PHILADELPHIA -- Rashaad Penny told reporters he has been frustrated with his role – or lack thereof – this season. Pete Carroll noted the same thing.
Going into Sunday’s matchup against the Eagles, Penny had at least six carries in just four games this year, at least eight carries in two and double digit carries in only one. That’s not ideal for a player who was taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and still carries sky-high expectations.
But Penny made the most of his opportunity in Week 12, carrying the ball 14 times for 129 yards and one touchdown. The yardage total was a career high and it included a career-long 58-yard touchdown run that ended up being the game-winning score in Seattle's 17-9 win over Philadelphia.
“It’s been a big test, but I need to have poise and be patient and wait my turn – just trying to prove that I can play,” Penny said of his approach as Seattle’s No. 2 running back. “We’ve got a great running back in front of me in Chris (Carson), who shows us week in and week out and all last season and this season.”
It turns out that Carson’s success this season has been only part of the equation for why Penny has spent so much time on the sideline in 2019. Apparently Penny has been working to shed unnecessary weight. He was told to “be more professional,” which has resulted in him taking practice more seriously.
He’s also taken a more proactive approach to his health and overall physical wellbeing by hiring a nutritionist. Penny completely overhauled his diet, cutting out everything from McDonalds to his mom’s famous lasagna.
“I got serious about football,” Penny said. “Having great body weight and great body shape takes you a long way as a running back.”
Penny admitted to not taking his offseason “too serious” and showed up for Seattle’s offseason program out of shape and overweight. That’s when he was told to get his act together. He’s since dropped nearly 10 pounds and is playing at 230. His goal is to get to 225.
“He got better,” Carroll said. “He’s trimmer. He’s faster – look how fast he was today. It looked like he was shot out of a cannon.”
Penny also noticed his added speed, which was evident on his 58-yard score.
“I felt an extra burst,” the running back said. “I was pretty pleased with myself when I came back to the sideline.”
Penny’s big game, coupled with Carson’s ongoing fumbling issue (he’s got seven on the season including fumbles in back-to-back games), indicates that Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick could be in for a bigger role moving forward.
But don’t bank on that just yet. Remember Carson lost a fumble against the Steelers in Week 2, and Penny scored a 37-yard touchdown in the same game. Penny has struggled to stay healthy, and while he seems to be past his hamstring issue, it will take more than one big game to completely unseat Carson.
It was a significant step in the right direction regardless and provided a source of optimism that good things might be on the way for the embattled running back.