After being selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, expectations were sky high to say the least for Rashaad Penny. Unfortunately, an early hand injury kept Penny sidelined for the majority of training camp and as a result, he opened the season third on the depth chart and with little experience with the playbook and his offensive line. While Chris Carson was on his way to being the first thousand-yard rusher in Seattle since Marshawn Lynch, Rashaad had to work with a series here and a spot start there, while the fans felt underwhelmed with the first first-round pick Seattle had used in years. The tune on Penny didn’t change until a week 10 performance against the LA Rams where he exploded for 108 yards on just 12 carries when Carson was out with an ankle injury. After his outburst, Penny and Carson began to split reps relatively equally but as the season drew to a close, Carson reclaimed the lead role in Seattle’s backfield. In a disappointing performance in the wildcard round against the Cowboys, Penny was shockingly only handed the rock 4 times for 29 yards, while Carson handled the ball 13 times for a staggering 20 yards. That’s nearly a difference of 6 yards per carry, it makes you scratch your head to think about why Penny was not given more of a shot, but as confusing and frustrating as it may have been, it’s hard not to be optimistic about Seattle’s running game with a full season under Penny’s belt.
As a whole, Penny was actually more productive than Carson on the ground. Though he was outgained by over seven hundred yards and Carson accounted for just under half of the Seahawks rush attempts, Rashaad averaged more yards per carry in the limited number of snaps he was given. The best part of Penny’s success is that the Seahawks figured out how to use him best. In his time at San Diego State, Penny spent the majority of his time in a deep I-formation where he stood six to seven yards off the line of scrimage. This positioning allows him to survey the defense for a longer period once the ball is snapped so he can identify his running lanes and build up a head of steam when he hits the hole. His running style led to many explosive plays in college and when Seattle lined him up back there, he was able to showcase his powerful running style and got downfield in a hurry. Another reason Penny was limited was that Seattle did not always line him up six yards deep like he was used to, they rolled him down right next to Russell Wilson to run the read-option game, which he was still learning through the entire 2018 season. It’s not a stretch to say that Penny had a lot to learn on the job this season and even with all these new concepts, he was still able to make the most of his reps and be effective in the Seahawks offense.
With only a fraction of his limited reps dedicated to the formations he was comfortable with during 2018, Rashaad Penny will be a more complete back in 2019 and be featured much more in Seattle’s offense. An entire offseason to build chemistry with Russell Wilson in the read option game and the Seahawks offensive line will make the starting running back spot a hot competition come training camp but having a smarter and more experienced Penny to pound the rock going forward is tremendously exciting no matter where he shows up on the depth chart.