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Rashaad Penny and his outstanding achievement in the field of excellence

Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Rashaad Penny is having himself a season to remember. Over the last four weeks, he has been doing things that no Seattle Seahawks running back has done during the Pete Carroll era.

And not just this, but he has absolutely been setting the pace for all running backs during this stretch, as nobody else is even close to matching his success from Week 14 on.

The much maligned and frequently unavailable former first round pick has had a difficult career; some of this is random chance (like the injuries) and some of it is just puzzling usage and execution. But these things disguise the fact that Penny has had some truly elite performances in his stint as a Seahawk (the win at Philadelphia in 2019, the close loss to the Super Bowl bound Rams in 2018).

But nothing compares to his current streak; over the last four weeks, Rashaad Penny put up 481 rushing yards on 69 carries for an uncanny 7.0 yards per rush and 5 touchdowns. No Seattle Seahawks running back during the Pete Carroll era has had more yards in a four game stretch, and only the legendary Marshawn Lynch had more touchdowns (he also tied Penny for YPC, albeit with fewer yards and fewer carries in 2012). And he has looked damn good doing it.

What stands out to me about Rashaad’s recent explosion is that he has looked like a different runner; his explosive plays before seemed to often come on calls that maximized his elusiveness in space and disguised his struggles between the tackles. Below is a play that looks more like what I had come to expect from Penny: somebody who struggles to make decisive cuts with the ball and leaves a lot of yards on the field.

But he is currently crushing this narrative; according to Pro Football Focus, Rashaad has done some unique things this season. While he stands alone in his accumulation of yards over the last few weeks, he has also made marked improvements on almost every important category for a running back. Specifically, though, per PFF:

  • His yards after contact are exactly double that of his numbers from 2020 (4.18 to 2.09, respectively), and this ranks best in the NFL out of all players with at least 50 carries on the season.
  • Similarly, his “breakaway percentage” (percent yards gained from breakaway runs of fifteen or more yards) stands at an absolutely asinine 50%, which is also the highest for any player with at least 50 carries.

These stats are exceptionally important because they seem to indicate that Rashaad Penny is making significant strides in the areas he has previously struggled with — running between the tackles and using his big frame to run through contact — while not only maintaining but actually improving at what he was already good at — getting into space and utilizing his open field elusiveness.

While this is all good news for Rashaad Penny, it is not exactly pristine timing for the Seattle Seahawks; the former first round pick seems to have picked an opportune stretch to get going as he heads towards free agency for the first time in his young career. Having declined his fifth year option, the team may not want to commit much to a running back with a riddled injury history and only a handful of spectacular performances under his belt. Doubly so if sweeping organizational changes happen this offseason, as some are starting to predict. However, the running back market has been tepid in recent years, to say the least, and Colby Patnode of Sports Illustrated thinks that it is highly possible Penny will be looking to take a one-year deal in the $2M range, similar to what Marlon Mack signed a year ago. However, I think this is vastly undershooting Penny’s value, as Mack was coming off of a significant injury before re-signing with the Colts, whereas Rashaad is coming off a streak of unparalleled success.

The Seahawks are 2-2 during Penny’s streak of excellence, and while it is very clearly not on Penny that the team botched the Chicago Bears game, it does serve to remind us that running backs just don’t carry the value they once did. So what would you do if you were holding the cards, right now? How aggressive should Seattle be in pursuing Rashaad Penny this offseason?