It’s safe to say that Rashaad Penny’s career hasn’t gone the way either he or the Seattle Seahawks had hoped. Taken in the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft, the pick was heavily scrutinized both for drafting a running back in the first place and also choosing him over Nick Chubb, who’s gone on to be one of the stars of the Cleveland Browns offense.
There is no point in rehashing the criticisms of Penny (which we’ve done quite a bit of on this site), or his lengthy injury history, so let’s focus on something positive. With Alex Collins out and Adrian Peterson both ineffective and also 4,000 years old, Penny was significantly involved in Seattle’s offensive gameplan against the San Francisco 49ers.
The numbers won’t blow anyone away - 10 carries for 35 yards and 1 catch for 27 yards, but it’s the most touches he’s had since the Minnesota Vikings game in 2019 (his last fully healthy appearance before his ACL tear) and one of his highest usage rates in his entire stint with the Seahawks.
My personal favorite play was neither Penny’s catch nor his 11-yard run (his longest of the game, which came on 2nd and 43). It’s this block to pick up the blitzing Talanoa Hufanga and turn what could’ve been yet another sack on Russell Wilson into a completed pass down the field to rookie receiver Dee Eskridge.
So, so good. Inject this into my veins. pic.twitter.com/8sgTQnmKuU— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) December 6, 2021
Penny essentially had to bail on the play-fake early because if he didn’t then I think you know what is likely to happen from there. Unfortunately Seattle didn’t cash in with points on this drive but it was nevertheless an outstanding play and for all we know might have prevented a fumble.
Then there’s the aforementioned catch. And for one of the few times all season we see him getting out into space with the ball in his hands. I’d save this video if I were you because it’s a screen pass that actually works. You can see glimpses of what the promise he showed in 2019 prior to the injury.
Fantastic execution on halfback screen here by #Seahawks (yes, I can't believe I'm typing that sentence) with couple key blocks thrown and Penny making defenders miss after the catch, finishing with authority before going out of bounds. pic.twitter.com/DiduV6HBUj— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) December 6, 2021
Again, the Seahawks failed to take advantage of this successful play. That’s because they hate taking the easy routes.
But it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Penny contributed quite a bit on a day when the Seahawks once again mostly struggled offensively — they averaged less than 4 yards per play outside of the Travis Homer fake punt. That in itself should be personally encouraging to Penny that he managed a first down on the ground (a 10-yard rush on 1st and 10), as a receiver, and aided another first down as a blocker.
We’ll see if the good plays he made last weekend translate to more touches as the season draws to a close. Alex Collins could/should be back against the Houston Texans and Adrian Peterson only has one more practice squad activation allowed. Penny is a free agent this coming offseason and it’d be nice to see him have a bit of an end of season “audition” of sorts to see if he can turn his career around.