With Chris Carson gone, can Rashaad Penny ‘take off’ as Seattle Seahawks’ RB1?

RENTON, Wash. — For the primary time in his NFL profession, working again Rashaad Penny started coaching camp because the Seattle Seahawks’ projected starter.

It did not occur as a rookie in 2018, when Chris Carson returned from his damaged leg and reclaimed the job, despite the fact that the Seahawks had simply drafted Penny No. 27 total. It did not occur in any of the subsequent three seasons, as Carson entrenched himself as Seattle’s lead again whereas Penny was sidelined by one damage after one other, together with a torn ACL in December 2019 that shelved him for nearly all of 2020.

So solely now, with Carson out of the image following plans to retire attributable to a neck damage, Penny is heading towards the beginning of the season because the Seahawks’ clear-cut RB1, coming off a torrid five-game stretch on the finish of final season during which he led the NFL with 671 speeding yards.

“I do not assume like that,” Penny stated when requested about being the clear-cut RB1 final week after the primary observe of camp. “I’ve received loads of stuff to show to myself. Once more, I’ve nonetheless received to be wholesome … I’ve received an enormous chip on my shoulder this 12 months, so I actually do not see something so far as that, however I am excited in regards to the alternative and we’ll simply see the place it goes from right here.”

Penny is not getting forward of himself as a result of he is aware of his spot on the depth chart does not imply a lot except he can keep on the sector. To date, so good. His solely damage hiccup this offseason was a short absence within the spring to relaxation what coach Pete Carroll described as a minor hamstring challenge. He is taken half in all 5 practices of camp and closed out the second with a protracted landing run during which he sprinted previous Seattle’s protection.

“I feel that is the very best situation that he is ever been,” Carroll stated, “and I do know he’ll be flying.”

Curiously, Carroll stated the identical factor final summer season after Penny reported to camp on the leaner aspect of his weight vary at 225 kilos. He got here again this 12 months at 237, which he is performed at prior to now. Penny stated a few of that weight is muscle he is added in his decrease physique however hinted that he needs to drop a couple of kilos this summer season.

“Rashaad is in nice form,” Carroll stated. “Two-thirty-seven he weighed. Simply lower and sharp and quick and excited as a result of he had such a fantastic offseason. He appeared terrific. He could not wait to get out right here and simply run. He actually needed to indicate us that he may go, and he appeared identical to he did once we completed up on the finish, in order that was actually enjoyable to see that.”

That was a reference to Penny’s scorching end to final season. With Carson on the sideline due to the neck damage — and with some motivation from Adrian Peterson — Penny ran for 208 extra yards than the next-best rusher over the ultimate 5 video games. His six speeding touchdowns in that span tied for the league lead and had been yet another than he totaled to that time in three-plus seasons.

That stretch of brilliance earned Penny one thing that may have beforehand been laborious to think about — a second contract with Seattle. He examined free company earlier than returning on a one-year deal value $5.75 million, all however $680,000 of which is assured.

The Seahawks had added motivation to convey again Penny with Carson’s soccer future doubtful. The crew launched him a day earlier than camp with a failed bodily, a procedural transfer that makes him eligible to earn among the non-guaranteed cash he was set to make in 2022.

Penny, an in depth pal of Carson’s, known as his retirement “heartbreaking.” Carroll did the identical.

“I cherished him on our crew,” Carroll stated. “It breaks my coronary heart to not have him once more, significantly with how we’re going about it.”

As in, with how a lot they’ve at all times favored to run the ball — Seattle has the NFL’s fourth-highest designed rush proportion since 2012 — and with how a lot of a spotlight that will probably be of their post-Russell Wilson offense. What different selection have they got than to lean on their revamped protection and run recreation and hope Drew Lock and/or Geno Smith can handle their option to victories?

That plan and their doubts about Carson gave the Seahawks extra cause to strengthen their backfield by drafting Kenneth Walker III with one their two second-round picks. Walker has flashed his 4.38 pace and significantly better receiving abilities than you may need assumed from a participant who caught solely 13 passes throughout his Heisman-finalist 2021 season at Michigan State.

“He is quick,” Penny stated of the 5-foot-9, 211-pound Walker. “This dude, he can play. He form of jogs my memory of a smaller Chris. We’ll see once we get pads on … He fears nothing. I like the way in which he simply needs to be taught and desires to be nice.”

Penny has missed 30 of a potential 69 video games (together with playoffs) in his profession attributable to damage. Solely twice has he carried greater than 20 occasions in a recreation. So Walker figures to get loads of work, whether or not by design or out of necessity. Seattle additionally has Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas as change-of-pace choices. Their contributions on particular groups make them protected bets to make the opening-day roster.

“We’re actually fired up about Ken being right here too now,” Carroll stated. ” … It will be a implausible alternative for us to see these guys play. It takes a couple of.”

With pads approaching, the second week of camp will supply a glance into whether or not Penny is once more working with the identical aggressive fashion that was evident throughout his closing surge final 12 months.

“I really feel like so far as what I did final season, it was form of no shock to me as a result of I at all times knew what I may do,” he stated. “I feel the laborious half was simply me attending to play on Sundays … and now that I am feeling wholesome and I am feeling at my finest, I can not wait to really take off this 12 months.”