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Clayton: Seahawks have major decisions at 5 positions following bye

The Seahawks could soon see how J.D. McKissic holds up as an every-down running back. (AP)

Even though Pete Carroll said Tuesday that it seemed like a long time since the team had been together – it had been 11 days since they entered their bye week – preparations for Sunday’s game with the New York Giants game have begun.

There was a certain mystery for reporters as they awaited Carroll’s press conference. Everyone was waiting to find out how long Luke Joeckel would be out and the health statuses of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and others.

Carroll tried to answer as best he could, but he needs to see some things in practice before forecasting what will happen over the next couple of weeks. Clearly, some major decisions have to be made both in the short term and the long term.

Let’s look at five key decisions for the Seahawks.

The left guard position. Carroll said Joeckel is out four to five weeks following last Thursday’s knee surgery. That was the length of time I had been hearing for more than a week. It’s also one of the reasons the Seahawks kept free agent Branden Albert around as a possible option. Albert and the Seahawks couldn’t come to an agreement, so the Seahawks – for now – will look to their backups for help. The two main options are Mark Glowinski and Ethan Pocic. That leaves Matt Tobin as the main backup for several positions. Glowinski has 17 starts from the left guard position, so he would appear to be the favorite. Still, his play slipped last year and didn’t get better with a move to right guard, which led to his benching. You can hear it in Carroll’s voice that he would like to get Pocic on the field. If it doesn’t happen this week against the Giants, it could happen in the next few weeks. This one will be an interesting decision.

Running back. Over the next couple of weeks, the Seahawks have to find out if they are good enough in the backfield. They appeared to be loaded at the position. There were so many good backs that they released Alex Collins, who has been great for the Baltimore Ravens and leads the league in average yards after contact. If it doesn’t work out with Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks have to see if C.J. Prosise if durable enough to be a candidate to start or if J.D. McKissic is big enough to be an every-down option. They could also look to the practice squad and Mike Davis. If not, they might have to seek about another back in a trade.

Defensive end. Cliff Avril is visiting doctors to see if he can continue playing football despite a neck injury. Michael Bennett has plantar fasciitis. Where the Seahawks are fortunate is that they have Frank Clark as one main option and Marcus Smith as a decent Leo candidate. Here’s what I’m wondering: Let’s say Avril can return and Bennett will try to fight through his foot injury. Both are 31. If they make it back, Carroll needs to limit their playing times. At their ages and with their injuries, the days of 80 percent playing time might be over.

Cornerback. This one is fascinating. Shaquill Griffin has been great as an outside corner. Justin Coleman has done well in the slot. DeShawn Shead is coming back from ACL surgery and could an option in a couple of weeks. Jeremy Lane could be available coming off his groin injury. If Shead is available, Carroll would have to decide if he wants to bench Griffin for him or keep Griffin as the starter. Griffin is the present and the future at the position. If Shead is back, it could give the Seahawks the luxury of getting trade value for Lane or just put Lane back ahead of Coleman. Good options.

Tight end. First, Carroll has to see if he wants to keep Jimmy Graham in pass routes in more wide receiver positions or get him closer to the tackles. In the victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Graham was flexed out 31 plays and looked more formidable in the passing game. They also mixed in a few more two-tight end plays with Luke Willson and Nick Vannett, and those plays looked encouraging. Willson has been playing great in his limited time on the field. The Seahawks aren’t going to change from being a three-receiver offense, but there are some enticing options with the tight ends.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out the latest episode of his “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on

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