With Chris Carson reeling off a 100-yard performance, Rashaad Penny got just three carries Sunday. But coach Pete Carroll said Monday it's too soon to pass judgment on the rookie from San Diego State.
Time for another Seahawks Tuesday mailbag.
Q: What does Chris Carson getting almost all of the carries Sunday mean for first-round pick Rashaad Penny?
A: That’s a really intriguing question whose answer is probably going to be evolving as the season wears on.
For all the “gassed’’ controversy of the Bears game and the overall discussion of how the two were used the first two weeks, what’s clear is that the Seahawks wanted to get both Carson and Penny a fair amount of touches and then see what happened.
Against Dallas there was obviously a more-concerted effort to get Carson going and he had seven carries on Seattle’s first series — tying or bettering the number he had in either of the first two games.
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Still, it may be easy to overlook now, but Penny started the third series of the game, and had it gone anywhere likely would have gotten some significant work on that drive. Instead, he gained no yards on a first-down run and Seattle went three-and-out and Carson came back for the next drive, which resulted in Seattle’s first score (though Penny got one carry on that drive, again for no gain. Penny also got one carry midway through Seattle’s first drive.)
The usage appeared similar in the second half.
Carson got the start on the first two series of the third quarter and then Penny got the start on the third series — just as he had in the first half.
But the first play of that series was the play that resulted in a fumble, which Penny recovered for a loss of four. Penny immediately came out and didn’t get another carry the rest of the game.
The fumble was credited to Russell Wilson for some reason, but it was clearly the fault of Penny’s, who appears to just lose the ball after what looks like a clean handoff (with Wilson immediately carrying out the rest of a fake).
With Seattle leading 17-6 at that point, a turnover was the only way the Cowboys were logically going to get back in the game, and coach Pete (It’s All About the Ball) Carroll had apparently decided he’d seen enough of Penny, whose day to that point – there was 3:38 left in the third quarter — amounted to three carries for five yards and the one fumble.
At that point, Carson had 17 carries to what would have been four for Penny had he not fumbled.
Carson then got 15 more carries in the final 18 minutes of the game to end up with 32, most for a Seahawk in almost 12 years.
As Carroll said several times Monday, Carson getting that many carries won’t be the norm — there’s no logical way it could be.
He also made clear Monday that the team will continue to look for ways to get Penny in the game. The way the Seahawks appeared to be using them Sunday — two series for Carson, one for Penny to start out and then ride the hot hand — might be a logical way they will go for a while.
That Carson had something of a breakout game — 102 yards on 32 carries — and Seattle won overshadows that Penny’s performance only provided further ammo to those who think the Seahawks wasted their first-round pick, not only doing so on a running back (a position many feel is overvalued) but on one they likely could have gotten a few rounds later.
Penny has just 43 yards on 20 carries with a long of 10, an average of 2.2 per attempt. Carson has 177 on 45, an average of 3.9 that is just a little off the 4.2 he had last season before being hurt.
No team, though, is going to give up on a first-round pick after just three games. And Carroll on Monday also cited that Penny missed much of the preseason after suffering a broken finger as a reason that it’s premature to come to any conclusions yet.
“Well, I’m still reserving judgment on the return because he missed so much time,’’ Carroll said. “Really, he wasn’t allowed to do enough work to stay up with it so he’s really two weeks into it, kind of the three weeks into just getting back. I’m telling you, he’s been working like crazy. (Running backs coach) Chad (Morton)’s has been working him extra. He’s been running them extra, making sure that he’s getting all of the quick twitch and everything back in order and the competitiveness back in line. I’ve talked with them about it, I’ve been on it with him to make sure that he’s really getting back to fighting shape and all that. His weight is way down. He looks good. He’s ready to bust out, is really what it amounts to. We visited this morning about it and I’m fired up because he’s got the right attitude and he wants to he wants to contribute and help out. It’s a good position that he’s in right now.”
Penny’s weight has been the subject of some discussion. He weighed in at 220 at the Combine in February but was up to 236 in mid-August, which Carroll at the team raved about, indicating the Seahawks were fully on board with the added pounds.
“He weighed in this week at 236 — 236 pounds running like that,’’ Carroll said in August. “And he can catch the football and all that as well. He’s a really, really exciting addition to this club.”
Penny has since shed some of that weight, down to about 228, Carroll said Monday (Carroll also said Penny had been up to about 240).
“He looks great,’’ Carroll said. “If you add that all up, it’s about 228, give or take a couple.”
So that, apparently, isn’t an issue.
At some point, his lack of experience won’t be, either, and making judgments will become a little easier.
Q: When will the Seahawks start discussing contract extensions with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed.
A: Reed is easy to answer — not until at least after this season. Recall that Reed was drafted in 2016 and per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, teams cannot negotiate extensions with players on rookie contracts until after the third season of their rookie deal.
So Reed and any other members of the class of 2016 (Germain Ifedi, etc,) are not eligible for extensions until after this season.
As for Clark, he was a 2015 draftee who became eligible for an extension following last season, the third on his rookie deal.
Clark has made clear he’d love to get an extension sooner rather than later.
The team appears interested in re-signing Clark — ESPN reported this week that carving out cap space for Clark is one thing that has impeded any talks with Earl Thomas.
Nothing has obviously happened yet, and one thought has been that the Seahawks wanted to see how Clark reacted to a full season of playing without Michael Bennett also in the lineup, the thinking being that the double teams Bennett regularly drew helped put Clark in advantageous pass rush situations his first three years. Without Bennett, opponents can devote more blockers to Clark if they want and the Seahawks might want to see if he can produce similarly despite getting more attention.
Clark, though, has gotten off to a good start with sacks in each of the first three games — the first Seahawk since Bryce Fisher in 2005 to do that — a total that ranks him tied for sixth in the NFL.
The Seahawks haven’t made a real habit of doing extensions during the season (they did for both Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright near the end of the 2014 season but that was done in large part because the trade of Percy Harvin opened up some unexpected cap space, and cash, to be able to do it immediately).
But that doesn’t mean one can’t happen and assuming nothing gets done with Thomas, Clark would seem the next Seahawk in line for a significant extension.
But Clark is also likely to want a contract that would top the one Minnesota recently gave Danielle Hunter — a five-year deal with an average value of $14.4 million that some regarded as under market. Getting, say, $15 million a season would make Clark the second-highest paid player on the team after Russell Wilson and by far the highest of any defender (excluding Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner is currently the second-highest paid defensive player at an average of $10.75 million per year).
So the Seahawks are understandably doing their due diligence, it appears.
Q: Was Michael Dickson a little off his game Sunday?
A: The precocious rookie punter did indeed have his first sort of normal-looking game against Dallas with eight punts for a 43.8 yard average and a net of 41.3.
That latter number is still solid and Dickson downed two inside the 20. But overall he looked a little more mortal than he had in his first two games, and specifically the opener at Denver when he had a net of 57.5 that was a team single-game record.
“He didn’t hit the ball as well this week,’’ Carroll said. “He had three punts that were kind of uncharacteristic. I don’t know if anything’s characteristic in week three. It fit okay. He kept them backed up a little bit which helped us, but we didn’t hit the ball in the open field as well as he had.”
Dickson is ninth in the NFL in yards per punt at 48.6, but more importantly is third at 44.4 net — Jon Ryan was 30th in that stat last year at 38.8.