The Seattle Seahawks will enjoy their bye during Week 9, which gives fans a chance to take a quick look back at the performance of 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8.
Everyone who clicked on this link is familiar with the backstory on Penny, so there’s no need to rehash how a December 2019 knee injury derailed a career that appeared it may have been on the upswing towards the end of his sophomore season. So, without wasting any time, here’s a look at each of his seven carries against the Jags.
Carry 1 - 1st & 10 at Jacksonville 33 (6:57, 1st Quarter)
This one is simple. It’s a toss play to get Penny in space on the edge, and he gains five yards. It’s possible to argue he should cut it back to the interior soon and make a better attempt to gain more than five yards, but that’s going to come down to a stylistic preference of the viewer. He gained five yards on first down, which is enough for the play to be successful.
Carry 2 - 1st & Goal at Jacksonville 1 (6:11, 1st Quarter)
A whole lot of bodies in a small space, and nothing doing in terms of getting into the end zone. That said, Penny takes a whole lot of steps before reaching the line, and tiptoeing isn’t going to get it done in the red zone.
Carry 3 - 2nd & Goal at Jacksonville 1 (5:38, 1st Quarter)
There’s not a lot of space on this play, but Ethan Pocic obliterates the Jaguars lineman across from him, and there is a hole over the offensive left side of the formation. It gives Penny a one on one against Myles Jack in the hole with a a touchdown entirely possible if he can win in the hole against Jack. (Author’s note: The Jaguars defender Pocic is blocking isn’t visible because he’s actually underneath Pocic after having been pancaked by Pocic on the play.)
Carry 4 - 1st & 10 at Jacksonville 45 (6:57, 3rd Quarter)
Penny picks up four on this carry by blasting through a hole on the right side. This is Duo, which is a gap call that requires a player to read the defense and proceed as dictated by the read. Specifically, on the play Penny’s job is to run directly at the linebacker, and during his first three steps decide how to proceed based on what that linebacker does. He does the first part satisfactorily, and then reads that the linebackers hasn’t committed to fill the hole that is opened by the line and runs through the opening.
The only issue with his execution is that he takes an extra step to the inside with his plant foot as he plants to proceed through the hole, and this extra step causes a fraction of a second delay before getting into the hole.
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the type of split second delay that could be the difference between blowing through the giant hole and leaving the guys being blocked by Gerald Everett and Brandon Shell, which could lead to him being tackled rather than getting through the hole untouched. Again, it’s not an issue that is a dealbreaker, but just as was seen with the false step in Jamarco Jones’ pass blocking technique when he faced Chandler Jones, with the players on the other side of the field being professional, the smallest imperfection in execution can have an impact on a play.
Carry 5 - 2nd & 6 at Jacksonville 41 (6:23, 3rd Quarter)
One of the biggest issues that Penny has regularly displayed since returning from knee surgery has been a lack of patience. On this play he fails to demonstrate the vision and patience necessary to follow a pulling Damien Lewis after Lewis is bumped off his path as a pulling lead blocker. Yes, Jags defensive end Jihad Ward (6) being in the backfield is an issue, but it’s sometimes necessary for a running back to make a defender miss. If Penny can make Ward miss, then he’ll have a 330 pound lead blocker escorting him through the hole. Instead, he attempts to outrun Ward, leaping past Lewis, which allows both Ward and Myles Jack (who was about to get obliterated by Lewis) to combine on the stop.
Someone is going to complain in the comments that he shouldn’t be forced to break a tackle in the backfield, but a simple stiff arm of Ward buys him enough time for Shell to reengage Ward and spring Penny free and able to follow Damien Lewis forward. Yes, that would be a tough ask, and there’s no guarantee that he would be able to pull it off, but there was a zero percent chance he’d be able to outrun Ward by outrunning his blocking.
Carry 6 - 3rd & 4 at Jacksonville 39 (5:46, 3rd Quarter)
Penny runs into Duane Brown on this play. Or, perhaps more accurately, Brown is thrown into Penny by Adam Gotsis (96) which throws the entire play off. That said, his impatience in the backfield leads to Lewis having a bad angle on Dawuane Smoot (91) as he engages after pulling across the formation, allowing Smoot to make the tackle.
Carry 7 - 1st & 10 at Seattle 31 (8:13, 4th Quarter)
This is Duo again and the blocking is beautiful and a giant lane has been opened with blockers ready to seal defenders to the outside and Penny should be into the second level before a defender puts a hand on him.
Unfortunately Penny doesn’t make the correct reads. The above photo is at the point in the play where Penny is to plant and attack, and as Jack (44) has come down to fill the gap between Shell and Dissly, the proper read on the play is for Penny to cut back. In particular, on this play he should cut back and run through the hole between Shell and Lewis, which has Gabe Jackson and Ethan Pocic able to seal defenders to the outside of what is a very large running lane. Instead he loses yards because he fails to make the proper read and attempts to bounce the play to the outside.
The last play could be used as an example of what has hindered Penny throughout almost the entirety career. A good playcall with near flawless execution from every member of the Seahawks offense allowing the offensive line opening a gaping hole that Penny missed by missing his read.