This week's focus player is running back Rashaad Penny. Seattle used a first round pick on Penny out of San Diego State in the 2018 NFL Draft. Now entering year four, he is yet to prove his first round status. After battling multiple injuries, and with the assumed departure of Chris Carson, it may be now or never for the former Aztec.
The 25-year old Penny showed plenty of promise in his rookie season after an impressive career at San Diego State, rushing for 419 yards and two touchdowns in limited action in 2018. Before his brutal knee injury during the 2019 season, he ran for 370 yards and three touchdowns, including a 129-yard performance against the Eagles before being sidelined.
Penny had a long road back after tearing his ACL in December of 2019 against the Rams. After reconstructive knee surgery and a 12-month wait, Penny finally took the field on December 20, 2020 following a grueling rehab regimen. He only carried the ball twice in his 2020 debut, totaling six yards.
In the season finale against the 49ers, Penny played 43 percent of the offensive snaps, with six carries for 19 yards. The former first round pick totaled just 11 carries in parts of three games for 34 yards.
Obviously, given the rigorous nature of his rehabilitation, Penny's main goal once he stepped on the field was to build up strength and to stay healthy as he took a few hits. By that standard, mission accomplished.
With just one year left on his rookie deal, this is a make-or-break season in 2021. Seattle did not dish out the franchise tag on Chris Carson, meaning Seattle's starting running back will at least test free agency. Penny very well could be the de facto starting running back next season unless the Seahawks make a splash signing or use yet another high draft pick on a running back.
Given that Penny was a first round pick, Seattle has the option to keep Penny around for the 2022 season as well. However, with his lack of production, mostly due to injuries and the indisputable abilities of Carson, it seems unlikely the Seahawks will exercise his fifth-year option, especially with it becoming fully guaranteed money.
On the other side, Pete Carroll and John Schneider may want to hold out for one more year to avoid cutting their losses with Penny.
If Seattle gives Penny the chance to be the No. 1 running back in 2021, he will need to produce like a running back worthy of a first round selection. Cleveland's Nick Chubb was selected eight spots after Penny and already has over 3,500 rushing yards in three seasons.
After three seasons, the former SDSU standout has appeared in just 28 of a possible 52 games. Penny hasn't worked out how either side would have hoped over his first three seasons. However, much can be forgiven if he comes on strong in 2021.