Are LB injuries a concern for Seahawks? A look at where things stand

Jun 12, 2024, 11:38 AM

Seattle Seahawks Tyrel Dodson OTAs 2024...

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Tyrel Dodson looks on during an OTA practice on June 3. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

First-year Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald has an intriguing collection of pieces to deploy both up front and in the secondary of his versatile defense. Both are among the deepest position groups on the team.

NFL insider Albert Breer: Why Seahawks’ coaching transition is unique

For right now, at least, it’s quite a different story at inside linebacker.

As the Seahawks opened their three-day minicamp Tuesday afternoon at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, their projected starting inside linebacker duo of Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson remained sidelined with injuries. It was a similar story the past few weeks during OTAs, when Baker wasn’t on the field and Dodson only participated in limited work during sessions that were open to the media.

“It’s tough because some of the guys aren’t out there, so it’s something we’re chasing right now,” Macdonald said after an OTA session last month when asked about how the linebacking corps is coming along.

Baker, who started 82 games over the past six seasons for the Miami Dolphins, is recovering from offseason wrist surgery and has what Macdonald said was an unspecified “lower-body” injury. After an OTA practice last month, Macdonald said they are targeting Baker to return by training camp, which begins in late July.

Dodson, who started 10 games for the Buffalo Bills last season, is out with an undisclosed injury. Macdonald said Tuesday they also are hoping he can return by training camp.

The regular-season opener is still three months away, but the injuries are keeping Baker and Dodson from taking part in the on-field installation of Macdonald’s cutting-edge defense. Given how paramount communication is in Macdonald’s scheme and what a central role Baker and Dodson are expected to play, the situation certainly isn’t ideal.

“I wouldn’t call it a concern, but any time someone isn’t getting all the reps, you’ve gotta figure out different ways to get him the reps,” Macdonald said during OTAs last month. “So it’s mental stuff, it’s walkthroughs. We’re trying to be creative in the building to make sure (they get) all the things (they need) to see.”

The replacements

With Baker and Dodson out, the first-team reps at inside linebacker have belonged to Jon Rhattigan and Patrick O’Connell. Rhattigan, a fourth-year former undrafted free agent out of Army who has primarily played on special teams, logged just 19 defensive snaps last season. O’Connell, a second-year former undrafted free agent out of Montana, spent nearly all of last season on the practice squad.

Rhattigan made one of the plays of the day at minicamp on Tuesday, when he made a diving interception on a pass over the middle by Geno Smith.

“I think Jon’s improved every day, so that’s probably the highest compliment I can give him,” Macdonald said Tuesday. “That’s what we want from the rest of our team – guys going out, taking the coaching, taking it to the field, taking the next step and then keep rolling. Jon’s gonna be an integral part of our team, and wherever it shakes out (with) the linebacker position, we’ll see. But he’s doing a great job for us on and off the field. He’s gonna be a big special teams player for us as well. It was fun to see him make some plays today for sure.”

Rookie linebacker Tyrice Knight, a fourth-round pick out of UTEP, has primarily worked with the second-string defense. Knight led the FBS in solo tackles last season, but some experts view him as more of a developmental project.

“He’s coming along,” Macdonald said during OTAs. “The mentality’s there. The game’s fast for him right now, but it’s a process. … Like all the rookies, they have a lot to learn. But he’s making some plays and he’s seeing some things right now, so there’s a foundation there that we’re excited about. But he’s a rookie right now, so he’s gotta pick it up like the rest of them.”

More Seattle Seahawks coverage

• An update on Seahawks injury news as minicamp begins
• Seahawks to have rare joint practices with another NFL team
• DK Metcalf excited for Seahawks’ future under Mike Macdonald
How will new Seahawks OC Grubb need to adjust playbook for NFL?
• Bump: How Seattle Seahawks can get the best out of DK Metcalf

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