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Seahawls LB Cody Barton
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Seahawks Notebook: Diggs back practicing, young guys stepping up

Seahaws LB Cody Barton will start in place of Mychal Kendricks. (Getty)

The next time the Seahawks take the field for a game, they will be in Philadelphia taking on the NFC East champion Eagles in a rematch of Week 12.

What was so encouraging about the Seahawks’ play in loss to 49ers?

When these two teams last faced off, Seattle walked away with a 17-9 victory, adding to their soon-to-be franchise-record seven wins on the road.

Both teams have been hit hard by injuries this season, and like the Seahawks like to say, “next man up.” That has certainly been the case over the second half of the season, especially with younger players, and those players will have to continue stepping up if the Seahawks want to make a deep postseason run.

Here’s what the coach and players are saying heading into the first round of the playoffs.

Injury updates

The Seahawks got back two defensive starters last week and will likely get another one back this week against the Eagles.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said starting free safety Quandre Diggs will practice this week and has a good chance at playing in Philadelphia.

“It feels good,” Diggs said. “I’m excited to be practicing with my guys again.”

Diggs suffered an ankle injury in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers and missed the next two games. He said the injury happened while he was making a tackle and his foot got underneath another player. He’s played in just five games with Seattle and has three interceptions and a forced fumble. He’s excited to be back for the playoffs.

“I’m definitely excited. It’s a blessing,” he said. “It will be a fun atmosphere.”

Diggs was one of two key starters out for the Seahawks last week against the San Francisco 49ers. The other was offensive tackle Duane Brown, who had minor knee surgery last week. While he’s advancing in his recovery, he appears unlikely to play against the Eagles.

“He’s working at it. He’s trying to get back,” Carroll said. “He’s going for it. We’ll see what he can do. We don’t know anything right now. There’s nothing he’s done on the field yet.”

More good news for the Seahawks is two-time 1,000-yard running back Chris Carson does not need surgery on his injured hip.

“It’s still quite an extensive recovery, but he has no surgery,” Carroll said. “The recovery will be as quick as possible and he will have a rally good attitude about it. He’s a great worker and we won’t have any problems expecting him to come back.”

Wide receiver Malik Turner missed the San Francisco game with a concussion and Carroll said he still must pass some tests to be able to play Sunday.

That could open the door for rookie receiver John Ursua to play more. He made the first catch of his NFL career on fourth-and-10 last week in the fourth quarter.

Carroll raved about the rookie, saying he has excellent body control, great “catching range” and much more. While Ursua may not display all that this week or in a deep playoff run, Carroll is certainly excited about the upside Ursua has.

“As soon as it all clicks and he’s in, he’s going to be a factor,” Carroll said.

Travis Homer

Homer started the season as Seattle’s fourth running back and was thrust into action as the lead back two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals after both Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise left the game with injuries.

He was the lone healthy back remaining, and on one of his carries, he took the ball upfield and lowered his shoulder to hit into a defender. Carroll usually loves that type of style, but given the situation, he had to tell his rookie back to tone it down a bit.

“He just crushed into the guy going out of bounds and I’m like ‘Homer no!’” Carroll recalled. “He’s all we had, you know? And I told him ‘you’ve got to pick your spots here because we don’t have any depth’ and he looked at me like there ain’t no way. He didn’t to listen to a thing I said. He was going to go downhill and that’s the way he plays.”

Homer said he remembers the conversation and not agreeing with what he heard.

“Man, I really didn’t like it, but I had to do what I had to do,” he said, laughing.

Carroll said they love the way Homer approaches the game and that he is always giving it his all, regardless of what the play is.

“He’s never been anything but full speed,” Carroll said. “He’s 1,000 percent every time he gets the ball in his hands or chases a punt or whatever he does on special teams. He’s been really true to who he is.”

Homer had some great moments on the field against the 49ers last week. He had 92 total yards on offense and he also played alongside the great Marshawn Lynch, who Seattle brought back after so many injuries at the position.

Homer got the start, getting the ball a few times before Lynch saw the field. He outplayed and outsnapped the potential Hall of Famer, and clearly he has Lynch’s respect.

A video surfaced after the game of Lynch telling Homer that he was inspiring him with his play. Homer doesn’t take that conversation for granted.

“It was definitely a cool moment for me,” Homer said. “To have one of the greatest come up to me and say what he said, I took that to heart.”

Before the game started, when the offensive starters were being introduced, Homer, Lynch and Robert Turbin all came out together, representing the entire running back unit. Homer said that wasn’t his idea.

“That was Marshawn’s,” he said. “I didn’t really know what he was doing at first because he didn’t really explain it, but when I saw what was going on I was like OK this is actually pretty cool.”

Cody Barton

Another key player got injured for Seattle, as linebacker Mychal Kendricks tore his ACL against the 49ers. Taking his place once again will be rookie Cody Barton, who says he’s up for the task.

“I wouldn’t say more prepared. I prepare the same every week even if I’m the starter,” he said. “I’ve always expected at some point this season to be playing. The preparation always stayed the same so now (I’m) actually going to play again, so I’ll be ready.”

While playing and starting in his first NFL postseason game is a great thing, Barton wants to stay even keeled.

“It’s a cool experience, but at the same time you can get caught up thinking, ‘Oh I’m starting in the playoffs’ and then you start putting pressure on yourself,” Barton said. “At the end of the day, it’s still the same football game even though it is the playoffs.”

The Eagles have utilized a lot of quick passes and screens, partly because they’ve had so many injuries with their receivers. Barton said that’s not necessarily unique and having recently played in college could help him against those plays.

“We played them before and we know it’s something they like to do,” Barton said. “Obviously they’re going to change some things, but I wouldn’t say it’s overall different. Plus in college too it’s a lot of that.”

Something that is different for Barton this year compared to his time in college is playing closer to the line of scrimmage as an outside linebacker. One thing he’s had to adjust is how he sees the field.

“The field of view is different versus playing off the ball where you’re seeing everything and seeing the whole picture and shooting gaps and this and that,” he said. “You’re down at the line of scrimmage where … you’re holding edges and fighting the tackles … playing any position beats standing on the sideline.”

Luckily for him, he has two veteran linebackers playing with him in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.

“It’s reassuring because even if you do mess up you have someone to clean you up,” Barton said. “Playing with those guys, they’re older guys and smart guys, too. On the field they’re talking to me, helping me out, so playing with them is awesome.”

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