Rashaad Penny

NFC West Notes: Watson, Penny, 49ers

Current Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who enjoyed a strong run as the Cardinals‘ HC from 2013-17, nearly brought one of the league’s best quarterbacks to the desert prior to his final year in Arizona. Deshaun Watson was selected by the Texans with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and the Cardinals held the No. 13 overall pick that year. As Patrick D. Starr of SI.com writes, Arians was poised to nab Watson if he slipped one more spot.

It’s unclear whether the Cardinals tried to trade up to select Watson, but they ultimately took linebacker Haason Reddick with their choice. Of course, Arizona seems to have found its QB of the future in Kyler Murray. and who knows how things may have turned out if Watson ended up with the Cards, but it’s always fun to play the butterfly effect game when reports like this surface.

Now for more from the NFC West:

  • Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny is undergoing ACL surgery Friday morning, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. We recently heard that, in addition to an ACL tear, Penny may have sustained additional knee damage, but Schefter says the 2018 first-rounder is expected to be ready to go for the 2020 season.
  • The 49ers have sustained a number of injuries lately, but they will have CB Richard Sherman back this week. Though recent reports indicated that Sherman may not be back until the playoffs, Matt Barrows of The Athletic says the three-time First Team All-Pro will play in San Francisco’s matchup against the Rams on Saturday night (Twitter link). The Niners, of course, are trying to get back into one of the NFC’s top two seeds after a bad loss to the Falcons on Sunday dropped them to the fifth seed.
  • Speaking of Sherman, Field Yates of ESPN.com points out that the 31-year-old earned a league-high $1MM incentive by being named to this year’s Pro Bowl on the original ballot, and he also increased his 2020 base salary by $1MM (Twitter link). Sherman is currently under contract with the 49ers through the 2020 season.
  • 49ers LB Kwon Alexander, who was ruled out for the season in November with a torn pec, does have a chance to return at some point in the postseason, as Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan conceded that the odds of that happening are slim, and it seems much more likely that the team will have to wait until next year to see Alexander back in action.

Seahawks Activate Ethan Pocic From IR

The Seahawks are getting a boost as they gear up for their playoff push. The team is activating offensive lineman Ethan Pocic off injured reserve, they announced in a release.

To make room for him on the roster they officially placed running Rashaad Penny, who tore an ACL last week, on injured reserve. Pocic was placed on injured reserve after Week 6, and is now returning when first eligible after missing the requisite eight games. He had been dealing with a back issue. Pocic started the team’s opener at left guard and played 100 percent of the snaps, but injuries have limited him to just two games in his third season as a pro.

Seattle drafted him in the second round back in 2017, and he started 11 games as a rookie while appearing in all 16. An LSU product, injuries limited him to only ten appearances last year with four starts. Pocic has played all along the offensive line during his college and pro days, so he brings some valuable versatility to the unit. Normal starting center Justin Britt is on injured reserve with an ACL tear of his own, and Joey Hunt has been filling in. Now that Pocic is back, he could push Hunt for that gig soon. Either way, he’ll be a nice depth piece for the stretch run.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Cards, Mahomes, Jacobs, 49ers

David Johnson‘s usage this season has irked numerous fantasy owners, along with Johnson himself. The fifth-year running back has stayed off the Cardinals‘ injury report for weeks but has taken a backseat to trade acquisition Kenyan Drake. This pattern (and explanation for it) has not sat well with Johnson, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The $13MM-AAV back declined to address his future with the team but was not satisfied with the reason Arizona’s coaching staff gave him for his significant workload reduction (Twitter links).

Ankle and back maladies sidelined Johnson earlier in the year, but he’s been active for four straight games, seeing 12 total carries in that span. Although Johnson’s 366 receiving yards still have him on pace to eclipse his 2018 total, he is averaging less than four yards per carry for a second straight season. The three-year, $39MM deal Johnson signed in 2018 runs through 2021. The soon-to-be 28-year-old back’s $10.2MM 2020 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at the latest from several other teams in the West divisions, starting with the status of the Chiefs’ most important player.

