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Seahawks with the most to gain: Christine Michael

AP198997575456
Christine Michael carried the ball just 18 times as a rookie, but that number should go up significantly in 2014. (AP)

By Danny O'Neil

Seattle's offseason conditioning program begins next week, and we're counting down the five Seahawks who have the most to gain this season in everything from playing time to future contract negotiations.

We started with Bruce Irvin at No. 5 and Byron Maxwell at No. 4. Next:

RB Christine Michael

Age: 23

Experience: Entering second season

Pedigree: The first of Seattle's draft choices last season was the fifth running back chosen, which made him one of the draft's biggest surprises. The Seahawks didn't exactly have a need, having not only signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year contract in 2012 but then drafting Robert Turbin in the fourth round.

The selection of Michael wasn't about 2013, though. That should be obvious given the fact he dressed for only four games during a rookie season that was the NFL equivalent of a redshirt. He carried 18 times, which ranked 20th out of the NFL rookie class.

But in many ways, that makes Michael symbolic of the draft class in general, as only fifth-round choice Luke Willson and seventh-round choice Michael Bowie saw significant playing time. Seattle's draft class was more about the future than the present.

Predicament: It's not like there's more room in Seattle's backfield. Lynch is coming off his third successive season with more than 1,200 yards rushing. Turbin was the team's third-down back a year ago ahead of Michael, and he's not going to get worse. Not only that, but Seattle's hoping to add wide receiver Percy Harvin, who missed all but one regular season game, for a full 16-game diet, which isn't going to increase opportunities elsewhere.

Danny O'Neil's look at the other Seahawks with the most to gain:
LB Bruce Irvin
CB Byron Maxwell
WR Jermaine Kearse
DE Greg Scruggs
The possibilities: First, consider the possibility Lynch might not be available for the full season. Remember when Lynch pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving earlier this year? Well, he faces the possibility of further league discipline given his previous suspension under the personal-conduct policy.

Second, while it would be unfair to assume Lynch's productivity is going to decline, Seattle has to be prepared for that possibility. Lynch is turning 27 this year, and he's got some pretty heavy mileage. At some point the wear and tear will start to show.

The final thing to consider is that Michael is going to come into his own with a full year to improve his pass protection. Unlike his rookie season, Michael is going to get an opportunity this season. General manager John Schneider made that pretty clear earlier this month during an appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle.

"We feel like two of our most explosive offensive players barely even played last year in Christine Michael and Percy," Schneider said.

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