Seahawks’ Kelcie McCray could make first career start vs. Cleveland

Dec 19, 2015, 3:24 PM | Updated: 3:28 pm
Kelcie McCray played strong safety last week after Kam Chancellor injured his tailbone. (Rod Mar, S...
Kelcie McCray played strong safety last week after Kam Chancellor injured his tailbone. (Rod Mar, Seahawks)
(Rod Mar, Seahawks)
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RENTON — What the Seahawks saw in Kelcie McCray when they acquired him in a preseason trade was not just a special-teams ace but a skilled and versatile backup who could step in at strong safety if needed.

That belief was reinforced by the way he played last week against Baltimore after replacing an injured Kam Chancellor, whose iffy status heading into Sunday’s game against Cleveland means McCray could make his first career start.

“I was really fired up about the way he played,” coach Pete Carroll said. “So knowing that he may have to play more, it was worth noting that he did a good job, stepped into the opportunity and made something happen there. It was good.”

Related: McCray talks filling in for Chancellor on “Danny, Dave and Moore”

Chancellor is listed as questionable because of a bruised tailbone, which knocked him out of last week’s game in the first quarter. Carroll said he’ll be a game-time decision. A questionable designation technically amounts to an estimated 50 percent chance of playing, but even that would seem to be optimistic considering Chancellor didn’t practice at all this week.

That means there’s a strong possibility that McCray will start in his place, an eventuality that the Seahawks had in mind when they acquired him from Kansas City for a fifth-round pick just before the start of the regular season.

Chancellor was still holding out and his replacement, Dion Bailey, was coming off a rookie season in which he didn’t play a single snap. The Seahawks needed experience and McCray had some, having entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State in 2012. He had been with three different teams in his first three seasons, playing 101 defensive snaps in 2013 with Tampa Bay and 56 last season with Kansas City, according to Football Outsiders.

“He had great range, really good speed, and he played really good in space. Those are all attributes that we’re looking for in regards to a safety,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said when asked what the Seahawks saw in McCray. “And the simple fact that when he puts his body on people, he tackles really well, they go down.”

McCray, 27, has been Seattle’s top special-teams player this season in terms of playing time and tackles. It wasn’t until the closing minutes of the Seahawks’ blowout win over Minnesota two weeks ago that he first played on defense. His first extensive playing time came a week later, when took over for the final three quarters once Chancellor went down.

Carroll had only minor critiques of the way McCray played, saying he was two plays from having a “phenomenal” game.

“We didn’t have to change anything, we didn’t adjust anything, Carroll said of Seattle’s defense once McCray stepped in. “We just played with him, and as we saw him, that gives us really a lot of confidence going into this week in case Kam can’t play.”

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