Ex-Aztec Rashaad Penny takes advantage of Raiders, trip to London

Pay attention to the NFL or another major sports league, and one recurring factoid that smacks you in the gob is that “professional” doesn’t always equate to “competent.”

Sooner or later, every NFL or MLB or NBA team — or player -- will draw an opponent who, in a word, stinks.

Often, this gooses The Turnaround.

It was Rashaad Penny’s turn this past Sunday, thanks in some degree to the miserable Raiders, and though it meant traveling some 4,800 miles to England, the former San Diego State star had a fairly jolly go of it in London town in his sixth NFL game.

Penny was allowed to touch the ball, a week after getting no handoffs or passes against the unbeaten Rams.

The rookie responded with 70 yards in 11 touches. The Seahawks rolled, 27-3.

In the first half, when the Raiders hadn’t yet gone belly up, Penny took a screen pass for 24 yards, his longest gain through six games of professional football. Not a lot was required of him, but he followed his blocks and then outraced a linebacker, Marquel Lee, who’d run the 40 in 4.78 coming out of Wake Forest.

Penny got outside on a run play, too, bagging 13 yards in garbage time.

Overall, the 22-year-old showed solid play strength and play speed, in addition to good ball security and adequate vision. Also, he snagged a thigh-high pass in stride.

Blimey, the Raiders (1-5) were in bad shape.

Several of their vets appeared washed up. Kids such as P.J. Hall, a defensive lineman trying to make the jump from Sam Houston State, are learning the NFL game, such as when Hall ran past Penny on the screen. Oakland’s offense was stagnant.

Penny's dad is a longtime Raiders fan who told me last year he’s stuck with them through the past decade-plus of chronic losing. At least the Raiders paid Penny back Sunday, helping his son get his NFL legs under him.

Even while allowing an AFC-worst 6.7 yards per play this season the Raiders are, of course, many levels above the likes of Aztecs rivals such as Boise State and Fresno State.

Penny finished with nine carries for 43 yards, plus the two catches for 27 yards. He was once again third in the pecking order, but that’s not overly concerning. The two backs above him, starter Chris Carson and Mike Davis, played for Seattle last year and are performing well.

There’s work to be had over the 16 games. Getting up to speed while not getting pummeled has its advantages.

Better at the pull-block runs, a staple at SDSU, Penny followed athletic guard J.R. Sweezy for gains of 13 and 6 yards Sunday.

The Seahawks have ramped up their inside-zone game, which means different reads, pace and angles than the pull stuff. Penny has had some growing pains there. He is improving, but had two “bad” runs Sunday.

A first-round draftee ought to show special traits in the games at some point, and while that hasn’t happened other than a flash or two with Penny, he’s providing the Seahawks dependable work that matters — no fumbles in 49 touches that include five kickoffs. He’s secured six of the seven catchable passes. He goes forward after the hit.

A job share at running back should keep Penny and mates fresh, and with four consecutive games of more than 100 rushing yards, the Seahawks (3-3) are developing the ground attack that head coach Pete Carroll wants. I’ve watched all of their games, and the blocking unit has improved more than a little under SDSU alum Mike Solari, the first-year line coach. D.J. Fluker is fitter than in his Chargers days and, flags and late get-offs aside, has firmed up the blocking since joining the lineup in Week 3.

Following the current bye week, Penny stands to get another workout Oct. 28 against the Lions — but taking advantage of the lull, he returned to San Diego and visited Tuesday with several Aztecs players and coaches.