  • The bruised throwing hand Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered did not turn out to be a significant issue. Mahomes, who said Sunday night his hand “didn’t feel great,” returned to full practice Wednesday. The reigning MVP said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher) Wednesday was the first day he could grip the football, but he’s expected to suit up against the Broncos. Mahomes has battled a sprained ankle and a dislocated kneecap but has missed just two games.
  • An MRI Josh Jacobs underwent produced good news for the Raiders running back. The offensive rookie of the year candidate is expected to play against the Jaguars on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jon Gruden, however, did not commit to the first-round pick playing in Week 15. Jacobs missed Week 14 with a shoulder malady he’s been battling, giving way to free agent-to-be DeAndre Washington.
  • Extensions for cornerstone 49ers DeForest Buckner and George Kittle will take precedence over retaining contract-year breakout defender Arik Armstead, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Armstead has been dominant in his fifth season, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks, but was inconsistent in his prior four seasons. With Armstead playing more at defensive end than D-tackle, it would cost them nearly $18MM to use the franchise tag. The 49ers tabled Buckner extension talks until 2020 and can begin negotiating with Kittle in January. The team is projected to hold $24MM in cap space — 25th-most in the league.
  • In addition to the ACL tear Rashaad Penny suffered in Week 14, Pete Carroll noted the second-year running back may have sustained more damage in his injured knee, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks running back’s upcoming surgery will provide more clarity on his timetable.

Rashaad Penny Done For Season

Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny will miss the remainder of the season, according to Seattle head coach Pete Carroll (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com). Penny injured his ACL during the Seahawks’ loss to the Rams Sunday night, and while Carroll has not yet been made aware of Penny’s MRI results, the team doctors could tell it was a significant injury.

It’s a difficult blow for Penny, who was finally starting to get the touches he probably expected when the Seahawks selected him in the first round of the 2018 draft. After getting just 85 carries in his rookie season and 36 through the first ten weeks of the 2019 season — though he did miss three games this year with a hamstring injury — Penny got 14 totes for 129 yards and a score against the Eagles in Week 12 and 15 rushes for 79 yards in Week 13. Seattle won both games.

As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes, the Seahawks were planning on a timeshare at running back between Penny and Chris Carson. That was shaping up as a pretty formidable 1-2 punch, but now the team will need to rely more heavily on Carson, just as it did earlier in the season.

It sounds as if C.J. Prosise will move up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, while rookie Travis Homer may also get some looks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Deadline Fallout: Penny, Rams, Adams

Since using a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny last year, the Seahawks have not given him a lead backfield role. They preferred Chris Carson and Mike Davis leading the ball-carrying group last season and have Carson entrenched atop the depth chart this year. As such, the Lions expressed interest in Penny prior to Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline, John Clayton of ESPN 710 AM Seattle notes. Seattle sought a second-round pick for Penny, though it doesn’t sound like the team was shopping the second-year back. Penny can be under Seahawks control through 2022. The Lions have run into trouble in their backfield, losing starter Kerryon Johnson. They were interested in Kenyan Drake, but the Cardinals ended up making a deal with the Dolphins. Ty Johnson, Tra Carson and ex-Seahawk J.D. McKissic represent the Lions’ primary running back options for the stretch run.

Here is the latest deadline fallout:

  • The Dolphins will send the Rams a 2022 seventh-round pick for Aqib Talib, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. With Talib on IR until at least Week 15, the rebuilding team is likely only interested in the fifth-round 2020 choice it acquired. The 33-year-old cornerback looks headed toward free agency for the first time since 2014.
  • As for the Rams, they want to use some of the savings from this move to re-sign emerging linebacker Cory Littleton, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Littleton is one of a few key Rams on expiring contracts, joining Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler in that group. Playing on a second-round RFA tender, Littleton has operated as Los Angeles’ top linebacker this year and would stand to attract considerable interest as a 2020 UFA. With a high-end Jalen Ramsey re-up coming, the Rams will be tight on cap space, however, and may have to bid farewell to a few role players — like they did this offseason.
  • Chris Harris has stuck to his guns about testing free agency this time around. He signed a five-year, $42.5MM extension with the Broncos in late 2014, and that deal became one of the most team-friendly pacts in the league in the latter part of the 2010s. The 30-year-old cornerback does not plan to sign a Broncos extension before reaching the market, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. However, Harris has said he wants to finish his career in Denver. He and the Broncos were not close on terms this offseason, but Renck added a that third Broncos contract could be in play for the four-time Pro Bowler.
  • The Day 3 pick the Cowboys offered the Jets, in addition to the first-round pick included in the proposal, for Jamal Adams was either a fourth- or fifth-rounder, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The Jets wanted a first and a pair of seconds for the Pro Bowl safety, one GM Joe Douglas still calls firmly part of the team’s long-term plan, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini.

