Leaner, Stronger Rashaad Penny Impresses at Seahawks OTAs
With OTAs in full swing across the country, it’s officially “beach body” season in the NFL.
When teams return from a long offseason to begin preparation for the upcoming season, it’s not uncommon for players to be in the best shape of their lives, so such commentary should be taken with a grain of salt this time of year.
But on Tuesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll offered an encouraging assessment of second-year running Rashaad Penny, who arrived back in Seattle with a more “trimmed” physique and improved conditioning.
“He looks great.” Carroll told reporters. “He’s fast, he’s lean, he looks like the off season that he put forth and then also what he’s done with our guys has been working right on point. He’s doing really well.”
Despite the presence of Chris Carson, Seattle surprised many by using its first-round pick on Penny during the 2018 NFL Draft. The former San Diego State star led the entire FBS in rushing yards during his senior season and the Seahawks also loved his potential versatility as a kick and punt return specialist.
However, injuries and unexpected conditioning issues prevented Penny from making as much of an impact during his rookie season as anticipated.
After fracturing his left pointer finger during a pass protection drill, Penny underwent surgery in mid-August and once he returned to action for the regular season opener, his weight was hovering close to 240 pounds. Trying to find his footing, he saw limited action toting the rock behind Carson and Mike Davis and rushed for just 146 yards in his first eight NFL games.
Following a dreadful start, Penny found his groove during the middle of the season, eclipsing 100 rushing yards for the first time in a close road loss to the Rams in Week 10. Including that contest, he rushed for 267 yards in a five-game stretch, averaging nearly seven yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, a knee injury cost him two of the team’s final three regular season games, and he concluded his first professional season with just 419 rushing yards on 85 carries.
Hoping to bounce back from a disappointing season, Penny rededicated himself this offseason and according to Carroll, reported to the VMAC carrying less weight than he did a year ago.
“Yeah. He’s stronger than he was, I think, so he’s transferred some weight. But he looks great right now, so we’re really happy with him.”
While Carson remains the starter after finishing fifth in the league in rushing yards, Penny learned some valuable lessons during his rookie season and possesses the talent to push for more playing time. Back at the NFL Scouting Combine, Carroll even went as far as to say he didn’t know which back would get the bulk of the carries.
“A one-two punch, and I don’t know who’s one and who’s two, it doesn’t matter to me. I thought both guys did a really good job this year…” Carroll stated. “Those two guys, they’re good football players and we love what they bring.
They’re not the same, their running style are different, but there’s plenty of room for both of those guys, so I’m excited for both of them.”
It’s only May and until training camp opens in late July, it’s tough telling what Penny will do this upcoming season. As linebacker Bobby Wagner noted on Tuesday, “everybody looks good without pads on” this time of year.
But the Seahawks have to be thrilled about Penny putting the work in over the past several months and with Carson recovering from knee surgery, he’ll have an extended opportunity to impress and gain momentum in coming weeks.