The Eagles signed Rashaad Penny to a 1-year deal last week. Penny was a pre-draft favorite of mine, so I was thrilled to see the move and excited to break him down. I watched all of his 2022 and 2021 carries for this piece. Let’s get into it!
The first number that jumps off the screen is the YAC per rush. Ranking 2nd and 1st in back-to-back years is pretty ridiculous. Ranking 3rd in YPA two seasons in a row and averaging over 6 yards a carry is also pretty absurd. The numbers show a really talented early-down runner who can’t stay on the field. They also highlight that Penny is an early-down running back either who doesn’t provide a lot in the passing game.
+ Contact balance is really good. He runs through arm tackles without slowing down which is really impressive. He’s a tough inside runner.
Rashaad Penny film thread. Contact balance is the obvious standout part of his game on film. Keeps his legs moving despite facing a few arm challenges. He doesn't just run through tackles but he often keeps accelerating through them which is a huge positive. pic.twitter.com/l49cOVMo0G— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
Let's end with this one. Look at the power and contact balance. He literally bounces off this hit but still maintains his balance and manages to make the deep safety miss despite being off balance. This is fun running back and this is a fun run. He's a top back when healthy. pic.twitter.com/3uyVPxGxWo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He doesn’t just run through arm tackles but he continues to accelerate while breaking tackles. This is a really difficult trait for running backs to have.
Again, look how he continues to accelerate here despite defenders getting their hands on him. He has a strong lower body and a pretty nasty stiff arm too. It's obvious why his yards after contact are very high. pic.twitter.com/SloQjEFtLh— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He has really good vision and can adjust his pathway really quickly depending on what gap is available to him
This is fantastic. I love this run. 97 has the A-gap so Penny fakes the cutback to get him to move and then runs straight by him. This is great vision and understanding of the play. He also reads the block on 3 perfectly and cuts it to his outside where there is space. Lovely! pic.twitter.com/PYD7DxYekT— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He has a fantastic stiff arm and can make defenders look silly at times
Another great finish. He avoids an arm tackle and makes the deep safety look silly with a stiff arm. Once again, look how little speed he loses when he breaks the tackle. He doesnt just run through contact he does it while maintaining his speed which allows him to break huge runs pic.twitter.com/FPqnyfcbo2— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ Despite being a bigger back, he has legit speed and can create explosive plays. He runs away from defenders consistently
This is obviously a huge hole, but the breakaway speed is clear. He can break huge runs which is impressive for a back of his size. Because of his size he doesn't look particularly fast but he runs away from defenders consistently on film. It's impressive! pic.twitter.com/hUDsQdt31a— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
This is just pure speed. The Seattle OL opened up some massive holes and you can really see how quick Penny is when he gets up to full speed. The CB takes an awful angle here but Penny just runs away from him. pic.twitter.com/RxUIrlDF4P— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He has really good feet, especially for a back his size. He has a thick lower half but his feet are fantastic
These are really quick feet for a bigger back. I was really impressed with his vision and ability to read his blocks to find cutbacks. He's going to love playing behind this OL. pic.twitter.com/8gQ8UpgBti— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
Look at the feet here to avoid 94 who gets into the backfield. He has such quick, light feet for a big guy. He manages to slow down but then accelerates really quickly to get through the hole. A lot of bigger backs can't accelerate this quickly again after slowing down at the LOS pic.twitter.com/gYgNsYDSz8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ When he has to hesitate behind the line of scrimmage, he shows great patience but keeps his feet moving so he can accelerate quickly when he sees a gap
The patience, vision and finish on this run are great too. He hits the hole hard normally but isn't afraid to hesitate when needed. Despite the hesitation, he doesn't stop his feet from moving which enables him to accelerate quickly and he finishes well too by falling forward. pic.twitter.com/nS2Xs2OjKG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He can run a number of different run concepts and ran some power concepts last year too which he will do with the Eagles
He's not just a zone runner either - here is on power. He is patient, lets his blocks develop and bursts through the gap. He then runs through another tackle and just runs through the cornerback with good speed to get to the edge too. He has great feet for a bigger back. pic.twitter.com/nv9Fi0goz1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
+ He’s just a really talented runner. He has ‘wow’ plays that you don’t see many other backs have
What's better than a fantastic run in a snow game! Look at the vision, footwork, contact balance and athleticism to redirect and run through the CB with a stiff arm while getting to the edge. This is the run of an elite running back that you don't see too often. Phew. pic.twitter.com/TbqGnAxX0H— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
- He wins by power and doesn’t come across as particularly elusive. There are times you want to see him make a defender miss in the open field but he can’t.
His contact balance is excellent but I wouldn't call him elusive. He doesn't really make defenders miss one-on-one that often. Here is an example where you would like to see him make the CB miss. pic.twitter.com/D069yrMx5I— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 20, 2023
- The injury history is obviously a real thing. He’s had hamstring injuries, a torn ACL, a calf strain, and others. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently.
- Despite his obvious talent, the Seahawks still added a running back in the 2nd round last year which shows that they did not trust him.
- He hasn’t provided much in the passing game and I didn’t see many examples of him in pass protection either. He’s an early-down back only.
- I didn’t see a lot of read-options runs. A lot of his runs were from under-center and he will have to get used to a lot more read-option carries next year.
Penny is a really different style of back to Miles Sanders so I am fascinated to see how this offense looks next year. In the videos above, you will notice that a lot of them are runs from under-center. Last year, the Eagles would rarely run from under-center because it doesn’t allow the Eagles to do the RPO stuff that they love to do. However, I am not sure the Eagles can continue to rely on Hurts as a runner in a 17-game season. I think the Penny signing shows that the Eagles want a power back who can handle some volume and provide the Eagles with a bigger presence on early-downs. I think we will see some more under-center stuff next year and more ‘traditional’ runs.
Despite this, I do think Penny will be fine with the read-option stuff too, and running more from the shotgun. He is an extremely talented back who I think will fit in pretty much any scheme. The combination of speed, contact balance, and vision are of a very high-level running back. There is a reason his yards after contact is routinely at the top of the NFL. He is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL when he is fully healthy.
However, you cannot ignore the injury history. Penny is a fantastic back but availability is a talent in itself. Sanders handled a lot of carries last year and stayed healthy throughout the year. If Penny cannot stay healthy, there is a chance this signing could end up a failure and the Eagles will miss Sanders’ consistency. Penny’s receiving ability is also a concern but the Eagles do not throw to their running backs anyway because they have 3 elite receiving talents. Although I would love a receiving talent at running back, this offense has shown that they can have an elite pass game without a good receiving back.
Overall, I absolutely love the signing. I do not like taking chances on injury-prone players most of the time, but I think running back is the one position where I do not mind it at all. The Eagles can easily be a pass-first offense and if Penny does miss some time next season, a trio of Gainwell, Scott, and Sermon will be enough to carry the load in most games. Even if Penny does miss time next year, if he is healthy when the playoffs come around, he could be a major factor in the playoffs when a power running game is often vital. I have called for a more physical running back for a while now, and I think Penny could have a huge year if he stays healthy. It’s a really fun signing.