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Seahawks breakout candidates: Rashaad Penny

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Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Welcome to the new mini series looking at breakout candidates from each position group for the Seattle Seahawks!

Seattle is a run-first team, so the only thing to do was begin with the running back.

My choice for 2020 breakout candidate at RB is none other than the guy that all fans can agree upon, and pretty much have since the moment he was drafted - Rashaad Armein Penny.

There have been two primary problems plaguing Penny over his short career. Yes, that was intentional; I’m stuck at home just like you.

The first is that he has tended to torpedo towards his own blockers like a Mark Sanchez clone, resulting in way too many 0 yard runs. Here’s some really insightful analysis on the subject:

The second, or perhaps a result of the first, is his inconsistency. When Penny is good, he’s really good. Like better ypc than Carson good, or with four games over a 4.92 yards per attempt last season, and three over 6.0. But he also had three games at exactly 3.0 ypc, which is as frustrating as it is an anomaly that almost negates our use of the word inconsistency.

But if y’all remember, Rashaad Penny went absolutely first-round crazy against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12 last season, and looked like he was about to justify his draft position for the remainder of the year.

Fourteen days and a freak knee injury later, our hopes were dashed.

He’s now slated to miss some of the 2020 season, how much is still to be determined.

So how is he our first choice for breakout candidate?

Because of what’s not broken - not anymore. Rashaad Penny has fixed the problems going on inside his head.

Penny himself credited his back-to-back successful performances of Weeks 12-13 last year to an improved confidence. Yeah, this team hasn’t drafted a Richard Sherman mentality in a while.

Mental issues can easily overpower physical attributes. Penny’s problems so frequently looked like he was running confused, unclear, or unconfident. If he’s really found a way to overcome that, and simply play football, than the Seahawks have a guy with incredible physical gifts who isn’t all that worn down after his first two seasons. He’s not as polished a runner as Chris Carson still, but he’s got better full-field reversal skills.

He doesn’t hit as hard and doesn’t frontflip as well as Carson, but he does flip the switch better on his immediate burst.

The following play serves as example. It was an accident (you can tell by Jaron Brown’s complete lack of blocking), but once Penny got outside he’s a complete force. The more and better he makes these cuts, the more unstoppable he becomes.

Here’s an interesting one too: Penny has one fumble total in his first two seasons. Carson has one fumble problem.

There’s a lot to be desired from the former 27th-overall pick. Furthermore, he’s set up well for late-season success with the safety net of Travis Homer and the new acquisition of Carlos Hyde. Neither of them are really a threat to keep Penny on the bench, not if he gets back to full strength at any point within the season. But they do give Seattle the ability take their time with his recovery, which he apparently needs.

It’s not just that Penny had two good games in a row. For one, they weren’t just good games; they were huge. He had four TDs in two games. He’d also suddenly developed a hot streak receiving, something he hadn’t sustained earlier. His first play against the Rams - the one that cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl him his season - was a ridiculous 16 yard toss on his first offensive snap. The outside run really showed what he can do in space.

Penny cleared a significant hurdle last year. Hopefully, his likely early absence won’t cost the Seahawks too much. After that, odds are quite high that he’ll end the season as a true 1a-1b with Chris Carson, with the absolute potential to take him over by end of year.

If Penny goes even just the final eight games of the season he should approach 600 yards and help bring Seattle’s offense into the top ranks again.