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Chris Carson still main man for Seahawks, but Rashaad Penny is on his heels

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 1, 2019

Seattle running back Chris Carson, who is eighth in the league in rushing yards, might lose some carries to Rashaad Penny if Penny can continue to play like he did in the Seahawks’ win over the Eagles. (Michael Zarrilli / AP)
Seattle running back Chris Carson, who is eighth in the league in rushing yards, might lose some carries to Rashaad Penny if Penny can continue to play like he did in the Seahawks’ win over the Eagles. (Michael Zarrilli / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON – Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made it about as clear as possible this week that there is no tailback controversy.

“I mean, Chris (Carson) is our guy,” Schottenheimer said Friday in advance of Seattle’s prime-time showdown with Minnesota tonight at Century Link Field. “We know that. He’s playing terrific football.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t at least a little bit of a tailback conundrum.

Specifically, how to keep Rashaad Penny as involved as possible after his breakout game Sunday at Philadelphia while still giving Carson the kind of workload his season shows he deserves. He is eighth in the NFL in rushing with 879 yards.

Penny gave the kind of performance last Sunday the team envisioned when it picked him in the first round in the 2018 draft, with a career-high 129 yards on 14 carries to spark the 17-9 win over the Eagles.

Carson was limited to eight carries for 26 yards, each season lows, while also suffering another fumble (his seventh of the season) with another that he was involved in officially credited to quarterback Russell Wilson.

That led Schottenheimer to say the obvious – as long as Penny keeps playing like that he’s going to continue to get the ball.

“Of course, we want to get Rashaad his touches, get him in the game,” Schottenheimer said.

But for those who want an answer on how that will happen, Schottenheimer wouldn’t let on.

“In terms of forcing it to happen, we’re not going to do that,” he said.

Schottenheimer said there was no real forcing it against the Eagles, either, with the Seahawks mostly going in with a plan to get Penny more involved and riding the hot hand. Carson actually had more carries in the first half, five for 14 yards, than Penny, who had four for 37.

The 49ers game on Nov. 11 was almost the opposite of the Philly game with Penny limited to two yards on two carries and losing a fumble while Carson had 89 yards on 25 carries against one of the best defenses in the league.

After the 49ers game, Carson was on pace for 320 carries, which would be the most for a Seahawks back since Shaun Alexander had 370 in 2005, the year he won the NFL MVP award.

With hopes for a long postseason run, keeping Carson as fresh as possible now that the Seahawks finish with six games in six weeks is an obvious goal.

“We had talked about wanting to get it done (getting Penny more carries) a couple weeks before,” Schottenheimer said. “It hadn’t happened that way. It was one of those games where we really wanted to get him involved with the series, get him into a rotation. I thought that that plan was good for us. He went out and capitalized on it.”

What also helped is that Penny, who battled a nagging hamstring injury earlier in the season (which kept him inactive for three games), had gotten healthy over the bye.

“He had a great week of practice last week,” Schottenheimer said. “It was good to get him into the flow of the game. A couple times he’s gotten reps, it’s been three and out. Or, hey, we had two plays then he had to come out for different reasons. I thought the plan kind of came together this week. It doesn’t always every week, but it did come together this past week.”

How it comes together Monday night against the Vikings is anyone’s guess, even the coaches.

“Like what happened last year some, each week, sometimes different guys step up,” he said. ”It happens that way in the passing game. Different receivers step up. Happened in the running game.”

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