With Kenneth Walker selected in this year’s draft, Seattle Seahawks Now has one of the most crowded running backrooms in the NFL. It featured Chris Carson, who dashed for over 1,100 yards twice in his career and averaged 4.6 yards per carry throughout his tenure with the Seahawks. It also has former first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who has averaged 5.6 yards per rush over his career despite only having 1,572 career rushing yards, including 749 last season. code. So, what scenarios can play out in such a crowded room of running backs (assuming everyone stays healthy for 17 games)?
Option #1: Penny becomes a Bell Bull
Last year, with a very limited workload due to injuries, Penny finally showed some of what made him a first-round pick by Seattle in 2018. It’s hard to imagine him being a true 300+ running back like we saw with Shaun Alexander back in the early 2000s, but a 240+ carry season is certainly not out of the question. Penny played in 10 games last year with 119 carries and an average of 11.9 rushing attempts per game to bring him to 202 carries in a 17-game season. An uptick of this nature is certainly not out of the question, especially if he has a couple of 20 games early in the season.
Seattle may also have more incentive to go down this path with Penny for two reasons: The first is that he has another year on his contract, as we’ve seen with multiple teams with one year left on their contracts. As with the running back, they might just knock him to the ground and let him walk as a free agent. Another benefit of taking this approach is that it will limit the number of carries that Walker gets in his rookie season, which will increase the likelihood that he will be an effective player when he signs a second contract with the Seahawks. Seattle drafted Walker in the second round, which means they may not see him as a contract-and-complete player, they may see him as a replacement for Penny and Carson, hoping he’ll be the team’s real deal ‘s wind chimes.
Option #2: Penny/Walker 1A and 1B
In my opinion, this is the most likely scenario for the 2022 season. It will see Penny and Walker get about a 75% carry, a 40/35 ratio of the two, with Penny likely to see an additional minority carry. Results like this allow Penny to accept a job large enough that Seattle can get good value for him, while also giving Walker enough experience to be ready to take over the starting job next season. In this case, the team is expected to have a total of 500 rushes, which means that Penny will have 200 total carries, which is slightly less than Scenario 1 where he is considered the team’s true Bell Bull. Walker would then have 175 carries, which would allow him to make an impact on offense as a second-round pick, but also help preserve him for the future (assuming he’s also rarely touched in the passing game). This split will leave Carson with about 100 carries and the rest of the tote bag for deep running backs and Drew Locke/Gino Smith.
Despite entering the final year of his contract, it’s really hard to imagine Seattle pushing Carson to the ground with just how badly his injury is. A cervical spine strain that requires surgery is a very serious injury, and there were initial concerns that it could be a career-ending injury. Limiting his rushes to around 100 would also allow him to remain more explosive throughout the season. Seattle can effectively carry him late in the game and short yardage, almost becoming their close. Replacing the new Chris Carson is a pretty dire sight for any team when the opposing team’s defense is exhausting in the fourth quarter. The situation would also open the door for Seattle to bring Carson back to a one-year deal in 2023, if he proves to be effective enough to recover from a neck injury as his 2020-20 2022 season continues. The cumulative total number of carry will be less than 300 times.
Option #3 Even Split
In this case, Penny, Walker and Carson would all have about 30 percent carries, which equates to about 150 rushing attempts for each of the three guards. Splits like this have some major benefits. This will keep every back fresh all season – less than 10 carries per game on average makes the back hard to wear and will be the key to the first two-and-a-half months of the season with Seattle’s goodbye until Week 11 arrival. The second benefit is that when defenses don’t know who’s going to be the starting running back and who’s going to lead the offense, it’s hard for them to really have a game plan for the offense. It forces opposing teams to develop game plans for situations where every back is a workhorse for the week, giving Seattle a key advantage as opposing teams will be forced to develop game plans for multiple scenarios that are guaranteed not to happen. The third benefit is that not only does it preserve the future for Walker, it also opens the door for Seattle to feel more comfortable giving Penny another contract without worrying about him leaving for a heavy working season.
A season of 150 carries in 2022 would only give him 430 career carries, a pretty paltry number for a player’s first five seasons — though most of those are due to injuries. For comparison, chicago bears Running back David Montgomery, who is the same height and only 4 pounds heavier than Penney, has 714 career runs in his first three seasons.
Again, all of this hinges on the health of all three running backs, especially Carson and his uncertain future in the league.