At his media session last week, Sherman stumped for the middle linebacker to be voted into the Pro Bowl — and now it looks like Wagner will have no chance to make it.
Coach Pete Carroll said Wagner is likely to miss several games with a sprained toe suffered in the loss to Dallas on Sunday.
It’s the second straight year Wagner has suffered a significant injury that has cost him games. Last year, he missed two games with a high ankle sprain, which affected him for a couple of games beyond that.
Wagner has played very well ever since he got over the ankle injury, and his 50 tackles this season are 13 more than No. 2 tackler Kam Chancellor and 15 more than K.J. Wright, who will now take over Wagner’s spot in the middle.
Malcolm Smith will start at weakside linebacker, with Bruce Irvin at strongside. Both of them have been off to slow starts after offseason surgeries.
As Sherman talked last week about how underrated Seattle’s linebackers are, someone asked him if he had an idea for a nickname for the LBs to go along with the secondary’s LOB. A nickname? For a group that has never played a full season together and probably won’t?
This group probably won’t even be together beyond this season. Wright and Smith will be free agents next year, and the Seahawks will have to decide by May whether to exercise their fifth-year option on Irvin for 2016. They also will have to decide whether to offer Wagner an extension — 2015 is the last year of his rookie deal.
This group has been streaky. Wright’s versatility has been touted, but he has never ascended to a level that would merit a big contract. He was great covering tight ends last season, but he has not been nearly as effective in that area this year. Sometimes he makes a big impact on the game (e.g, at Washington) and others he doesn’t make any plays of consequence.
Smith had a spectacular playoff run last season, culminating with the interceptions in the NFC title game and the Super Bowl. But he has been slow to come back from offseason ankle surgery. Like Wright, he was burned by Antonio Gates for a touchdown in San Diego, and he has played in just 32.9 percent of the snaps this season. That will change over the next few weeks.
Irvin is starting to round into form after offseason hip surgery. He played well in Washington, too, and is starting to become a factor as a pass rusher — Tony Romo had to pull a magic-act move on Irvin to convert the key third-and-20 for Dallas on Sunday. Irvin missed the Denver game and has played in just 41.9 percent of the snaps so far, but that will increase with Wagner out.
“It sucks to lose Bobby for any amount of time because of how dynamic of a player he is,” Sherman said today, “but it’s a blessing to have guys like K.J. and Malcolm Smith be able to step in and us not lose too much of a beat. Those guys are going to be able to play excellent football, give them more opportunities and less time to switch off, which I think frustrates both of those guys. But they’ll get their chance to shine.”
The linebackers played well without Wagner last season, so there is hope they will do so again. But there will be no Pro Bowl for Wagner and no nickname for a group that likely won’t even remain together after this injury-riddled year.