As high as the Seahawks are on Penny's potential, it's fair to wonder if they would have targeted the San Diego State star in the draft's first round had a fractured leg not put a premature end to Carson's promising debut season.
Even before Penny broke a bone in his finger, Carson had received coach Pete Carroll's blessing and was reemerging as the clear-cut frontrunner for the Week 1 starting job.
"There's a difference when Chris Carson runs the ball," Wagner explained. "He just stands out to me. Every time you watch film, whether it's him out of the backfield or running the ball, he stands out to me.
"I felt like we kind of got a glimpse of that last year; unfortunately he got hurt. So I'm excited to see how that looks 16 games. He looks really, really strong and he looks like he's on a mission."
Squaring off daily with Seattle's ground attack, Wagner has also noticed improvements along the perennially beleaguered offensive line now that Mike Solari has replaced Tom Cable as position coach.
Auditioning a string of backfield pretenders, Carroll has discovered the hard way that his August plans often go awry by the end of September.
Will this year be any different?
Carson is in the proverbial best shape of his life, Penny is expected to be recovered in time for the season opener and pass-catching specialist C.J. Prosise offers an intriguing skill set as a wild card. If the Seahawks can keep any two of that trio healthy for the bulk of the season, they can reasonably expect their most consistent ground attack since Marshawn Lynch was bulldozing through arm tackles in the prime of his legendary Seattle career.