It’s time for our first regular season Seahawks Twitter mailbag of the year, with topics including Rashaad Penny, the guard position, linebacker depth and more.
@TheCrappyTotals asked: Have heard very little about Rashaad Penny during training camp. Is he full go for the regular season?
Not hearing much about a starting running back in preseason is usually a good thing these days, as few rarely play with there being no reason to put extra miles on a running back in games that don’t count.
And there’s nothing to worry about with Penny right now. He did miss a day of practice early on with groin tightness, and he also tested positive for COVID-19 before the Dallas game.
But Penny spoke to reporters Tuesday and said he feels as good as ever. Penny said he didn’t have significant COVID-19 symptoms, other than feeling “exhausted.”
As for his overall health, he said, “I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I lost weight. I’ve been doing extra running. Just trying to stay prepped, just to get ready to play on Monday (against Denver).”
Penny said he weighs 232 pounds and “it’s the best and the most fit I ever felt, fast. I’m just ready to cut it loose.”
The quest for Penny is to prove he can be as productive as he was at the end of last season — four games of 135 yards or more in the last five — for all 17. That’s a tall ask but also why Seattle gave Penny a deal worth $5.75 million in the spring.
Penny’s value to the team became even greater with Chris Carson having to retire due to a neck injury. Penny said Tuesday he still keeps in touch with Carson and is trying to get him to come to Monday’s opener against Denver.
“He’s great,” Penny said of Carson. “It’s the next part of his life now. And you just wish the best for him, really. I know he misses it a little bit. But me and him just still have small talk. And I’m trying to get him to come out here, to come to the game on Monday night. So that would be cool.”
@hawksfan2O6 asked: Do you think the Seahawks will make a move to bring more depth to the backup guard situation? Currently it’s just Phil Haynes backing up both guard spots. With (Jake) Curhan seemingly injured, seems a bit thin in that area.
I don’t see that situation as real urgent. The Seahawks are high on Haynes and consider him as akin to a third starting-caliber guard behind Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis. Kyle Fuller, who got two starts at left guard last year and nine overall, can back up both guard spots, if needed. And then there’s Curhan, whose five starts last year came at right tackle but who can play guard (and for the moment, his elbow injury doesn’t appear overly serious since he was not placed on injured reserve).
That’s five players who have started games able to play guard. So I think the view in the organization is they are better off with the depth there than they have been in a while.
@derek87114890: Do you think the Hawks will try to find linebacker depth?
Seattle’s inside linebacker depth on paper indeed looks thin — Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton listed as starters with only Nick Bellore as a reserve.
Seattle does have two ILBs on the practice squad — Tanner Muse and Vi Jones. Either can be elevated for depth on game day three times this season. And I imagine that Muse in particular could be active for some of the early games. Jon Rhattigan, who is on the PUP list, will also be eligible following the fourth game of the season.
Plus, when Seattle goes with a three-safety look — which it could use a lot this year — the third safety basically plays the role of another inside linebacker.
As for whether Seattle would try to add a veteran, the time to do that would likely be after week one, when contracts for veterans are not guaranteed. Former Packer and Giant Blake Martinez is available after being released by New York last week. But teams potentially interested in him may be waiting a week so they don’t have to sign him to a guaranteed contract.
@___austn asked: Will the Hawks be better on third down with Geno Smith over Russell Wilson? Will DK Metcalf see more targets this year?
Both are interesting things to watch.
We’ll start with third downs, which were a somewhat perplexing weakness for the Seahawks much of the end of the Wilson era.
Seattle has not ranked better than 15th in third-down conversion percentage since 2015 and was 23rd and 27th the last two years at 37.3% in 2021 and 38.4% in 2020, respectively.
Each of those years Wilson had much lower passer ratings on third down than he did overall — 91.1 in 2021 compared to 103.1 overall, and 81.7 in 2020 compared to 105.1 overall.
Wilson last year had particular troubles on third downs of 4-to-6 yards, completing just 18 of 40 passes, 45%, for 16 first downs. That compares to a 58.4% completion rate for his career, according to Pro Football Reference.
As for reasons? Well, one could be that Seattle hasn’t had a reliable third receiver the last few years, making it easier for opponents to load up on Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in those situations and force Wilson to throw it elsewhere. Maybe that will change now with Noah Fant added to the tight end mix.
And, yes, there are those who wonder if Geno Smith might be able to use the middle of the field more, something that might particularly help on third down.
As for Metcalf, his percentage of targets last year overall and in the three full games he played with Smith were similar. Metcalf averaged 7.6 targets per game for the season last year, tied for 15th in the NFL. He had seven, five and six in the three full games Smith played. Metcalf caught 14 of those 18 targets for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Metcalf also caught three passes on three targets for 54 yards from Smith in the Rams game after Wilson was injured, as well as drawing a 13-yard pass-interference penalty.
So, that’s 17 receptions for 251 yards and four TDs in three full games and another quarter last year for Metcalf from Smith for a passer rating of 156.1, just off a perfect rating of 158.3. That compares to a rating when targeted for the entire season of 110.5.
That includes an 84-yard TD against the Saints that helps skew the numbers some. The small sample size and the 84-yarder make it risky to draw a sweeping assessment into how Metcalf and Smith may mesh.
Still, Smith and Metcalf did indeed appear to have a solid connection last year, and Seattle will undoubtedly hope to magnify that as much as possible in 2022.