Will Rashaad Penny Become A Superstar?
By Scott Engel, The Game Day
After the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson, there were indications that he wanted to move on from the team after being a signature player for the franchise in its most successful decade. A significant portion of the fan base reacted with disappointment after they had supported Wilson faithfully for so many years.
Ultimately, years down the line, Wilson will return to Seattle to join the team’s Ring Of Honor. Even then, though, some lingering feelings of being jilted may remain among the team’s intense followers. At the same time, Seahawks fans can now truly appreciate a very promising player who wanted to stay with the team that still hopes to make some noise in the NFC.
Rashaad Penny: Destined For Greatness?
Seattle Is Home For Penny
After a tremendously impressive finish to the 2021 season, Rashaad Penny reportedly turned down better offers elsewhere to remain with the Seahawks. Before Penny signed a new one-year deal, he openly expressed his desire to remain in Seattle and confirmed that stance after signing the contract.
Penny’s contract contains roster bonuses and performance incentives, according to Pro Football Focus. After his late surge last season, Penny could have likely taken more of a firm deal from another team. But many Seahawk observers will find it admirable that he apparently took on a contract where he can prove his 2021 breakout stretch was no fluke.
Penny wore a Seahawks classic-style Starter satin jacket when he inked the new contract and met the media, one that was recently reissued with the addition of the United Kingdom flag, from when the team played in London in 2018. One could certainly infer that Penny’s choice of wardrobe was another signal of his deep commitment to the team. The sight of Penny in the Seahawks colors of the 1980s and 90s was also recognized by former players from that era, who are still connected to the team today.
— Ray Roberts (@BigRayRoberts) March 22, 2022
The Seahawks have a rich history of running backs that have been among the most prominent of their respective NFL eras. Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander and Curt Warner were recognized among the league’s elite during their best years. Chris Warren and Ricky Watters also were regarded as top NFL running backs in their time as central offensive figures for the Seahawks.
Rashaad Penny Is Already Is Fine Company
Can Penny join those type of standout performers in team lore? He definitely set out on such a path in the final six regular season games of the 2021 season. As noted by Seahawks beat reporter Corbin K. Smith, he rushed for over 700 yards, six touchdowns and averaged 6.9 yards per carry during that span. Only two NFL running backs since 1950 have produced those type of numbers over a six-game span.
The other guy to register those sorts of totals was Barry Sanders in 1997. Yes, Barry Sanders, who rushed for a career-best 2.053 yards that season while being named the NFL MVP along with Brett Favre.
The obvious factor in whether Penny can continue to excel is his health. Any average NFL fan knows how much time he has missed, we don’t need to rehash that again here. There are other elements we need to consider when projecting his outlook going forward.
As a pure runner, Penny’s talents and potential were always evident, but he far exceeded expectations late in 2021. That was because of two factors: Regular playing time, and the influence of a future Hall of Famer.
For the first time in his career, Penny was able to operate as a pure lead running back. In the past, he shared the workload with Chris Carson when both were available, and the two were also injured at the same time in other instances. Penny fully seized the opportunity to get consistent carries, and being able to get into a rhythm as a lead ball carrier and staple of the offense made him more naturally comfortable and confident.
The presence of Adrian Peterson as a player/coach type had a notable effect on Penny as well. He became a more physical and decisive runner. Even though he had shown flashes of promise in the past, the late-season 2021 version of Penny was one that was willing to lower his shoulder and bang his way for extra yardage. He emerged as an authentic running back package of explosiveness and power, and ran with authority while showing a very good grasp of offensive schemes.
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Important Points To Contemplate
It is well-established that Pete Carroll prefers to have a strong and reliable running game as a crux of his offense. Penny has shown he is potentially capable of handling that role with regularity. Still, when Carson and Penny have both been available, the Seahawks have utilized both to wear down defenses. That could be the approach in 2022 as well. Both running backs could be less likely to incur more injuries if they are splitting the reps.
There are still offseason questions to be answered about who will start at quarterback and how concerns on the offensive line will be addressed. Penny and Carson could face additional defensive attention in 2022 as opponents will no longer be heavily preparing for Wilson. There may be an extra emphasis on shutting down the Seattle running game when other teams devise their defensive game plans, especially now that Penny will be more in the crosshairs after his finish to the 2021 campaign.
Penny will undoubtedly be a key part of the Seattle offense in 2022. But we have to see how the offense will ultimately look around him, and whether he will be the true lead running back.
For now, though, Penny has resurfaced as a possible star for the Seahawks, and he may become a fan favorite. Making a clear choice to stay in Seattle is certainly a welcomed move by Penny after Wilson opted to move on. If the Seahawks have some success moving into the post-Wilson era, Penny can be a very important part of the picture.
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