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Rashaad Penny In-depth injury analysis

By Jared Smola 6:08pm EDT 8/3/20

Rashaad Armein Penny just turned 24 years old and was born in Norwalk, California. His older brother Elijhaa is a fullback for the Giants. Rashaad had a very productive senior season at his local high school rushing for 2,004 yards and 41 touchdowns on 216 carries. He also caught 21 passes for 665 yards and another 10 touchdowns. 51 touchdowns is a ridiculous season. He chose to play his college football at FBS San Diego State University over BCS schools Boise State and Colorado State.

His freshman year, 2014, Penny did not get any rushing attempts, finishing the season with only two. In his sophomore year, he played in 14 games, rushing 61 times for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. He finally started to get more opportunities in his junior year, rushing 135 times for 1,005 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding 15 receptions for 224 yards and 3 more scores.

Finally in his senior year, 2017, Penny rushed 289 times for 2,248 yards, a very impressive 7.8 yards per carry and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 135 yards and 2 more tds.

Penny measured in at 5‘11“ tall and 220 pounds, running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. The Seattle Seahawks chose Penny at the end of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft. Penny played in 14 games as a rookie, rushing 85 times for 419 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 75 yards as well, missing two games with a knee injury.

Hoping to form a tandem with Chris Carson heading into the 2019 season, Penny was not given as many rushing opportunities as many had hoped. He struggled with injuries, injuring his hamstring in practice ahead of week three, and ended up missing three games as a result. Then, unfortunately, in Week 14, Penny suffered a torn ACL ending his season, discussed here.

Unfortunately, running backs who suffer torn ACL‘s (especially if they do it in the NFL) do not have the best return rate, at least in their first season back. Look at Dalvin Cook‘s 2018 season, and then compare to his 2019 season. Everyone always wants to point out how dominant Adrian Peterson was after his return from his torn ACL. But it is important to note that Peterson is the exception and not the rule.

Most running backs struggle in the first year after tearing the ACL. I think this is a combination of physical and mental. Regaining confidence in this newly built ligament takes time. The knee simply doesn’t respond as well as before the injury.

Some athletes describe a little bit more wiggle or ‘play’ with the new ligament. As good as modern medicine is, the ligament is never as good as the original. It’s not as tight, strong, or as flexible.

With the demands of the ACL in the modern NFL as a running back, often, these athletes struggle with the confidence to be able to cut with the aggressiveness that they will need to be effective. Suffering a torn ACL is not a deathblow to a running back’s career, but there are examples of players that struggled to return to form, including Jamaal Charles (at the end of his career), Darren Sproles, and Bishop Sankey.

The jury is still out on Derrius Guice, and they will be out for Penny as well. While WRs, QBs, and defensive players return to a level similar to their pre-injury effectiveness, RBs often struggle to return to full form.

When the Seattle Seahawks chose Rashaad Penny in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they never thought that their 2017 seventh-round decision, Chris Carson would outperform him. However, that has been the situation. Penny has also struggled with injuries.

Even through difficult times, Penny has been a stable running back. His season total of 370 yards on 65 attempts while averaging 5.26 yards per carry (3rd) and a 2.05 YAC (11th) among 52 running backs with 150 carries or more.

After a Carson fumble and an expanded role in Weeks 12 and 13, Penny would put up 14-129-1 and 15-74-1, but unfortunately, Week 14 put an end to any progressions he was making when he tore his ACL.

Now in 2020, Penny could see the PUP list to start the season. He is only 24-years old, so his injury return time could be less. Even if he does return before Week 1, he will not only have to battle Carson but Carlos Hyde and rookie DeeJay Dallas. Throw in Travis Homer for good measure.

The Seahawks offensive line isn’t much better than it has been over the last few seasons. They will have three new starters. BJ Finney, at the center position, will compete with Joey Hunt. Damien Lewis, a third-round decision out of LSU, will step in for DJ Fluker. Seattle did sign Brandon Shell from the Jets, and he will replace Germain Ifedi. They run a gap-power offense.

Even with Russell Wilson working his magic, the Seahawks like to focus on the run. Whoever has the ball in their hands should be successful. However, there are just too many road bumps in front of Penny to make him a high priority or even a low one when it comes to draft day.

Final Prognosis:

Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Penny has a 53.8% chance of injury in 2020, which translates to missing about one game.

My injury risk for him is significantly higher, a 7 out of 10. Penny may struggle with a lack of burst and confidence in his knee.

Currently being drafted as the RB58, there is a chance that Penny surprises this year, as his backfield mate Chris Carson is also coming back from an equally significant injury, a hip fracture. I (Dr. Morse) would not be surprised if the Seahawks turn to a more passing offense as a result of these injuries.

The ACL plays such a significant role in the lower legs’ mobility and running that so many other issues and injuries can develop as a result of the decreased strength, range of motion, and confidence.

Hamstring injuries, meniscal tears, and MCL sprains are not uncommon as a result of a reconstructed knee. Data demonstrates that Penny is still at an increased risk for a second torn ACL. Up until two years from injury, the data shows that he has a 9% chance of re-tear of his recently repaired/built ligament and a 21% chance of tearing the opposite ACL.

There’s simply too much risk in Penny in 2020 for me (Dr. Morse). I’d much rather roll the dice with names in his range like Antonio Gibson, Chase Edmonds, Darrynton Evans, and Damien Harris. Cross Penny’s name off your draft board, and save yourself the trouble.

At this point (June 22), Penny is the RB56 and 182nd player off the board overall. The translation is that he is an RB5 or basic dart throw. Keep an eye on when or if he can make it back before the start of the season. For the most part, I (Mike) would leave as waiver wire fodder.

Injury Risk: High, 7/10.

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