Rashaad Penny came up with his biggest game as a professional on Sunday, rushing for 129 yards on 14 carries, gaining ground on current Seattle Seahawks starter Chris Carson, who had just eight carries, a fumble, and a bad handoff exchange with Russell Wilson. All told, Penny had a career-high in single game rushing yards, a career-long 58-yard burst for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, plus runs of 26 and 21 earlier in the game.
It seems as though the 2018 first round pick put on display against the Philadelphia Eagles just what made him so valuable to Pete Carroll and John Schneider a year ago, but not everyone’s so sure that the game was all that impressive. And still after 27 games since that pick, Penny’s got a lot of ground to run over in order to prove his worth as the 27th overall pick.
NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger, always an entertaining follow, broke down those three long runs and pointed out that the Eagles weren’t really playing great defense or making it hard for Penny on those plays.
.@Seahawks @pennyhendrixx @eagles played good defense for 60/65 plays but these 3 were the bulk of Penny’s greatest day in the @NFL; and most of the damage was preventable. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/hgHbaSxeLE— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 25, 2019
Furthermore, there were criticisms of Penny’s pass blocking again as if it were August 2018 and he will never be able to erase the lack of production and opportunity-knock-answering that has happened up to this point.
Pass Blocking: Not Rashaad Penny's best skillset.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 25, 2019
Penny appears confused on his alignment/assignment pre-snap as well, for whatever that's worth. pic.twitter.com/E5Qiax1Z2Q
Though he has 5.3 yards per carry throughout his career, Penny has done so on only 135 carries. Take into account some other back in the last four years who have similar numbers: Gus Edwards, Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones, and Jalen Richard.
Rashaad Penny and four other recent RBs through their first two seasons.— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) November 25, 2019
Edwards was an undrafted free agent in the same class as Penny and he’s got the same numbers on more carries with the Baltimore Ravens — Edwards benefits from a number of things and had been mostly eliminated from the offense this year until putting up 112 on eight attempts last week vs the Houston Texans.
Ekeler was also an undrafted free agent and in addition to rushing for the same YPC as Penny through his first two seasons, Ekeler also has the added element of being a receiver; he’s got 65 catches for 667 yards in 2019.
Aaron Jones was a fifth round pick who led the league at 5.5 YPC last season. He is not spectacular, though he has 14 touchdowns this year. Richard, undrafted in 2016, had a receiving element to his game like Ekeler but has fallen off in 2019.
These are just some players that Penny is like through two seasons. But there’s also Nick Chubb, who I’m sure will stick in the front of some Seattle minds for awhile.
Chubb was taken eight picks after Penny and has mostly been on a tear in his career — especially in 2019 offenses. Chubb has an NFL-high 222 rushing attempts this season for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 996 yards as a rookie and has run for over 100 yards in five of his last eight games. Chubb doesn’t do much in the passing game, I have no idea how his pass blocking his, and he does have three fumbles this year, leaving him an embarrassing four fumbles shy of NFL ALL-WORLD LEADER CHRIS CARSON.
Me, what’s my opinion? I have long defended the pick of Penny even though I had long said that you should never take a running back in the first round. Why did I defend the pick? Because I’m a Travis Homer probably. That’s my assumption! But for a late first round pick, my expectations are so low for just about anyone (Penny also went five picks ahead of the player who is most likely to get more MVP votes than Russell Wilson) that throwing a dart at Penny seemed “mostly whatever” to me.
Also because Penny and Ezekiel Elliott looked a lot like the same player but at a rather good discount for Seattle. It’s not that dissimilar to the comparisons I heard from Rob Staton between old Seahawk Frank Clark and new Seahawk Jadeveon Clowney. The Penny pick didn’t bother me a ton in 2018 and it didn’t even bother me after 2018 with Penny having only touched the ball 94 times because he was sitting behind one of the league’s best backs.
However, he is no longer sitting behind one of the NFL’s best backs and he had yet to take advantage until Sunday.
Chris Carson came into Week 12 ranked 13th in DYAR and 17th in DVOA per FootballOutsiders, then he fumbled it one more time officially and another time unofficially. Penny had his first career fumble against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 but followed it up with the best game he’s had as a Seahawk so far.
Rashaad Penny has all the athletic explosiveness to be successful in the NFL, but often shows zero awareness.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 25, 2019
Even on his long TD run, he almost appears surprised by the safety coming in late. pic.twitter.com/1LlJ3LfDb4
Going into these last couple games, I had dropped all defense of Penny just like I will be prepared to drop all defense of L.J. Collier in a year if he hasn’t taken any advantage of his own opportunities. Now he’s made me think again that Seattle could get decent value out of him in 2020-2022, but as Baldy points out, the numbers may not adequately represent the actual product.
Does Penny have awareness? Vision? The ability to force broken and missed tackles as he did at San Diego State? (Penny is credited with 3 broken tackles going into Week 12, which is fewer than Malik Turner had going into Week 12.)
These aren’t just the questions being asked of him going into next year, but also next week. What do the Seahawks have in Rashaad Penny? Unfortunately after this many games we still don’t seem to know.
And I’m not sure that the best game of his career really helped his case all that much.