Number 10: Seahawks waited for him to produce – and did he ever!
If you didn’t guess I’m talking about Rashaad Penny, I can’t help you. Okay, that’s not completely fair. Another player still with the Hawks could boost his stats, too. [That possibility is now gone]. But Penny was the presumptive number one back for the 2022 season, so he was more likely to build on his stats than his teammate I ranked even higher. Penny could return in 2023, but I’m comfortable placing him here based on his performance so far.
There are good reasons I have other gentlemen ranked higher than Mr. Penny. He got off to a decent start in his 2018 rookie campaign. Granted, 419 yards on 85 carries isn’t exactly record-setting, but considering who he shared the backfield with, it wasn’t terrible either. It wasn’t the most auspicious start for a first-round pick, but he certainly flashed more than a little promise.
Then 2019 arrived and like so many Seahawks before him, the injury bug bit. Penny missed six games in his second season, a pattern that would get much worse in 2020. Despite the missed time, the former first-round pick’s second year was an improvement over his rookie season. His rushing average jumped from 4.9 to 5.7 yards per carry. His touchdowns doubled from two to four, despite having about three-fourths as many touches. The nagging injuries aside, Penny was on his way.
I don’t need to remind you that 2020 wasn’t very kind to Rashaad Penny. He was only active for the final three games of the season and did virtually nothing with his limited opportunities. With just 34 yards from scrimmage, Penny looked like a huge disappointment. I mean, no less than five running backs had more yards than he did; and that doesn’t count Russell Wilson and wide receiver David Moore.
And now we come to the happy part of the story, the fairy tale ending. 2021 certainly didn’t start that way, as Penny only played in four of the Hawks first 11 games. He wasn’t exactly mesmerizing in those contests, either, as he racked up just 43 yards on 17 carries. He pulled a hamstring after two runs versus the Cardinals on November 21st. He was inactive for the next week, and it looked like the book was closed for good on Rashaad Penny.
And then Adrian Peterson had a talk with him. At least, that’s what Penny himself said. Whether it was seeing the field differently or learning to play through injuries, Rashaad Penny was an entirely different player. He only had 35 yards on 11 carries versus the Niners, it’s true. But Penny kicked in the afterburners all good little 12s had been waiting years to see on a screen that he turned into a critical 27-yard gain.
After that game, Penny was the player the Seahawks drafted way back in 2018. He slashed through the Texans, Bears, Lions, and Cards. The Rams held him in check, but they’re not exactly an easy bunch. It’s too soon to tell if this was a true turning point for him, but it certainly seems to be the case. Yes, you could say I’m basing my ranking of Penny on a handful of games, it’s true. But you’ll have to look a long time to find another Seahawks back with a run of performances like that. We’ll just have to wait to see if he adds to his totals in Seattle, or moves on.