it,” Schottenheimer said of the film of Prosise’s semi-legendary Patriots and Eagles games about which Seahawks coaches and people kept telling the new coordinator. “And then I’d watch him in practice. Tremendous skill set. Tremendous. Size. Speed. Athleticism. Ability to catch the football. Match-up problem.

“The big thing with him would just be the consistency, you know?”

We know.

“He gets open,” Schottenheimer said. “He had a drop today that I know he wants back, but (a) very, very talented young man that we expect great things from this year.

“We know we can use him in a lot of different ways.”

Such as split out wide like the wide receiver he used to be at Notre Dame, in hopes of drawing an absolute mismatch against a slower linebacker. And as the single running back in a 2-minute drill. And the lone back in spread formations on third down. Plus, as those Patriots and Eagles games showed, running between the tackles on bullish power rushes or toss sweeps speeding around the end.

In other words, all over the Seahawks’ playbook. When or whether McKissic returns or not.

Prosise said he tried yet another new training regimen this offseason in search of more durability this past offseason. This time his program was less on core body strength through weight training as it was in 2017 and more running-back specific: quick cutting plus vertical and lateral explosiveness. He says that has him better prepared in 2018 to fulfill the promise the Seahawks believe he has.

Believe he still has.

His next chance to prove he’s back again from injury, his latest one a hip flexor that had him out until last week, is Friday night in Seattle’s third preseason game, at Minnesota.

“Man, I’m just excited to be out here,” Prosise said, standing on the edge of a practice field he’s been off more times than on so far in his career.. “I just want to get back out here with my teammates.

“I feel 10 times better, 100 times better, than any other year I’ve been here. I’m just excited to be back out here, be out here with my teammates.

“I’ve got to step up now.”

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