Vision Becomes Reality: DeeJay Dallas Poised For Bigger Role in Third Season With Seahawks – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – With his team trailing by seven with under six minutes left to play in the third quarter of their preseason opener in Pittsburgh, Seahawks running back DeeJay Dallas put on his hard hat and went to work looking to even the score.
Taking a first down handoff from Drew Lock on an inside zone concept, Dallas promptly stuck his left cleat in the turf and cut back against the grain behind a wall formed by Seattle's offensive line, including rookie right tackle Abraham Lucas, who washed his defender down the line of scrimmage. With the entire defense flowing towards his left, he astutely observed a crease opening to his right and then darted back upfield off the backside of tight end Colby Parkinson, who successfully sealed his defender outside.
Finishing the run with authority, Dallas power spun out of a tackle and then lowered his shoulder to pick up a few extra yards driving a trio of defenders, capping off an impressive 18-yard run to push the Seahawks past midfield. Moments later, he caught a dump off from Lock in the middle of the field, made a safety whiff, and then leaped past the goal line for a hard-earned touchdown to trim the deficit to two points.
Now in his third NFL season, the fruits of Dallas' labor have been realized thus far as one of the standouts of Seattle's training camp and preseason. (See our new Camp Notebook here.) After seeing limited snaps on offense in 2021 and seeing his team use a second-round pick on running back Ken Walker III in April, he continued to focus on improving his all-around game this offseason, aiming to make himself indispensable with his versatility and ability to make an impact in a myriad of ways.
"I was still trying to get my feet wet a little bit," Dallas said while reflecting on his sophomore season. "Really looking forward to this year just to show that I have improved as a runner, past catcher and as a blocker. Just showing that I can contribute like a lot of different phases of the game. Whatever is called upon for me, I can do it. Whether it's catching or blocking or returning or going to block a kick, I can do all of that."
Whether he's been running through a tackler, leaving one grasping for air with a juke move, racking up yards after the catch, picking up blitzes in pass protection, or excelling on special teams, Dallas has gotten off to a great start pursuing his goal of becoming Mr. Do It All in a deep, talented stable of running backs.
Starring in the exhibition opener in the Steel City, Dallas rushed for a team-high 73 yards along with his 17-yard touchdown reception in a losing effort. While he was limited to five carries and 15 yards on the ground, he followed up with a team-best 52 receiving yards in the Seahawks 27-11 loss to the Bears last Thursday, including a 29-yard reception from Geno Smith. In those two games, he also returned a pair of kicks and was given a chance to return punts as well.
Throughout camp, Dallas has been playing with a different edge, running angry behind his pads and persistently keeping his powerful pistons chopping at the point of contact. In many ways, his style has emulated former teammate and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson, who was forced to retire due to a neck injury shortly before the start of training camp in July.
Ever since arriving as a fourth-round pick out of Miami in 2020, Dallas has leaned on Carson, who always kept his door open to help young backs whenever they needed it. Even after stepping away from the game, the two friends have stayed in touch and he continues to serve as a mentor off the field.
"Chris was a big help for 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 undrafted 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 film and just try to run tough, run as tough as possible. And that's what he did when he was here. He just kind of taught me that without even teaching."
Modeling his game after Carson beyond his rushing ability, the increased physicality has greatly benefitted Dallas and he's been far from alone. Calling Seattle's current backfield group "sextuplets," others such as Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer have also adopted more of a bruising, no non-sense running style in the wake of Carson's departure and enjoyed strong camps in their own right. Collectively as a unit, they've taken on a mindset seeking to run through opposing face masks at any opportunity.
But when assessing where his game has improved the most, along with being a bit faster and quicker, it's all about eye discipline and vision, which Dallas acknowledged putting extra emphasis on this spring.
"What I did prioritize was just eye discipline, just learning how to how to be a better running back," Dallas remarked. "Your eyes are physical, but like, [I tried] not to focus so much on being fast or being strong, but just being disciplined about where my eyes are on runs because you can put anybody in any system, no matter what they run. If they know how to read a front and dissect the front before the play even happens, they can break off 20 and 30 yarders."
As evidenced by two runs of 10-plus yards against the Steelers and several big runs ripped off during camp practices, Dallas' efforts have paid off, particularly on zone blocking concepts that often require backs to pay greater attention to pre-snap details such as defensive line alignment and linebacker placement. Given how frequently offensive coordinator Shane Waldron calls zone concepts, including wide and mid-zone varieties, he knew he had to upgrade that aspect of his game.
"With zone running, you've just got to know, like we always say, get a pre-snap read of the front and see where everybody is. And you can cancel out a bunch of different gaps, right?" Dallas explained. "So if you got an over or under front, cancel out the gaps, depending on what front you have. And that's what I've just been working on, just recognizing the front, seeing where the linebackers are, just trying to see it and hit it before it even develops."
There's no question Dallas has improved leaps and bounds in regard to his vision and pre-snap recognition. He's light years ahead of where he was in his first two seasons. Coupled with his bruising running style and former receiver background, he's developed into a quality all-around back who can handle a large workload when necessary 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 statistics or how often he sees the field on offense. Regardless of whether he starts out of the backfield or plays 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.
With that said, now that Walker III may be out to start the regular season, Dallas has positioned himself to be a major factor for the Seahawks not only on special teams, but as a key cog in their backfield rotation. Based on how he's performed in camp and two preseason games, his sights should now be set on emerging as a legitimate difference maker for a young squad looking to prove skeptics wrong.


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