'Grown-up' Rashaad Penny looks to shine in 2nd year

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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A change of pace in the Seattle backfield, a burst of game-changing ability for the Seahawks and a shot of rookie excitement.

That's what many believed would be showcased by running back Rashaad Penny in 2018 when the Seahawks used a first-round selection on the San Diego State product.

However, Penny dealt with some injuries and, though he flashed the brilliance that enticed the Seahawks to take him in the first round, it was a somewhat underwhelming first-year campaign.

Added experience and maturity along with a slimmed-down and healed-up frame have Penny believing his second impression will be the more successful one.

"It was frustrating for me as a rookie," Penny said via the team website in a media scrum following the conclusion of organized team activities. "I didn't know how to take it. I've never been hurt playing football in my life, so when that happened, I just hit a wall. I'm glad that I've grown up. Over these past months and this offseason, I've just started taking everything seriously by treating my body right and doing the little things. Also, I think what helped me was losing all that extra weight. Now I feel better. I don't have all those nagging injuries. I'm at my best."

Arduous to believe, Penny said he had never dealt with any kind of serious injury throughout high school or college ball. That changed before he even played an official NFL game when the 27th overall pick in 2018 broke a finger in training camp and was absent from the field over the last three preseason games. It was a knee injury that plagued Penny late in his rookie season.

As Chris Carson emerged along with Mike Davis (who is now with the Bears), Penny played in 14 games without a starting nod. Carson eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier and Davis' 514 yards bettered Penny's output, as well.

On 85 carries, Penny gained 419 yards rushing, averaging a team-high 4.9 yards per tote with only nine catches to add to his production and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Within his post-OTA words, though, Penny offers the promise of a rookie changed ahead of his sophomore campaign.

He has dropped below 230 pounds, which he believes is ideal to play at on his 5-foot-11-inch frame. But he admits he's learning to be an NFL player.

"I'm just now learning how to be a pro," he said. "I think that's the big step for your second year and just playing at a different type of speed than I played at last year."

The final game of Penny's debut season was the Seahawks' 24-22 loss to the Cowboys in an NFC Wild Card game. Penny averaged 7.25 yards per carry -- flashing that brilliance and potential. But it was on only four carries for only 29 yards -- ending the campaign in underwhelming fashion. Perhaps that playoff loss encapsulated his season as there was promise to be found, but just not enough excitement provided out of the gate.

And maybe there is silver lining in a rookie season that didn't match high expectations in that Penny can now find himself in the position to surprise some people in 2019 as part of a backfield combo with Carson.

"You get anxious, over-excited, you've got high expectations being a first-rounder," Penny said. "But at the end of the day, it's all about coming in and doing what's at hand. We have a great running back in Chris Carson, so I try to take little details from him, try to be his best friend and just try to create something that hasn't been done here."

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