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Seahawks RB Chris Carson
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Which of the Seahawks’ 3 big returning players is most important?

After missing four games with an injury, Seahawks RB Chris Carson is set to return Week 12. (AP)

The Seahawks got through a tough four-game stretch where, more often than not, they were missing key players on both sides of the ball. In their next game against the Philadelphia Eagles, that should be changing.

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Seattle expects starting running back Chris Carson, starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin and starting center Ethan Pocic to suit up on Monday in Philadelphia after all three have missed extended time with injuries. Carson has been out since Week 7 with a foot injury, Griffin also hasn’t played since Week 7 as he battled a hamstring injury and a concussion, and Pocic missed the last two games with a concussion.

All three are quality starters at important positions for the Seahawks, so which player coming back is most important for the Week 12 matchup with the Eagles? Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy made their selections on Wednesday.

Stacy Rost: RB Chris Carson

Rost went with Carson, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019. In Carson’s absence, the Seahawks have struggled to run the ball while quarterback Russell Wilson turned the ball over 10 times in four games, three of which were losses. Things clearly improved when Carson’s backup, Carlos Hyde, returned from injury to give Seattle’s backfield a valuable veteran presence in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals.

“Without hesitation, I said running back Chris Carson. I just think what you saw with Carlos Hyde back out there, he made a huge, monumental impact on your offense and Chris Carson is even better than Carlos Hyde,” Rost said. “… He’s a fantastic running back who’s been in this system, knows your team.”

Carson has 323 rushing yards and three touchdowns in six games this season, well below his pace for the last two seasons, but Seattle has focused more on throwing the ball this season and he’s been a factor catching passes game more than he has been at any other point in his career. In addition to the aforementioned rushing totals, Carson has caught 22 of 25 targets, which have gone for 147 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

Rost said Carson may get touches more in line with his 2018 and 2019 numbers going forward.

“Something more resembling 2019 as opposed to the beginning of 2020,” she said. “In 2020, he was used more heavily than ever before in the pass game where he was leading all running backs through four or five weeks in total touchdowns, receiving and rushing … I think you might see him used in more of a classic sense, or as Pete Carroll would say, a classic fashion, when he returns Monday night.”

Jake Heaps: C Ethan Pocic

Heaps agreed with Rost’s assessment of Carson’s importance, but he opted to go with Pocic, who has been one of the more surprising Seahawks this season as a first-year starting center.

With Pocic out the last two weeks, the Seahawks first turned to Kyle Fuller, who started against the Rams. Fuller struggled at times with bad snaps to Wilson and he was banged up after the game. Against the Cardinals, Fuller didn’t play and instead, rookie right guard Damien Lewis slid over to center and got the job done despite never having played the position in a game before. Lewis isn’t a natural center like Pocic is, which should result in better production for Seattle.

“Getting Ethan Pocic back and involved in this lineup is going to be big because you were able to get through with Damien Lewis as your starting center last week, but you don’t want to have to do that two weeks in a row,” Heaps said, “especially when you don’t know if Brandon Shell is going to be playing on Monday night.”

For the first part of the year, the Seahawks had a consistent offensive line with Duane Brown at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, Pocic at center, Lewis at right guard and Shell at right tackle. Then injuries started to shake things up.

Iupati missed some time with a back injury, but Jordan Simmons did a nice job in his place starting alongside those other four players until Iupati returned a few weeks ago. Pocic got hurt in Week 9 and now Shell is dealing with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 11. If he is out, Jamarco Jones or Cedric Ogbuehi would likely start in his place.

“You want to have as much continuity on that offensive line as possible, and getting Pocic back, which allows Damien Lewis to get back to his original spot, all you have to worry about is one change, which is your right tackle position,” Heaps said. “I think that puts you in a better position overall.”

Why not CB Shaquill Griffin?

Getting Pocic and Carson back is a big boost, but it was a bit of a surprise neither Rost or Heaps chose Griffin, as he is a reliable, solid starter at cornerback and the Seahawks have really struggled against the pass this season.

Heaps said while the return of Griffin, who has three interceptions this season and was a Pro Bowl alternate last year, would be great for the Seahawks, it’s not as crucial as the other two players because of how the backup cornerbacks played last week against an offense that’s better than what Seattle will be facing this week.

“The reason I don’t feel it’s as big of a need as the other two is simply because I think (cornerback) Tre Flowers did a nice job last week against (star Cardinals receiver) DeAndre Hopkins and I’m very excited about what (cornerback) D.J. Reed can develop into and be in your defense,” Heaps said. “He is explosive and is aggressive and I think he’s gotten better each and every single week. If they can handle the Arizona Cardinals without Shaquill Griffin, I think they can do that versus the Eagles, who are absolutely devoid of legitimate talent at the skill positions.

“So it’s not that you don’t need Shaquill Griffin, it’s not that you’re not excited to have him back, I just think in this particular matchup, Chris Carson and Ethan Pocic are needed for this game.”

Listen to the first hour of Wednesday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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