Upon Closer Inspection: Bump & Stacy’s focus on Seahawks’ RB situation
The Seahawks will kick off training camp in less than a month (yes, the season is approaching more quickly than you think!) and in the days leading up to it, we’ll be taking a closer look at each position group on Bump and Stacy.
Today, we’re breaking down the running back group. The theme is easy: one thing every fan should be excited for, and one lingering question that still makes us nervous.
Fans should be excited about…
Yes, there are injury concerns. And yes, Penny has yet to start, much less play, a full season for Seattle. But for the final month of the season, he was the best running back in the league. And in that month Seahawks fans finally saw the running back who became a star at San Diego State.
It wasn’t pretty all year. From Weeks 1 through 4, Penny never rushed for more than 10 yards and averaged less than one yard per attempt in two of those contests. But he took off in a December game against the Texans for 135 yards and never looked back, finishing with 130 or more yards in four of his final five games, including back-to-back games of 170 yards or more. He picked up no fewer than two and as many as nine first downs in those games and broke between one and five tackles (with five broken tackles against the Bears). He also picked up more rushing yards after contact (between 3.8 and 4.9) in three of those games than he did at any other point in the season.
“If you just go off of last year, the last five games of the season, you’ve got the hottest running back in the league right now,” Michael Bumpus said during Wednesday’s Bump and Stacy. “Now the question with Rashaad is can he continue what he did last year? I think if he is healthy he can do that, but he has to prove himself, right? He has to show that he can show up week by week, down after down, that he can have 25 carries in a game and be okay. He’s been through a lot these last four years here, but he’s resilient, he made it work last year, so that’s why I’m excited, because I feel like Rashaad Penny has a chance to cement himself as the guy here.”
Another reason to be excited for Penny? A Seahawks offense without Russell Wilson will look for contributions from everyone, particularly in the run, where there will presumably be more carries for their halfbacks. If what Penny was able to tap into a sustainable version of himself (that being a productive running back, not a 190-yard per game player, of course) then the Seahawks run game is in good hands for 2022.
One lingering concern…
A twist! In a Closer Inspection first, the biggest reason for excitement is also the biggest lingering question.
Penny hasn’t appeared in more than 10 games since his rookie season, and even then appeared in just 14 contests. A player who never suffered an injury in college or high school has ironically faced an injury-plagued career in the pros. In 2018 and 2019, the Seahawks were fortunate enough to have Chris Carson, but his status for this season remains uncertain — meaning there’s one fewer Plan B for the Seahawks should Penny suffer another injury.
“As a football player, one of the hardest things to do is to come back from an injury and go out there and give it your all every single down and believe that that knee is going to hold up, that your ankle is going to hold up,” Bumpus said. “So, he’s had this mental battle that he’s gone through. Adrian Peterson, it seemed like, helped him out last year. But I’m concerned just because I want to know how mentally tough this kid is. I think he can do it. But if he can’t, there’s a guy behind him that’s going to get some time, and that’s Ken Walker. So there are backup plans. But the reason I’m concerned is just that I want to see Penny do it, consistently, every single week.”