The running back drama is operatic this week.
The Seahawks finally have rediscovered their long-lost running game just as they prepare to face the embodiment of their old one and, just as coincidentally, the coach they ditched so they could find it again. Meanwhile, Seattle’s first-round pick has had nothing to do with it, frustrating him and fans who are calling him a bust and wanting to trade him for a kicker.
After a terrible two-game start in which the running game looked every bit as discombobulated as it had been for the past two years under Tom Cable, the Hawks suddenly look a lot like the 2012 and 2014 ground games that set team records behind Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.
As they face Lynch and Cable this week, the Seahawks are on a three-game streak of 100-yard rushers and Pete Carroll is stoked.
“This is what we’ve been seeking,” he said. “We feel really good about what we’re trying to do. The guys up front are doing a great job. The running back group, whoever is out there, is really giving us the kind of intensity and the aggressive focus that we want that I think it fits us together.”
Over the past three games, the Seahawks have led the league with 105 rushes for 474 yards and are now back in the place Lynch and Wilson always had them — the top 10 in league rushing.
“It’s taken us longer than I would’ve wanted to get to this point,” Carroll said, “but we feel like we can play the game that we want to play and the style we want to play it regardless of where we’re going.”
Chris Carson (two 100-yard games) and Mike Davis (169 yards the past two games) have led the way the past three weeks. But first-round pick Rashaad Penny was nowhere to be seen vs. the Rams and clearly is the third back now.
“He’s handling it, but he’s frustrated — and that’s exactly what I want,” Carroll said. “I want him to be frustrated, I want him to be anxious to get out there, I want him to be unsatisfied with what’s going on right now. … I expect him to keep battling.”
But the apparent waste of a first-round pick has further irked fans who disliked the Penny pick in the first place. We thought it was a misspent pick as well, as the Hawks might have drafted a lineman or linebacker instead.
In a poll by FieldGulls, half the respondents said they would trade Penny straight up for Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker. That’s an extreme response, obviously. But it also raises the idea of whether the Hawks might at some point consider trading Penny.
John Schneider said another team — thought to be Cleveland or New England — made an offer for Penny immediately after Seattle drafted him. Both of those clubs quickly picked other backs, so they probably won’t be interested in Penny anymore.
A team like the Eagles might consider it, though, after they lost pending free agent Jay Ajayi for the season. They probably wouldn’t offer a first for Penny, however — which surely is the only way the Hawks might consider dealing him this month. The Hawks have great depth now and will need Penny if Carson gets injured again.
“This is a long season,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of carries; there’s a lot of running to be done.”
However, if Carson stays healthy the rest of the way and Davis continues to impress as the No. 2, the Hawks should consider dealing Penny next year (a 2 and 5 would be fine) unless they prefer him to re-signing Davis.
“(Penny is) just looking for his opportunity,” Carroll said. “He’s dying to get in there. He’s just scratching, clawing to get back out there and get more turns. … I can’t wait to see him get in there and get going, too.”