Going into the 2019 season, the Seahawks envisoned running back Rashaad Penny settling into a larger role alongside starter Chris Carson, giving the team a dynamic tandem in the backfield.
So far, however, Penny has been utilized significantly less compared to his rookie season, as the former first-round selection out of San Diego State has seen a significant drop in rushing attempts and offensive snaps due to Carson's stellar performance and injuries.
Through seven games played, Penny has carried the ball just 36 times for 167 yards with his lone touchdown coming in Week 2 at Pittsburgh. The second-year running back has also caught three of his four targets for a total of 34 yards, proving to provide little punch in the passing game as well.
Penny's role has diminished even further over the previous two games, as he’s been given just six combined rushing attempts. According to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, that’s not a trend the team would like to continue going forward.
“You guys know the way we are, and the way we want to get multiple backs involved. Unfortunately, last week he gets the two touches,” Schottenheimer explained during Thursday’s practice. “But for us to go where we want to go, I think Rashaad will help us win games and he’s chomping at the bit. We just don’t ever plan exactly how it’s going to play out. Chris has been playing so good right now but, when Rashaad get his chances, I think he’ll play well.”
The Seahawks have understandably been impressed with Carson's production this season. Due to his success, incorporating Penny more into the running game may be a difficult task for the coaching staff to accomplish.
As coach Pete Carroll mentioned prior to Wednesday’s practice, the team feels very comfortable when Carson has the ball in his hands, which has prevented Penny from producing consistent results this season.
“Chris has been doing a good job. He’s been consistent. It just hasn’t happened. We really like Chris carrying the football,” Carroll said. “That’s really the main reason. He hasn’t made it available for Rashaad because he’s been going the whole time.”
Carroll continued on to speak about how Penny’s low usage should help Seattle's running game maintain effectiveness over the final six weeks of the season.
“I would’ve thought he had the ball a lot more than he has so far. I’m counting on him. He’s fresh and ready to go help us. Hopefully, we have a bunch more games. Chris has run the ball a couple hundred times already,” Carroll discussed. “It does open it up, the opportunity for Rashaad to help us out and contribute. Hoping he’ll do that.”
Based on Carson’s high workload so far this season, as the third-year pro has been averaging the second-most rushing attempts per game (20.0) according to NFL.com, the Seahawks will likely look to slightly lower his usage over the remaining six games of the season to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
As shown in short glimpses during his young career, Penny is quite capable of playing a much more meaningful role for the Seahawks. If he's able to get back on track and provide a complimentary piece to Carson as envisioned before the start of the season, Seattle’s offense has the potential to become one of the best in the league down the stretch.