Clayton: Seahawks still a mystery entering Monday matchup vs Bears
If last Sunday’s Seahawks game was a mile-high mystery, this Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears is even more baffling.
The Seahawks come to Soldier Field missing too many of their own soldiers. Six players are listed as out or doubtful, and the injury situation is so bad that the Seahawks had to cut starting defensive tackle Tom Johnson in order to bring in linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safety Shalom Luani.
Last week, the Seahawks had six players making their NFL debuts take at least 25 snaps and played three players who had less than a week of practice during the offseason, including two who started (Earl Thomas and J.R. Sweezy).
Let’s unravel some of the mysteries for Monday in Chicago.
• Kendricks, who pleaded guilty to an insider trader charge earlier this month, is likely to get a start even though he’s barely had any time to practice. The signing of Kendricks made sense – he’s a starting linebacker who was actually challenging Jamie Collins for a starting job in Cleveland before the Browns cut him due to his criminal charge, and he reportedly won’t be sentenced until late January.
• K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner won’t play, so the entire linebacking crew is new. Rookie Shaquem Griffin struggled in his first start in Denver, but the Seahawks have no choice but to give him significant playing time again. Austin Calitro is another option. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has his work cut out for him as far as getting good communication on the field.
• Cornerback is another problem. Rookie Tre Flowers is doubtful with a hamstring injury and Shaquill Griffin is questionable with a thigh injury. You figure if Griffin can’t play, Justin Coleman might be asked to play one of the outside spots with Neiko Thorpe and Akeem King helping out in the slot. That’s another challenge for Norton.
• Don’t be surprised if Tom Johnson returns. He had a $900,000 signing bonus and a $950,000 salary that was guaranteed after the start of the regular season. The Seahawks could restore his base salary by signing him back this week, making a $15,625 roster bonus the only thing he would miss. The reason Johnson was expendable is that defensive tackle is the Seahawks’ deepest position. Last week, Nazair Jones and Poona Ford were inactive in the season opener.
• By the way, the Seahawks made a couple of interesting moves at the beginning of the season. They cut Byron Maxwell, Austin Davis and Erik Walden from the injured reserve list, working out injury settlements that gave each a couple weeks of pay. Three weeks after those settlement checks run out, the Seahawks could bring them back. Doing it that way allows them to get them back on the roster if they wish without having to wait until midseason and use up their two designations to get players off the injured reserve list.
• One mystery that should be resolved for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is running the football more. The Seahawks had only 15 rushing attempts (14 by running backs) against the Broncos. The plan is to give Chris Carson more of the carries against Chicago. He and Rashaad Penny each had seven carries in Denver, but Carson was the best of the two by rushing for 51 yards. While Schottenheimer was hired to feature a running offense, that might not be easy in Week 2. The Chicago Bears have a top 10 defense that got even better after trading for Khalil Mack at the end of the preseason.
• Much like last week, you would expect the Seahawks to use plenty two-tight end sets to help tackles Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi. The Bears have two dangerous outside linebackers in Mack and Leonard Floyd.
• Another thing to watch is how the Seahawks fill in the void at wide receiver with Doug Baldwin recovering from two knee injuries. Baldwin is the team’s No. 1 receiver, and it will be interesting to see who gets the start on the other side of Tyler Lockett. It could be Brandon Marshall or Jaron Brown. Marshall continues to gain more confidence working with Russell Wilson.