RENTON — Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny doesn’t shy away from the meaning of this season for his football career.
“You want to get back out there and just show that you are still available, and you can do it,” Penny said this week.
Availability has been the big problem for Penny — Seattle’s first-round pick in 2018, taken 27th overall out of San Diego State — in the first three years of his NFL career.
He’s played just 27 of a possible 48 regular-season games due to varying injuries, notably an ACL tear suffered late in the 2019 season that lingered into 2020.
Penny, who dropped about 15 pounds in the offseason in part to take some pressure off his knee, appeared ready to go when training camp began in late July with coach Pete Carroll saying, “It’s the best he’s looked since we’ve seen him.”
But then, after a week of practice, Penny was again on the sidelines, unavailable for the team’s mock game and among the 31 players who sat out the first preseason game last Saturday in Las Vegas.
Penny said he had no new injury — no issues with his knee — but that he just needed a bit more time to reacclimatized to practicing and playing every day.
“No big thing,” Penny said. “Just something my body needed. … Got to get your body back to being in football shape.”
Penny returned to practice this week.
And when the Seahawks host Denver at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lumen Field in their second preseason game, Penny is expected to play significantly.
And while it might just be a preseason game, he considers it a big moment.
Penny knows that this is the final season of his four-year rookie deal and that whether he’s with the team next year at this time depends greatly on his ability to get on the field this year.
“I know what I can do, and I’m pretty sure these coaches know,” Penny said this week. “It’s actually exciting for me to go out and play this Saturday and show that I can be available and be consistent and I want to be available for 17 games.”
The team wants to see that, too.
Penny, who averaged 5.1 yards on 161 carries in his career, isn’t fighting for a roster spot.
But after Penny was held to just 38 snaps last season, the Seahawks want to see him get some work and reinforce that they can count on him for a significant role in the running back rotation behind Chris Carson and also in the third-down/two-minute role, something Penny has worked on significantly in training camp.
“Just want to see him play football,” Carroll said Friday. “Just want to see him get out there. He’s been very explosive when he’s played. He’s had a lot of big plays when he’s had his opportunities. I just want to see him go play good, hard football, and we think that the results are going to be really good.”
And that’s what Penny wants to see, too.
“It’s important for myself, as well, just to get prepared for the season,” he said. “To get tackled again, to get used to actually going to the ground and how well my knee can take it. But I feel like I’m ready to go, and I’m excited to show what I can do.”
Here are a few other Seahawks to watch Saturday night:
WRs Cody Thompson, John Ursua and Aaron Fuller: If the Seahawks are to keep at least six receivers on the roster, then Thompson, Ursua and Fuller seem like the most likely candidates.
Thompson ran with the first-team offense often this week with Tyler Lockett resting, Dee Eskridge still working his way back and Penny Hart remaining out with an ankle injury.
Ursua, a seventh-round pick in 2019, played just six snaps against the Raiders, which seemed ominous, though Carroll explained this week that the early injury to quarterback Geno Smith derailed the receiver rotations somewhat. But Carroll said Ursua will play more this week.
Fuller had an early 17-yard reception on his only target. Thompson played 12 snaps last week but didn’t have a reception on one target. But Carroll raved about his special teams work and said he’ll see more action this week.
Also worth watching is undrafted rookie free agent Cade Johnson, who led the Seahawks with four receptions on five targets last week for 25 yards. And we’ll throw in Travis Toivonen as well. A free agent from North Dakota, Toivonen — whose nickname is TikTok — has had some good moments in practice lately.
CB Tre Flowers: Flowers, starting at right corner in place of the injured D.J. Reed, gave up two third-down receptions in the first quarter of the loss to the Raiders. Carroll said bluntly that the corners needed to make some plays. Despite that, Flowers generally ran with the first-team defense in practice this week with Reed out. Flowers also has 37 career starts, so who knows how much a few snaps in preseason games will influence the team’s evaluation? But it’s worth remembering that Flowers’ $2.1 million salary for this season is not guaranteed, so his spot isn’t assured.
OLB Darrell Taylor: Taylor played 52 snaps in his first action since his final year at Tennessee in 2019 and showed some expected rust early, especially in tackling. But according to Pro Football Focus, he had three pressures on 28 pass rush snaps to earn the second-best pass rushing grade on the team behind only Cody Barton, who had two sacks on blitzes. Taylor also looked solid in nine pass coverage snaps. The Broncos have said their starters will play a couple of series, and going against them could be more telling of just where Taylor is in his progress.
QB Alex McGough: Smith is out of concussion protocol, Carroll said Friday. But he didn’t practice this week making McGough the apparent backup to Russell Wilson for Saturday. Smith seems to be the clear backup to Wilson overall. But McGough and Sean Mannion could be battling to see which of the two will be re-signed to the practice squad.