Seahawks Not Reinventing the Wheel in Backfield
With Chris Carson struggling to get rolling against the Eagles fourth-ranked run defense, the Seahawks turned to former first-round pick Rashaad Penny last Sunday with hopes he’d spark the offense.
Showing off his elite speed and ability to hit the turbo button in open field, Penny capitalized on his extended opportunity, rushing for a career-high 129 rushing yards on just 14 carries. The second year back also looked to be shot out of a cannon on a 58-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, helping seal a 17-9 victory in Philadelphia.
But in a not-so-shocking development, despite Penny’s breakout performance earning him a nomination for FedEx Ground Player of the Week and Carson rushing for just 26 yards while fumbling twice on Sunday, the Seahawks are staying the course in the backfield.
“I mean, Chris [Carson] is our guy. We know that,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said on Friday. “He’s playing terrific football as well. But, like what happened last year some, each week, sometimes different guys step up.”
Though Penny shined at Lincoln Financial Field, Schottenheimer’s comments shouldn’t be surprising at all. Carson has been Seattle’s bell cow back all season long, and while he leads all running backs in fumbles, he’s also been one of the most productive runners in the league for the past two seasons.
After finishing fifth in the NFL in rushing a year ago, Carson currently ranks eighth with 879 rushing yards and ranks fourth overall with 601 yards after contact. He’s broken 23 tackles, the third-highest total among NFL backs, while posting career-highs with 31 receptions and 220 yards as a receiver.
In comparison, Penny has largely been non-existent during his second season, failing to put any pressure on Seattle’s coaching staff to consider making a change in the running back pecking order. Before Sunday’s win, he had rushed for only 167 yards and a single touchdown on 36 carries and has yet to prove he can consistently perform at the NFL level.
While fans have grown frustrated with Carson coughing up the football, coach Pete Carroll again came to his defense after putting the ball on the turf twice in Philadelphia, indicating he doesn’t think the fumbling issues alone will necessarily create more opportunities for Penny moving forward.
“That’s not the case in my mind. The opportunity to play and to contribute is always there in that spot in particular. What Chris did yesterday, our offensive lineman knocked the ball out of his hands on the first one. The other one, it was a communication problem. It’s a little different than the guy just dropping the ball all over the place.”
However, Carroll also raved about Penny’s performance, praising him for his explosiveness and home run hitting ability as a complimentary weapon to Carson. That’s been the plan all along, and after failing for weeks to find a role for Penny, the dynamic thunder/lightning package the Seahawks hoped for may finally come to fruition.
But as Schottenheimer reiterated, Seattle won’t force the issue trying to rotate both backs into the game just for the sake of rotating and as they’ve done all year, the hot hand will stay on the field. This isn’t little league where coaches are tasked with trying to get everyone into the game and divvy out equal playing time.
With that in mind, until Penny demonstrates that he can sustain the level of play exhibited last weekend for multiple games and makes noticeable improvements as a receiver and blocker in pass protection, Carson’s job doesn’t look to be in jeopardy and he will receive the bulk of the snaps.