Timing is everything.
The Seahawks visited the New York Giants when they lost their top four wide receivers. On Thursday, the Seahawks play the Arizona Cardinals minus Carson Palmer and David Johnson. This Sunday, they are playing a Washington Redskins team that might be as banged up with injuries more than any team I can recently remember: Kirk Cousins comes to town minus two injured tight ends, at least three starting offensive linemen, and a banged-up receiving corps.
Here are five things to look for Sunday.
1. The Redskins injury list
Ninety minutes before each game, teams have to deactivate seven players. The Skins may have nine to 11 players who aren’t healthy enough to dress. The offensive line will be without left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Shawn Lauvao and center Spencer Long. Right guard Brandon Scherff is going to try to play despite an MCL injury that sidelined him last week.
Tight end Jordan Reed is out with a hamstring injury. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder is questionable with a hamstring injury and there is a good chance he won’t play. Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis is out with a hand injury. They may also be missing cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Montae Nicholson. Backup tight end Niles Paul and backup tackle Ty Nsekhe are out.
How thin are the Redskins? They are down to two safeties, although they hope to activate DeAngelo Hall from the physically unable to perform list. Rob Kelley is playing on a bad ankle, leaving them only two healthy running backs.
Because of the offensive line injuries, the Redskins have had to keep 12 offensive linemen on the roster. The mass of injuries limited the Redskins from getting involved in the trade market before Tuesday’s deadline and made it tough to move around the roster before the team left for Seattle Friday.
2. Mixing and matching for the Redskins at receiver
If Crowder can’t play, head coach Jay Gruden won’t be able put receivers in the spot they might thrive. Terrelle Pryor was recently benched, so he will be called upon if Crowder is out. But Gruden believes he’s more of a split end. Josh Doctson, last year’s first-round pick, also works better at split end. Ryan Grant and Brian Quick are the only other options.
At tight end, the Redskins can play Vernon Davis, but they also might have to rely on fifth-round pick Jeremy Sprinkle.
These problems should help the Seahawks secondary, which is coming off a tough outing against the Houston Texans. Shaquill Griffin should have learned from the first game he’s been thrown at so much.
3. Getting away from the running back-by-committee
After Chris Carson went on the injured reserve list with a broken ankle, the Seahawks tried to mix and match running backs to spark the running game. It didn’t work.
The next move is to let one back try to establish himself. This week it will be Eddie Lacy. Because of the rotations, Lacy hasn’t had more than 11 carries in any given game. So far, he’s not been on the field for more than 23 plays.
You would figure the plan is to show what Lacy can do with 15 or more carries. Why not give it a try? Last Sunday, Lacy and Thomas Rawls combined for 10 carries and — combined — ended up with minus 1 yard.
4. Duane Brown’s debut
This could be the key to the Seahawks just being a playoff team or becoming a main threat for the Super Bowl. Brown played the entire game for the Houston Texans last week — and played well — even though he didn’t have a training camp and had only one week of practice because of his holdout.
In Los Angeles, the impact of the signing of 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth helped to turn a young, struggling line into a winning group. Brown could fit perfectly. He’s an excellent pass blocker, allowing only one sack last year. His experience should help left guard Ethan Pocic grow as a blocker. Right tackle Germain Ifedi grew up in Houston with Brown as his blocking idol.
The trade might not work out as well for the Seahawks as Justin Verlander did with the Houston Astros, but it could be a good one.
5. Filling in for Earl Thomas
Thomas was scratched because of his hamstring injury. He might have to miss the Arizona game next Thursday, but he should be back after the 10-day break.
The secondary fell apart with Thomas’ absence last season. To improve the safety position, the Seahawks signed Bradley McDougald, who had 31 starts in the past two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCougald doesn’t have Earl Thomas’ speed and ability to cover the middle of the field. But if he can limit the big plays in the middle of the field and do well stopping the run, the Seahawks might not have a dropoff like they did last year.