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3 players to watch as Seahawks return from bye vs Lions

LB K.J. Wright returns for the Seahawks this week. (AP)

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says his team is the healthiest it has been all season in their return from a Week 7 bye. At 3-3, Seattle will be looking to build on a blowout win over the Raiders in Week 6 and get above .500 for the first time this season.

Notebook: Good news on injury front, plus a new challenge, for Seahawks

It won’t be an easy road: the first of 10 straight weeks with no break for the Seahawks will be a 10 a.m. road contest against the 3-3 Detroit Lions, who have won three of their last four and acquired All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison this week to boost the run defense. After that, Seattle will face teams quarterbacked by, in order, Philip Rivers, Jared Goff (in Los Angeles), Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton (at Carolina).

But at the risk of jumping too far ahead, let’s take a look at this week’s matchup – and the three Seahawks players you should be keeping an eye on:

LB K.J. Wright

Wright is set to play his first game in six weeks. The seven-year Seahawks veteran underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August and on Monday practiced for the first time since the operation.

The Seahawks have started several players in Wright’s absence at the weak-side linebacker spot, including Shaquem Griffin, Austin Calitro, Mychal Kendricks, and Barkevious Mingo, but no doubt are happy to have their Pro Bowler back at the position.

“We’ve been playing together for seven years, so we have a communication that can’t be replicated,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Wright’s return.

“He makes plays and he’s going to make adjustments and things of that nature. I’m extremely excited to have him back. I think the last time you saw him, he was making big hits and all that stuff, so that’s what I’m expecting from him.”

Wright may not play extensively, but his return marks a positive step forward for a Seahawks defense that lost another Super Bowl veteran in safety Earl Thomas to a season-ending injury.

TE Ed Dickson

Speaking of Thomas, the Seahawks also lost rookie tight end Will Dissly for the season with a torn patellar tendon in the same game Thomas suffered his injury. It wasn’t just a disheartening end for Dissly’s promising debut – it also left the Seahawks incredibly thin at the position. That wasn’t helped by a back condition for veteran Nick Vannett, who was inactive in Week 6.

Enter Ed Dickson. The former Carolina Panther was signed by the Seahawks in free agency but spent most of training camp on the Non-Football Injury list. Dickson kept the injury designation heading into the regular season, which meant he had to sit out the first six weeks before he could return to practice.

Now, Dickson is preparing to make his first start for his new team this Sunday against the Lions.

“We haven’t had him very much,” Carroll said of Dickson. “We just had him a little bit in the offseason. His background is well-versed. He’s done a lot of stuff. In the offense they were in at Carolina, (the Panthers were) very creative with what they did with their tight ends and he was involved with all kinds of stuff. He’s been placed all over the field. He’s been in the backfield, he’s been out of the backfield, so all of that really gives us confidence. There’s stuff that we can do with him that we’re looking forward to, but really he has not practiced with us very much. We’re kind of opening up the Christmas present here. It’s kind of fun to get him going.”

RG D.J. Fluker

The Seahawks’ offensive line ranks first overall in pass-blocking efficiency through the last four weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, and the tackle duo of Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi ranks in the top five in pass blocking.

A few personnel moves, including the offseason addition of right guard D.J. Fluker, have also contributed to that improvement. The 6-feet-5, 340-pound Fluker had a particularly strong performance against Los Angeles in Week 5, and the unit as a whole held a dominant Rams defensive front to two sacks.

The Seahawks’ offense faces a unique challenge with Detroit. The Lions’ defense ranks 26th against the run and is allowing 139 opponent rushing yards per game, which initially looks like a favorable matchup for a Seattle team that has leaned heavily into the run, averaging 157 yards per game in Weeks 3-6. However, Detroit acquired a skilled run stopper this week via trade when they added All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison.

Harrison can also be disruptive against the pass, where the Lions rank fourth overall and have racked up 21 sacks. So don’t be fooled by that rushing defense ranking – Fluker and the rest of the Seahawks’ O-linemen will certainly have their work cut out for them this Sunday.

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• Wright, Dickson set to return — who could have the biggest impact?