Trade Rumors: Hopkins, Slay, Hooper

The trade deadline is two days away, so there are plenty of rumors to pass along. Of course, many of those rumors center around this year’s non-contenders, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says that two such teams — the Redskins and Bengals — continue to rebuff inquiries concerning veterans who should be available. Rival GMs have grown increasingly frustrated with Washington and Cincinnati, and La Canfora says opposing clubs have become resigned to the fact that they are not going to be able to swing a deal with those obstinate franchises. That means that a number of big names — Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, A.J. Green, and Carlos Dunlap, to name a few — are looking more and more likely to stay put.

Now for more trade rumors from around the league, starting with another nugget out of Cincinnati:

  • Michael Lombardi of The Athletic agrees that the Bengals are likely to stand pat at the deadline for the most part, but he does believe the club will move tight end Tyler Eifert.
  • Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is decidedly not on the trading block, but teams have still called Houston to ask about the star wideout, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets. That obviously sounds like clubs doing their due diligence more than anything else, and Glazer acknowledges that it would take an awful lot for the Texans to move Hopkins.
  • The Lions have received calls on CB Darius Slay, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It would take a big offer to pry Slay from Detroit, but in the wake of Slay’s comments earlier this week, maybe the Lions will be more inclined to move him.
  • RB-needy teams have called the Seahawks to inquire on Rashaad Penny, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reports (video link). Penny is not on the block, per se, but the 2018 first-rounder is drawing interest. In the same video, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says Chargers RB Melvin Gordon could also be on the move.
  • Schefter reports that the 49ers have received calls on backup QB C.J. Beathard, whom Schefter suggests could be on the move.
  • The Falcons have fielded calls on DT Tyeler Davison, per Lombardi, but Atlanta has told other teams Davison will not be moved. The team is also going to hang on to TE Austin Hooper, as Schefter tweets.
  • The Giants are likely to cut Nate Solder after the season, so Lombardi believes Big Blue should go ahead and trade him now (though HC Pat Shurmur, whose job could be in jeopardy, would likely resist such a move). The Browns continue to be in the market for OT help, as Schefter writes, and the Patriots may also be interested in a reunion with Solder. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says Solder was not a viable option for Cleveland as of the middle of last week, but that could change in the next couple of days.
  • Janoris Jenkins is another member of the Giants who could be on the move, and while he is likely open to joining a contender, he just wants New York to be transparent with their plans for him, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. That sentiment was also expressed by former Giants like Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr., who both felt as though Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman were not straightforward with them. Dunleavy names the Chiefs as a potential landing spot for Jenkins.
  • Interest remains heavy on Broncos vets Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe, as La Canfora writes. Denver is open to moving Harris and Wolfe, and rival GMs expect the Broncos to make those trades happen.

West Notes: Seahawks, Broncos, Breida

Although the Seahawks traded Frank Clark, have L.J. Collier sidelined for a while and Ziggy Ansah still yet to fully participate in training camp, they feature an additional pass rusher in Barkevious Mingo. The former first-round pick is now a full-time defensive end, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. The 28-year-old defender worked as an outside linebacker in Seattle’s 4-3 scheme last season but came into the league as a 3-4 edge. That has never translated to sack production (10 in six seasons), but it looks like the Seahawks will attempt to see if Mingo’s first NFL work as a full-time lineman can.

That’s what I came into this league to do,’’ said Mingo, who played 545 snaps last season with Seattle. “I came into this league to rush the passer. And teams I’ve been on before, they’ve had a different idea of what they wanted me to do. And that’s OK. … But looking back at it, I’m happy I get to go back and do it (rush the passer now). I wish it would have been a little earlier in my career. But still, I’m just excited for the opportunity to go out there and just help the team.”

Moving first to some backfield situations, here is the latest from some of the NFL’s Mountain and Pacific Time Zone teams.

