Clayton: Seahawks were supposed to be deep, and they’ll need to be after latest round of injuries
Prior to the start of the regular season, Pete Carroll said the 2017 Seahawks might be his deepest team for talent since taking over the Seahawks.
Injuries are now going to test that opinion.
Cliff Avril (neck), Rees Odhiambo (sternum), Chris Carson (ankle) and Jeremy Lane (groin) all went down with injuries on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, and Neiko Thorpe and C.J. Prosise are both coming back from injuries though they should be able to play this week against the Los Angeles Rams.
I thought the Seahawks were deep at running back, wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary, and the Seahawks felt they were going to let some good players go at training camp. The evaluation wasn’t too far off.
Halfback Alex Collins emerged Sunday as the starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens, and cornerback Pierre Desire had a fill-in start for the Colts. Jermaine Kearse is a starting wide receiver for the New York Jets. David Bass, who looked good as a pass-rushing defensive end, had 48 plays at linebacker for the Jets. Kevin Pierre-Louis is on the Kansas City Chiefs. Kasen Williams is up to about 17 plays a game for the Cleveland Browns. And Tramaine Brock is a backup corner for the Minnesota Vikings.
Let’s look back to Sunday to see how depth played into the win over Indianapolis.
• Running back. Having watched the failures running the ball in the first four weeks, it’s stunning to see that the Seahawks are still 11th in the league in rushing with an average of 121 yards a game. The slow starts in the first half have kept the defense on the field too long, but there is enough depth and talent to get by once the blocking improves and the backs hit the right holes. I contended that the Seahawks were six deep in the backfield in camp because I always thought Collins had starting ability. His fumbling could rob him of those chances, but he is a powerful runner, which he is showing now for Baltimore. Chris Carson was clearly the best back Seattle had before suffering his injury Sunday. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy have both started, and Prosise has exceptional skills but can’t shake the injury bug. Meanwhile, what you saw out of J.D. McKissic against the Colts verifies his skills. He had two touchdowns and runs much faster than his 4.5-second 40 time from the scouting combine. The problem is figuring out who starts and how the rotations are going to go. From the sound of Carroll’s comments, Rawls may go ahead of Lacy on early downs, and Prosise and McKissic are the backs on passing downs. The talent is there in the backfield, but the team needs to get a faster start with the ground game.
• Defensive end. No one knows how long Pro Bowler Cliff Avril will be out with his neck injury, but it sure helps when you have talented ends such as Frank Clark and Marcus Smith to fill in along with Michael Bennett. Clark is a rising star. He had 10 sacks last year and he was chasing Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett all over the field Sunday. And it doesn’t hurt when your fourth defensive end is Smith, a former first-round pick with 4.6 speed. He got a sack and a half filling in at the Leo position against the Colts.
• Defensive tackle. The Seahawks had only three defensive tackles for the opening game against the Green Bay Packers, but they’ve quietly built back depth at the position. That’s smart, as they have been facing a batch to teams that run two-tight end offenses that like to want to run out of the backfield. Promoting Garrison Smith from the practice squad and adding Quentin Jefferson back gets the Seahawks to five defensive tackles and a good rotation. Rookie Nazair Jones has been a force as a backup, the Seahawks like Smith for his run-stopping ability, and Jefferson has inside pass-rush ability.
• Cornerback. If Lane is out for the Rams game, the Seahawks will probably start rookie Shaquill Griffin against two-receiver sets and Justin Coleman would be the option at nickel. Griffin has been sensational in the first month. He’s had only 13 passes completed on him in four games for 109 yards. Coleman had the pick-six in the second quarter against Indianapolis, and Thorpe is good enough to fill in if he’s healthy Sunday. As a group, the Seahawks are the sixth-best in nickel defense, giving up only 4.8 yards per play.
• Offensive line. Losing George Fant hurt, but the Seahawks felt they had better options at tackle this year than they did last year. At left tackle last year, their only options were Bradley Sowell and Fant after Garry Gilliam tried it in training camp but didn’t work out. Rees Odhiambo has been doing a decent job this season – he’s been beaten for 1.5 sacks in four games, which isn’t horrible, and he was improving before his injury Sunday. Versatile Matt Tobin is the likely fill-in if Odhiambo can’t go Sunday. There is potential in former Rams lineman Isaiah Battle, a long-armed former supplemental pick. If necessary, the Seahawks could move Luke Joeckel from guard to left tackle and put Tobin or Mark Glowinski at left guard. The line overall has improved with Oday Aboushi taking over for Glowinski. It seemed funny at the start of the season for the Seahawks to keep 10 offensive linemen, but you can see the depth can be valuable when there are injuries.
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