The Philadelphia Eagles added an intriguing new piece to their backfield earlier this offseason when they signed free agent running back Rashaad Penny.
Let’s get to know him a bit better by hearing from a Seattle Seahawks perspective. Here’s what John P. Gilbert from Field Gulls had to say through answers to my questions.
1 - How would you recap Penny’s time with the Seahawks?
Penny’s time with Seattle was the epitome of a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs. As a rookie in 2018 he came to camp as the highly publicized, flashy first round pick, only to find himself as the third string back behind former seventh round selection Chris Carson and 2017 practice squad promotee Mike Davis. He was very streaky early in his career, and just as he was hitting his groove in 2019 suffered a devastating knee injury that cost him the closing weeks of the 2019 season and most of 2020. He finally returned in 2021, only to struggle for much of the year before absolutely catching fire in the final five games of the season to the tune of 671 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. That led to high hopes for 2022, only for that hope to be dashed by yet another significant injury.
2 - How do Seahawks fans feel about the team not retaining him?
There’s definitely a contingent of fans that wanted to keep him around and are sad to see him go, but between the emergence of Ken Walker and Penny’s injury history, there are plenty of fans who are certain he won’t be missed. At the end of the day, he’s a former first round selection who didn’t live up to the expectations many had for him on draft day, and there’s no shortage of hindsight from fans wishing the selection had been used on a different player.
3 - What are his strengths?
Interestingly, Penny’s strengths changed somewhat over the years. Earlier in his career he ran better in gap schemes when he could just use his athleticism and hit the assigned hole, while struggling more often to make the reads behind various kinds of zone blocking. With that in mind, by the time he reached the end of his rookie contract he was a threat running behind man or zone blocking, once he’s in space he has the size, speed and elusiveness to be a threat to take it into the end zone on any play.
4 - What are his weaknesses?
As noted in number three, earlier in his career he struggled making the necessary reads to run behind zone blocking. Whether it was simply because the game moved too fast or because he was lacking decisiveness, there was a lot of tip toeing around the line of scrimmage. Rather than simply take what the defense gave and try to make the most of it, it seemed like he would try to hit a home run on every play, wanting to bounce things to the outside into space. Much of that had been worked out of his game by the time he was finding success in 2019, but it reared its head again in 2020 and 2021 after coming back from his knee injury, so that will be something that might be worth keeping an eye on when he hits the field in 2023.
Beyond that, he has a reputation as a bad pass blocker, and it was a well earned reputation because he was, in fact, a very bad pass blocker. Late in 2021 and into 2022 this aspect of his game became much more physical, so that’s also something that bears paying attention to during the preseason and early weeks of the season.
5 - Anything to know about him off the field?
I’m probably one of the worst people to ask about this, so I’ll just say that in a situation where he doesn’t have the pressure of having been a first round pick and can simply compete to run behind a very good offensive line, I’d think there’s a very good chance Eagles fans could get to watch Penny have a career year this season.
BLG’s take: Penny’s potential is exciting. There’s a path to him finishing the season as one of the very best players at his position in the entire NFL. Of course, there’s also a path where he continues to struggle with injuries. Based on history, it’s almost a given that he’s going to miss some time. The Eagles are hoping he’ll be available when it matters most. If Penny is able to be healthy for the playoffs at the expense of missing some regular season games, well, they’ll probably take that. It’ll be interesting to see how the Birds manage his touches, especially after adding D’Andre Swift. The thinking here is that Penny will be the Eagles’ top running back when healthy.