A year ago around this time the Seahawks suddenly were scrambling for running backs after losing Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise to season-ending injuries in a three-week span.
Now, as this season nears its end, the Seahawks soon will be faced with the “good problem” of trying to figure out how to divide the snaps and carries in a crowded backfield.
Carson and Carlos Hyde have returned to full duty in recent weeks, and they could be joined by Penny for Sunday’s game at Washington.
Penny, Seattle’s first-round draft pick in 2018 out of San Diego State, returned to practice last week after recovering from a knee injury suffered last December. The return opened a 21-day window in which he can practice before the team must activate him to the 53-player roster or put him back on injured reserve.
But the way coaches tell it, the only question about Penny is when he’ll be back on the roster, not if.
“He looks terrific,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told reporters Thursday via Zoom. “He’s looking fast, he’s looking explosive. … I think he just looks as good as you could expect him to. I think he’s getting really close to being ready to go.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson was equally effusive about Penny.
“I’m super excited for Penny, just how hard he’s worked his tail off just to get back from the injury that he had and how confident he’s looking out there,” Wilson said.
Penny had 370 yards rushing and a team-best 5.7 yards per carry average last year, including a career-high 129 yards on 14 carries against the Eagles.
The Seahawks could be cautious and wait another week to bring Penny back, in the Dec. 27 showdown for the NFC West against the Rams.
But having a game to get his feet wet before the Rams game might make sense.
Once Penny comes back the question will be how to fit him in with Carson and Hyde. One role Penny could fill is the two-minute/third-down role, especially with Travis Homer continuing to deal with a knee injury. Homer could go on IR to open a roster spot for Penny.
But Schottenheimer said what you’d expect Thursday — it’s a lot better dealing with a full backfield than the depleted group they had had at the end of last season when the Seahawks had to bring back Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. And it’s better than earlier this season, when they had to call up Alex Collins and Bo Scarbrough from the practice squad to see significant action.
“There was one game we were trying guys out and seeing, ‘OK, hey can you run the ball? Can you do this, can you do that?’ ” Schottenheimer said. “So it’s a good situation to have.”
Dunlap, Shell sit out practice
Among the seven Seahawks to sit out practice Thursday were two starters — right tackle Brandon Shell (ankle) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap II (foot).
The Seahawks could be resting both players, with coach Pete Carroll saying this week their status would be determined closer to game time.
Still, that both remain out seems to put their status in question. Dunlap did not play against the Jets. Shell returned after missing two games but left shortly before halftime after reinjuring his ankle.
Others who were out were: Homer (knee), G/T Jamarco Jones (groin), S Damarious Randall (foot), LT Duane Brown (knee/resting vet), G Mike Iupati (knee/neck/resting vet).
RB Chris Carson (foot) and OL Phil Haynes (groin) were limited, with everyone else on the 53-player roster a full participant.
Schottenheimer focused on Seahawks
A report over the weekend from ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Schottenheimer could be a candidate for the head-coaching job at Houston.
Schottenheimer, 47, is the son of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer. He said Thursday that’s a discussion for after the season.
“I’d love to be a head coach,” Schottenheimer said. “Those things are flattering, but they don’t help you beat a really good Washington team. So I’m honored to be in that consideration, but I’m really focused on doing what I can to play well against really one of the best defenses we’ve played this year.”
Boone to sign, report says
The Seahawks plan to sign veteran guard Alex Boone to their practice squad, according to a report from Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. Boone, 33, has 86 career starts with the 49ers, Vikings and Cardinals but has not played since 2017.
His signing would not happen until next week after passing COVID-19 testing protocols. Boone would add experienced depth on the practice squad and some roster flexibility, with teams able to elevate players to the active roster from the practice squad twice each season.
Seattle filled out its 16-player practice squad for this week, signing offensive tackles Wyatt Miller and Andrew Jones.
Miller, an undrafted free agent out of Central Florida in 2019, has not played in an NFL game but has been on the rosters of the Jets, Bengals and the Cowboys. He has not been on a roster since September.
Jones was an undrafted rookie free agent this year who played at Florida Tech and Wheaton College.