Seahawks rookie RB Rashaad Penny, the 27th overall pick in April's draft, underwent successful surgery to repair his broken left pointer finger on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. News of Penny's injury was first reported Tuesday evening by Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
The Seahawks are hopeful to have Penny, the San Diego State product and only the third running back selected in the first round in franchise history, back for the opener Sept. 9 in Denver. However, Penny's injury provides unfortunate clarity on Seattle's backfield pecking order, at least early in the season, where the 2017 seventh-rounder Chris Carson is increasingly entrenched as the starter.
Carson earned the RB1 job over Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls last year in camp and started three of the Seahawks' first four games prior to sustaining a broken left leg that sidelined him the rest of the season. He impressed with a 4.2-yard average, especially as Mike Davis — Seattle's leading rusher among backs in 2017 — Lacy and Rawls each managed 3.5 yards or fewer behind a perpetually porous offensive line.
How long Carson ultimately can ward off Penny, the explosive former Aztec with a three-down skill set but some concerns in pass protection, remains to be seen. But Penny's injury doesn't figure to help him improve as a blocker early on and the Seahawks continue to need all the help they can get in that department with the offensive line again at or near the forefront of the club's concerns entering the season.
Speaking of concern, the injuries are mounting for rookie running backs across the league. No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Washington is preparing for life in 2018 without second-rounder Derrius Guice, who suffered a torn ACL in his preseason debut. Historically the NFL's most injury-ravaged position, running back has seen an uptick in draft value in recent years, including three consecutive with multiple first-rounders following a three-year drought. Whether this year's difficult summer affects teams' draft plans at the position moving forward remains to be seen. We're squarely of the opinion that great backs can be found later in the draft, when teams can minimize their risk at the game's least risk-averse spot.
This is the second season in a row in which Seattle's top draft pick suffered an injury before Week 1 that clouds his availability. Last season, Michigan State DT Malik McDowell sustained significant head injuries in an offseason ATV accident. Ultimately, he never played a down before being released by the team last month.