RENTON, Wash. - Seattle didn't select running back Rashaad Penny with a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft envisioning that after five games he would have gained just 92 yards rushing with zero touchdowns.
Yet, here he is. Third on the depth chart behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Third on the team in rushing. Virtually a non-factor in the team's last two games, the Seahawks' best two rushing outings of the season.
“He’s just looking for his opportunity, he’s dying to get in there," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "He’s just scratching, clawing to get back out there and get more turns. There just wasn’t enough ops (opportunities), but this is a long season, there’s a lot of carries, there’s a lot of running to be done. I can’t wait to see him get in there and get going too. He’s done nothing but good stuff for us.”
So, did Seattle make a mistake by selecting Penny? Not necessarily. He has the goods. In fact, he is more explosive than both Carson and Davis and could ultimately produce more big plays in the running game than both veterans. However, if Carson proves to be capable of being the long-term solution at running back, then selecting any running back in the first round would have been a mistake, especially given the team's other glaring needs. That said, we won't know what to make of Penny until he is able to sink or swim.
Penny can't wait for that opportunity to arrive.
"I want to be on the field and I want to prove what I can do.," he said. "But like I said, you've got two good backs that's rolling right now. You've got to stick with what's hot."
"It definitely is a learning challenge, just sitting back and waiting for my opportunity," Penny said.
Penny injured is finger during training camp, which sot him two preseason games of action and a lot of missed practice time. That reality, Carroll said, set back the rookie's development.
“It certainly did," Carroll said. "In your rookie camp, you don’t want to miss a month. That’s pretty hard."
Carroll said he sees the frustration in Penny and added that it's exactly what he wants to see in his rookie running back.
"I want him to be frustrated, I want him to be anxious to get out there, I want him to be unsatisfied with what’s going on right now," Carroll said. "That’s fine. I think that’s the only way he should be."
For Penny, this is familiar territory. As a sophomore at San Diego State, Penny was third behind Donnell Pumphrey and Chase Price. As a junior, Penny backed up just Pumphrey, who rushed for 2,133 yards compared to Penny's 1,018. Penny became the guy in 2017 and rushed for 2,248 yards on 7.8 per carry with 23 touchdowns.
That said, it's one thing to pay your dues as a young college running back behind accomplished upperclassmen. It's another to sit behind a former seventh-round pick in Carson and a former fourth-round pick from another team (San Francisco) in Davis.
Yet, at least outwardly, Penny has not allowed any of the above get to him. He said he remains confident in his abilities while respecting currently the players ahead of him on the pecking order.
"He’s classy and he’s for the team and every time he would say anything," Carroll said, "he would always talk about the team first so he’s got his priorities in line and I expect him to keep battling.”