PHILADELPHIA—This has been, at times, a frustrating season for Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny.
A 2018 first-round pick out of San Diego State, Penny has had limited opportunities this season, not because of anything he has done wrong, but because of the play of starting running back Chris Carson, who is on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard season.
But while Penny wishes he were playing more, what he has not done is let that frustration get in the way of his preparation, and when his number was called Sunday, Penny came through time and time again in what ended up being the most productive game of his young NFL career.
"It's been a big test," Penny said of his lack of playing time. "But for me, it's just staying poised and just staying who I am, just being patient and waiting my turn, just trying to prove that I can play. But we've got a great running back in front of me in Chris, he shows it week in and week out, all last season and this season. So yeah, it gets kind of hard from me, but I just stay the guy I am, stay poised, just wait for my turn and my opportunities, then make the most out of them."
After playing just three snaps in Seattle's last game, one which saw him fumble the ball away to the 49ers, that opportunity came for Penny in Seattle's 17-9 win over the Eagles, and true to his word, he made the most of them. Penny, who had 14 carries over Seattle's past five games, had 14 on Sunday alone, gaining a career-high 129 yards and a 58-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Seahawks some much-needed breathing room in a close game.
"Rashaad Penny really had a big day today," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It was great to see him come through and make some big plays and big runs and looked so darn fast on his touchdown run. It's great for the big guys up front, too, to get that done."
In addition to the long touchdown run, Penny showed his big-play ability on runs of 26 yards and 21 yards, meaning he accounted for three of Seattle's seven longest gains in the game.
Carroll noted that the lack of touches in recent games has left Penny "frustrated, but he has practiced marvelously. The last three weeks have been his best three weeks of practice. We really wanted him to play today and get him in there and see what would happen because he's looked so good in practice. So I thought (running backs coach) Chad Morton did a really nice job of rotating him and looking for his opportunity with the intent of getting a shot out there. He came through beautifully. It was really sweet game for him."
Penny showed flashes of the big-play ability he showed Sunday during his rookie season, but he also finished that year with the realization that he needed to take his preparation for the game more seriously now that he was a professional. Penny now works with a nutritionist to eat healthier, and gone from his diet are things like fast food and even his mom's lasagna—while everyone else feasts when he visits home, Penny's mom now makes her son grilled chicken and a salad now.
Now, Penny says, "I'm a big broccoli guy. I love green stuff now."
After playing at about 238 pounds late last season, Penny is at 230 right now, and says he might even try to drop a few more pounds going forward, and that improved physique is paying off.
"They all want to play, they all deserve to play, sometimes it just doesn't happen, and it's how you deal with it," Carroll said. "What he did is he got better, he's trimmer, he's faster. Look how fast he looked today. He looked like he was shot out of a canon. And that's because of the hard work, he got a little bit of fresh legs benefit and he took full advantage of it."
The Seahawks have known all along that over the course of a long season, they'd need both Carson and Penny to come through for them if the offense was going to be at its best, and on Sunday it was Penny's turn to be the difference maker.
"We have all the confidence in the world in both of them," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. "Both of them are just great players. Really, to be a great running team, you've got to have two great running backs… It's a great thing to have. You can alternate them, they can catch, they can run, they can pass protect, they can do all of the above."
And even if Carson and Penny are competing for their opportunities to carry the ball, and even if this year has been frustrating at times for Penny, there's nothing but love between those two.
"Most people think that as competitors, we're supposed to hate each other, but no, I actually love that dude, and would probably say the same thing about me," Penny said. "It's just all about playing off each other. So, it's tough, it's tough for me, because he has the hot hand. He's doing everything great, and I'm just sitting back, but I'm also learning. It would suck for me because I was a first-round pick and everybody is expecting all these big things, but I'm still young, I'm still fresh. I've got a lot of carries I can handle whenever the time is needed."
On Sunday, Penny was needed, and he came through in a big way.
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 12 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.