  • While Pete Carroll said 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny had a “great” offseason, the Seahawks still appear to be leaning toward keeping 2017 seventh-rounder Chris Carson as their starting running back. Penny is not playing on the same level Carson is during camp, per The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar (subscription required). Penny, though, will be a bigger part of Seattle’s offense than he was as a rookie. Mike Davis‘ Chicago relocation will ensure the San Diego State alum sees more time.
  • Theo Riddick visited the Broncos and Saints before deciding on Denver, but the six-year Lions back said (via Mike Klis of 9News) 10 teams reached out after Detroit released him. Riddick, 28, signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal to join Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman in the Broncos’ backfield equation. The longtime pass-catching back took reps with the Broncos’ first-string offense in his initial practice with the team.
  • As for where that leaves Devontae Booker: Klis notes there is a chance the team keeps four halfbacks and fullback Andy Janovich. However, Booker may now be a trade candidate. The Broncos used former California high school sprint champion Khalfani Muhammad in all four quarters of Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game.
  • Matt Breida may join Booker on the trade block, though that is not certain yet. The 49ers have one of the NFL’s deepest backfields, with Breida joining Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. It’s been posited the 49ers will not have room for all three on game days, considering Raheem Mostert was re-signed for his special teams ability. A way Breida (5.3 yards per carry last season) could see time will be as a kick returner, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Breida has only returned five NFL kicks, all coming in his 2017 rookie year.
  • Seahawks recently waived tight ends Justin Johnson and Tyrone Swoopes cleared waivers and will revert to the team’s IR list, Condotta tweets.

Seahawks Notes: Tight End, Penny, Wright

With Will Dissly on the injured reserve and Nick Vannett dealing with a lower-back injury, the Seahawks may be forced to get creative at tight end. As Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes, one of the options could be offensive lineman George Fant, who played three snaps at the position last Sunday.

Vannett, who played 54 of 66 offensive snaps last weekend, seemed to all but confirm Fant’s role in the offense.

“If we go 12 personnel [one running back and two tight ends], we’ll probably have George Fant be the big tight end and me be in my usual [pass-catching and blocking] role,” Vannett said. “So I don’t think it will be too different [this week]. But I think just the 11 personnel [one back, one tight end] stuff I’ll obviously be having to take on a bigger role.”

Besides Vannett, Darrell Daniels is the only other healthy tight end of the roster. The 23-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Colts back in September. Ed Dickson is also sitting on the NFI, and he’s expected to return in Week 8.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of Seattle…

  • Despite using a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks have seemingly settled on a rotation at running back. Despite the rookie’s talents, Seattle will apparently lean mostly on Chris Carson and Mike Davis, and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com thought it was telling that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer didn’t mention Penny when discussing the position. “I think we have a number of backs that can challenge you different ways,” Schottenheimer said. “That’s why it’s hard to get guys rolling sometimes but I think we’ve figured that out the last two weeks, that you go in with a mindset of ‘Okay, this is the guy that we’re going to start with,’ and if things don’t work out that way then you adjust but Chris the week before got significantly most of the touches and then this last week, the plan was to let Mike go. A veteran player, let him get started, see how he does and he didn’t disappoint.” Through four games, Penny has compiled 92 rushing yards on 29 carries. For comparison’s sake, Davis had 101 rushing yards on 21 carries last weekend.
  • K.J. Wright will miss this weekend’s game against the Rams, but head coach Pete Carroll sounded optimistic that the linebacker will return soon. “He has had a great few days,” Carroll said (via John Boyle of Seahawks.com). “He’s going to be off today, then the next three days will be solid days back to back to back, see how he tolerates that. He’s working his way back in hopes that that kicks him into high gear next week.” The 29-year-old has missed his team’s first four games as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • After Earl Thomas went down with a season-ending injury, the Seahawks signed Maurice Alexander to take his place on the roster.

Seahawks’ Rashaad Penny Has Surgery

Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny had surgery on Wednesday morning to fix a broken finger, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. The recovery is estimated to take 3-4 weeks, which puts the Seahawks’ top running back up against the start of the season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

While there is some doubt about Penny’s availability for Week 1, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links) has received largely positive news about the rookie. One source tells Schefter that Penny “should be ready” for the season opener and another says Penny “would have played with it if this were late season/playoffs.” Schefter also notes that baseball standout Robinson Cano once had the same surgery and he was back in action within three weeks.

Penny, the No. 27 overall pick in this year’s draft, is expected to be the Seahawks’ leading rusher this season. If he misses time, the Seahawks can turn to backups Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, and J.D. McKissic, but they have not received consistent production from those players in the past.

If Penny misses more time than expected, the Seahawks can consider a free agent running back market that still includes Orleans DarkwaAdrian Peterson, and Jamaal Charles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.