The Seattle Seahawks shocked everyone when they used their first round pick in the recent NFL Draft on Rashaad Penny. There were other more hyped players, who were expected to be drafted ahead of him. He wasn’t even the next best running back on most people’s draft boards. But that is the beauty of the NFL. Expect the unexpected.
Following Seattle’s draft, the team indicated that they loved what they saw in Penny, who led the nation in rushing last season. Penny put up monster numbers in his final season at San Diego State, rushing for 2,248 yards, and scoring 25 total touchdowns from scrimmage (23 rushing). Those numbers were so impressive, that Seattle saw him as the second best runner (behind Saquon Barkley) in the entire draft class. For these reasons, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll indicated he had big plans for Penny in his rookie campaign. He also mentioned that Penny was already impressing the coaching staff in pass protection, which is typically an issue for rookie runners.
With those rumors coming out of Seahawks headquarters, it was widely assumed that Penny would get a big role in the upcoming season. Perhaps he would even assume an every down role. But these assumptions are suddenly proving to be far from reality. Chris Carson, who played well last year for the Hawks, is all of a sudden a front runner to open training camp as the starter. Whether that is the case when Week 1 rolls around remains to be seen. But we can no longer assume anything about Penny’s role as a rookie.
Carson’s 2017 season ended abruptly after he unfortunately broke his leg in a game. Prior to the injury, he provided the team with a major spark. His physical running style enable the Seahawks to gain critical yards on the ground, despite having a well below average offensive line. But Carson was able to consistently break tackles, on his way to a 4.2 yards per carry average.
So the Seahawks now have an interesting yet good dilemma. They can choose to ease in Penny, while letting Carson take the brunt of the hits in between the tackles to open the season. Penny would then be relegated to a complementary role, as well as potentially handling punt returns on special teams. Of course, there is still a full training camp and preseason ahead of us, and anything can happen in August that could change the layout of this team’s roster. If Penny flashes in the preseason, Pete Carroll and the Seahawk will find it very tough to keep him off the field.