Rashaad Penny breaks out against the Lions in Week 17, a team that tried to trade for him... Twice
Seaside Joe 1182: Offensive line or offensive weapon? You be the judge?
The Detroit Lions have been trying to get Rashaad Penny since the 2018 NFL Draft. Even after the Seahawks had made him the 27th overall pick that year.
Having failed to make a rather unprecedent day one trade (Eli Manning for Philip Rivers is one of the few examples I can recall, and that required CIRCUMSTANCES), then-Lion general manager Bob Quinn waited through two injury plagued seasons before offering Seattle a third round pick in exchange for Penny at the 2019 trade deadline. The Seahawks obviously declined.
For the next two years, it looked as though John Schneider would come to regret not taking that offer, as Penny missed the final three games of the 2019 season and then the first 13 games of the 2020 season. That’s essentially a full season of missed games and when Penny returned in 2021, he had only 27 carries for 78 yards through the first 13 weeks.
But in a “Jimmy Garoppolo of running backs” sort of way, Penny rebuilt his reputation with an outstanding final month of the year and is returning for at least one more season with the Seahawks. The good news, for those of you cringing at a Jimmy Garoppolo comparison, is that the entire cost for that gamble is at most $5.5 million. As we saw in our breakdown of dead money last weekend, that’s a pittance.
If Penny can put together one season without significant injuries, he may be able to replicate the way he performed in December and January and be paid a lot more than that in 2023. Because Seattle drafted Ken Walker III this year, the Seahawks may prefer the 2024 compensatory pick over being the ones to reward him for it.
Schneider may yet get that third round pick.
Let’s review some of those impactful runs that Rashaad Penny had against the Detroit Lions in January and see who is most responsible for that success. Lucky opportunities for Penny or was he creating much of his rushing production on his own?
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Rashaad Penny vs the Detroit Lions
January 2, 2022 - Week 17, 2021
Stats: 25 carries, 170 yards, 6.8 YPC, 2 TD / two catches, 15 yards (46 offensive snaps)
Lions run defense: 4th-most rush attempts against, 28th in rushing yards allowed, 21st in yards per carry allowed, 31st in DVOA
The Lions were a favorable matchup last year for any rushing offense, but Seattle’s 265 rushing yards in Week 17 was the most of any team all year. The Eagles were the only other team to rush for over 190 yards against Detroit, but some teams may have simply preferred to pass their way to victory over the Lions.
We can’t ignore how bad the Detroit Lions were, are, and continue to be until further notice.
(I like new GM Brad Holmes, I like head coach Dan Campbell, and I’m *buying* Detroit as a potential wild card team in a weak NFC this season.)
Penny opened this game with runs of 3, -1, and 1 yard, giving him three carries for three yards at the point that Seattle has the ball at the Lions 43 midway through the first quarter. It’s first-and-10 after a defensive holding penalty.
Penny for 20
Penny sheds two arms tackles—one behind the line of scrimmage and one in the middle of Detroit’s defense—which is unsurprisingly poor tackling by the Lions. He still weaves for 20 yards, cutting left, then right, then left, then right to setup Seattle with a new set of downs near the red zone.
Keep an eye here on #66 Gabe Jackson and #74 Jake Curhan on the right side, as they hold their blocks fantastically and help setup Penny for the gain to do what he needs to do. If these are the types of plays to expect from Curhan moving forward, there won’t be any competition at right tackle.
Penny gives Seahawks 7-0 lead
Another well-blocked job by the offensive line, but it’s Penny’s speed and elusiveness that helps him slip right between two Lions defenders in the second level to set him free for a 15-yard touchdown. Check the backside camera angle for a better view of the OL and TE Will Dissly here:
Which offensive linemen are standing out to you in the early going? Let me know in the comments!
Penny from the blocks
After forcing a punt and getting the ball back straight away, Rashaad Penny gains 26 yards on his next two carries. Both of which look like well-blocked plays to me and Seattle’s offense takes advantage of Penny’s ability to burst through those holes for the most amount of yards that he’s “given” by his linemen against a pitiful defense.
Fun fact: Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn was a 1st round pick by the New York Jets in 1994. Who was the Jets head coach in 1994? Yes, it was Pete Carroll.
Glenn was the very first player protégé for Carroll, a noted defensive backs whiz.
Despite the ease here to move into Lions territory, Seattle gave a handoff to DeeJay Dallas for one yard, lost five yards on a pass to Tyler Lockett, then had an incomplete pass that led to a 51-yard field goal by Jason Myers.
But the Seahawks would force another quick punt and be leading 10-0 when Russell Wilson found Freddie Swain for a 58-yard gain to open their next drive. Penny had a relatively easy 6-yard touchdown run on the next play, aided again by solid blocking by his offensive line.
At this point, Penny had 77 yards on his previous five runs, scoring two touchdowns.
Seattle followed this up with a 13-play, 69 yard touchdown drive, but Shane Waldron only called two Penny running plays (for six yards) on that series. Not that there’s any doubt about this, but the Seahawks offense doesn’t score 51 points against the Lions in Week 17 without Russell Wilson. It wasn’t just that he had four touchdown throws, Wilson was in command all day against a defense that is no match for premier quarterbacks, which is something Seattle will need to adjust to with the change in signal caller for next season and beyond.
Best was yet to come
Leading 24-7, Waldron then called three straight Penny runs to open the Seahawks next offensive series. As is acceptable and will often be the case on most runs, Penny gained 12 yards on those three carries. Not everything is going to be a home run, not even against the Lions.
The hope is that the runs don’t a) lose yards and b) don’t result in a turnover or c) too many third-and-long situations. It’s all setting up for what the Seahawks hope will be an explosive play.
Penny delivered an explosive play on the fourth play of the drive, gaining 37 yards on this run and giving Tyler Lockett an appearance as a downfield blocker:
Phil Haynes #60 does a nice job holding containment in the middle of this play, as Detroit’s #75 bursts through his block on the other side but goes too far and has no chance of getting Penny behind the line of scrimmage. Penny again weaves left and right through the melee and winds up getting a downfield block from Lockett.
That’s now nine carries for 126 yards (14 yards per carry) over his last nine runs.
The drive ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to Lockett, giving the Seahawks a 31-7 halftime lead. Penny had 144 rushing yards at halftime, and the third quarter opened with Detroit quarterback Tim Boyle throwing an interception on the first play. Penny had an 8-yard run to start the series, then Wilson found DK Metcalf for a touchdown to open the advantage to 38-7.
With nothing left to do but run the clock, Penny had nine carries for 26 yards in the second half. But the damage was already done and Penny finished Week 17 with a career-high 170 rushing yards. It was a career-high that would last for all of seven days.
I’ll review that the next time I’m ready to talk Penny. For now, please remember to help Seaside Joe with a sub, a share, or getting rowdy in the comments! How much of Penny’s production was a product of his offensive line last year? Let me know!