RENTON — As he has done at various points this season — when the unavoidable ball-security questions would pop up about his featured running back — Pete Carroll on Monday was quick to defend Chris Carson.
Then the Seahawks coach just as quickly turned the conversation to his quickest running back — Rashaad Penny.
“Rashaad did great. I’m really fired up for that,” Carroll said of Penny’s breakthrough in Sunday’s 17-9 victory at Philadelphia. “We need his explosiveness. He continues to show up. He has had the real home-run type of style of play. We’ve got to give him chances to bring that to us.”
What does that mean for the running-back position going forward — and specifically for Carson?
Carson was involved in two more fumbles, on back-to-back plays, against the Eagles — the second one officially credited to Russell Wilson on a botched handoff.
That gives Carson a league-high seven fumbles this season, which is three more than any other running back in the NFL. Four of those have resulted in turnovers.
Publicly, Carroll shrugged off Sunday’s fumbles when he was asked if those directly led to more touches for Penny.
“That’s not the case in my mind. The opportunity to play and to contribute is always there in that spot in particular,” Carroll said. “What Chris did yesterday, our offensive lineman knocked the ball out of his hands on the first one. The other one, it was a communication problem. It’s a little different than the guy just dropping the ball all over the place.”
After the game, Wilson took the blame for the miscue on the handoff exchange. The quarterback changed the play to a run at the line of scrimmage — and Carson clearly didn’t hear the audible.
“I just think I have to do a better job of making sure we’re really clear on what we’re trying to do there. I’ll put it on me for sure,” Wilson said.
Carson had eight carries for a season-low 26 yards on Sunday, but a team-high four catches for 31 yards. His 239 touches this season rank sixth in the NFL, and his 1,099 yards from scrimmage rank ninth.
Penny, the 2018 first-round pick, had 14 carries for 129 yards against the Eagles, both career highs. His 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter all but iced the game for the Seahawks, and his 5.9 yards per carry this season are the most by any NFL running back with 50 carries or more (and third overall behind Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson and Arizona QB Kyler Murray).
Penny was coming off a game against the 49ers when he had just two carries — and lost a fumble on his last touch. It was the first fumble of his NFL career.
Last week, Carroll said he was a little surprised Penny hadn’t been more involved in the Seahawks’ offensive plan in previous games.
Now it appears Penny has earned more touches going forward.
“It just seemed like he turned a corner on — well, he did it in a couple different areas,” Carroll said Monday. “His intent to prove that he’s worthy and get his playing time, just the competitiveness of it. He knew Chris was playing really well and doing good stuff. He knew that he needed to put his best foot forward. …
“It wasn’t a surprise that he looked like that. That’s what he’s been looking like. Wish it would’ve shown up a little earlier, but that’s my fault for not getting him in there.”