Vision becomes reality: DeeJay Dallas ready to play bigger role in third season with Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. — With his team down seven with less than six minutes left in the third quarter of their preseason opener in Pittsburgh, Seahawks running back DeeJay Dallas put on his helmet and got at work to even the score.

Taking a first down from Drew Lock on an inside zone concept, Dallas quickly dug their left cleat into the turf and cut against the grain behind a wall formed by Seattle’s offensive line, including rookie right tackle Abraham Lucas, who washed his defender. the line of scrimmage. As the entire defense flowed to his left, he shrewdly watched a crease open to his right, then raced upfield into the back of tight end Colby Parkinson, who managed to seal his defender on the outside.

Finishing the run with authority, the Dallas power came out of a tackle, then dropped his shoulder to pick up a few more yards as he drove a trio of defenders, capping an impressive 18-yard run to push the Seahawks past the middle. ground. Moments later, he caught a dump from Lock in midfield, puffed a safety, then crossed the goal line for a hard-earned touchdown to cut the deficit to two points.

Now in his third NFL season, Dallas’ fruits of labor have been realized as one of Seattle’s training camp and preseason highlights so far. After seeing limited offensive snaps in 2021 and seeing his team use a second-round pick on running back Ken Walker III in April, he has continued to focus on improving his all-around game this offseason, in the aim to make himself indispensable with his versatility and ability to make an impact in a myriad of ways.

“I was always trying to get my feet a little wet,” Dallas said of reflecting on his sophomore season. “I’m really looking forward to this year just to show that I’ve improved as a runner, former receiver and as a blocker. Just to show that I can contribute like a lot of different phases of the game. Anyway , I can Whether it’s catching or blocking or returning or going to block a kick, I can do it all.

Whether he ran through a tackle, let one grab the air with a juke move, racked up yards after the catch, picked up blitzes in pass protection or excelled on special teams , Dallas is off to a good start to pursue his goal of becoming Mr. Do It All in a deep and talented stable of running backs.

Featured in the exhibition opener at Steel City, Dallas rushed for a team-record 73 yards with their 17-yard touchdown reception in a losing effort. While limited to five carries and 15 rushing yards, he followed that up with a team-best 52 receiving yards in the Seahawks’ 27-11 loss to the Bears last Thursday, including a 29-yard reception. by Geno Smith. In those two games, he also returned a pair of kicks and also had the chance to return punts.

Throughout camp, Dallas played with a different edge, running angry behind his pads and constantly keeping his powerful pistons at the point of contact. In many ways, his style mimicked former teammate and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson, who was forced to retire with a neck injury shortly before training camp began in July. .

Since arriving as Miami’s 2020 fourth-round pick, Dallas has leaned on Carson, who always kept his door open to help out young fullbacks whenever they needed it. Even after stepping away from the game, the two friends stayed in touch and he continues to serve as a mentor off the pitch.

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“Chris has been a huge help to me,” Dallas remarked. “Just seeing a guy like, he’s the underdog, the ultimate underdog. He was drafted in the seventh round. You kind of write off guys who were drafted in the seventh round or not drafted or whatever. But he kind of defied the odds and he put it all on the line From his running style I tried to incorporate that like I just watched his movie and just try to run hard, run too hard as possible. And that’s what he did when he was here. He just kind of taught me that without even teaching it.”

Modeling his game after Carson beyond his rushing ability, the increased physicality has greatly benefited Dallas and he’s far from alone. Calling Seattle’s current backfield group “sextuplets,” others like Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer also adopted a more deadly, no-frills running style in the wake of Carson’s departure and enjoyed strong camps in their own right. Collectively, as a unit, they adopted a mindset of seeking to cross opposing face masks at the slightest opportunity.

But when it comes to assessing where his game has improved the most, in addition to being a bit quicker and quicker, it’s all about eye discipline and vision, which Dallas has acknowledged putting a lot of emphasis on. more emphasis this spring.

“What I prioritized was just eye discipline, just learning to be a better running back,” Dallas remarked. “Your eyes are physical, but like, [I tried] not so much focus on speed or strength but just being disciplined about where my eyes are on races because you can put anybody in any system no matter what they’re running . If they know how to read a front and dissect the front even before play happens, they can break 20 and 30 yards.”

As evidenced by two 10-plus-yard runs against the Steelers and several big snatched runs in camp practices, Dallas’ efforts have paid off, especially on zone-blocking concepts that often require fullbacks to give up. greater attention to pre-snap details such as defensive line alignment and linebacker placement. Given how often offensive coordinator Shane Waldron calls zone concepts, including wide and mid zone varieties, he knew he needed to improve that aspect of his game.

“With the running zone, you just have to know, like we always say, get a pre-snapshot reading ahead and see where everyone is. And you can undo a bunch of different gaps, is not it?” Dallas explained. “So if you have an upper or lower front, cancel the gaps, depending on which front you have. And that’s what I just worked on, just recognize the front, see where the linebackers are, just try to see and hit it before it even grows.”

There’s no doubt that Dallas has improved by leaps and bounds when it comes to their vision and pre-snapshot recognition. He’s light years away from where he was in his first two seasons. Coupled with his killer running style and experience as a former receiver, he has developed into a quality all-around fullback who can handle a heavy workload if needed while also being a viable third down specialist.

As for where he fits into the organization’s plans this season, Dallas isn’t worried about his individual stats or how often he sees the field on offense. Whether he’s starting out of the backfield or playing just five snaps, with the bad taste of a last-place finish still in his mouth, his ultimate goal remains to do whatever it takes to help his team win. and pursue a Super Bowl.

That said, now that Walker III may be out to start the regular season, Dallas has positioned itself to be a major factor for the Seahawks not just on special teams, but as a key cog in their backfield rotation. Based on his performances in camp and two pre-season games, he should now aim to become a legitimate difference maker for a young team looking to prove doubters wrong.

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