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Who should be Seahawks' starting running back in 2022?

Two obvious candidates stand above the rest, but which of them will end up with more carries depends on a variety of factors.

SEATTLE — Editor's note: The above video of an exclusive KING 5 interview with Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny aired on July 21. This story is part of KING 5's Seahawks season preview series. 

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has given all indications that the team's offense plans to focus increasingly on the ground game, after quarterback Russell Wilson's offseason departure to Denver.

But who will be getting the lion's share of the carries in new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's first season in Seattle?

Following Chris Carson's injury-induced retirement ahead of training camp, two obvious candidates stand above the rest of the Seahawks' current crop of tailbacks.

KING 5 SEASON PREVIEW: Who should be the starting Seahawks quarterback? 

Let's examine the most likely options to lead Seattle in rushing, as well as who else might earn some snaps at running back in 2022.

Rashaad Penny

Background: 26 years old, 1st round pick in 2018 Draft, fifth NFL season (all with Seahawks)

Career stats: 37 games played, six starts, 280 carries, 1,572 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 5.6 yards per carry (YPC), 23 catches, 206 yards receiving

The most seasoned veteran of the Seahawks' current group of running backs, Penny has spent much of the early part of his career under Carson's wing, learning from the now-retired tailback. 

Penny finished 2021 on one of the best stretches in the NFL, rushing for 671 yards and 6 touchdowns over the Seahawks' final five games. His 6.3 YPC average for the season was tied for the best mark in the league with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen

Like Carson, Penny also has battled injuries throughout his pro career, having yet to complete a full season of games. Out of a possible 65 regular season games, Penny has played in just 37.

KING 5 SEASON PREVIEW: Why the long-term answer at quarterback is not on the Seahawks roster

That being said, he should have the early edge over rookie Kenneth Walker given his years of experience playing under Carroll. Penny arrived healthy to training camp in late July and likely sees the significant opportunity he has in front of him to win the starting job for the Seahawks.

"Rashaad's in great shape," Carroll said of Penny after the first training camp practice. "He weighed 237, just cut and sharp and fast, and excited because he's had such a great offseason. He looked terrific. He couldn't wait to get out here and just run. He wanted to just show us that he could go. He looked just like he did when we finished up at the end, so that was really fun to see that."

Penny is on a one-year contract and certainly has pressure on him to deliver and stay healthy over a full 17-game campaign.

Kenneth Walker III

Background: 21 years old, 2nd round pick in 2022 NFL Draft, 1st NFL season

Career stats (college): 32 games played, 480 carries, 2,794 yards rushing, 35 rushing touchdowns, 5.8 YPC, 19 catches, 136 yards receiving

Walker, the second running back selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2021 and was among the nation's most prolific rushers for the Michigan State Spartans.

Given the investment the Seahawks have in Walker as a second-round draft choice, he should get plenty of opportunities in training camp as he learns Waldron's schemes.

"He's got legitimate quicks," Carroll said of Walker after Day 1 of training camp. "His burst and his speed, that's documented, you can see it, and he's got good feel. It's going to be a fantastic opportunity to see those guys play. It takes more than one… That's a good position group for us."

Walker will benefit from exactly what Carroll said above, as it takes more than one running back for 99% of NFL teams. Whoever is named the starter, the other back likely will not be far behind that No. 1 guy in touches and could even overtake the other depending on injuries and/or matchups.

DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer also will be in the mix for carries this season, especially if injuries befall one of the two guys listed above.

Both former Miami Hurricanes, Homer has 64 carries over the past three seasons, while Dallas has 67 over his first two NFL seasons with the Seahawks. Homer and Dallas will make their most significant mark on special teams, however.

Verdict

This will be an evolving position throughout the regular season and don't be surprised if two or even three different players register starts at running back this season.

Week 1 likely will see more carries from Penny and he should be on the field for the team's first offensive play against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12.

That being said, Walker should get a hefty workload in at least one of the preseason games, and could earn the job with a strong training camp and mastery of the playbook.

Ultimately, Walker could end the season with more carries due to durability concerns with Penny. Another prediction: don't be surprised if the Seahawks take a flier on a veteran running back midseason like they have in years past with guys like Adrian Peterson and Alex Collins.

With uncertainty at the quarterback position, both Penny and Walker should be featured early and often in the Seahawks offense this season.

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