Five of the seven players who did not practice Wednesday are “backs”– running backs or cornerbacks – leaving the Seahawks pretty thin at those spots.
Not practicing – and therefore questionable at this point for Sunday in Cincinnati – were running backs Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) and Fred Jackson (high ankle sprain) and cornerbacks Tharold Simon (toe), Marcus Burley (thumb), and Tye Smith (hip). Joining them were defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs (shoulder) and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (hamstring), who both missed the win over Detroit on Monday.
On the bright side, Brandon Mebane (groin), Ricardo Lockette (breath) and Steven Terrell (hip) all returned to practice, and Pete Carroll said he is “pretty hopeful” that Mebane will play.
Carroll said Lynch is “day-to-day” and “it will take us all the way to the end of the week before we know. He did make a lot of progress last week and was able to run around some and all that. He’s worked really hard at it, so we’ll see if we can get it done.”
As for Jackson, Carroll said, “Fred looks pretty good. He had what we would call a high ankle sprain, but he’s getting around OK. A little bit of a surprise. We’ve got to see what that means. It’s going to take him all week too to figure out whether he can run on it, but he is bouncing around a little bit, and he’s hopeful that he can pull it off. We’ll see what happens.”
If Lynch and Jackson both remain out, Thomas Rawls and Derrick Coleman would carry the rushing load in Cincinnati. The Seahawks have not scored a rushing touchdown yet this season, and Rawls followed up his 104-yard performance against Chicago with a tough game – just 48 yards on 17 carries – against Detroit.
Asked whether he feels good about the depth at running back right now, Carroll cracked, “Yeah, I feel OK. Thanks for asking.”
The Hawks are feeling iffy enough about their corner depth that they reportedly brought in two guys — Crezdon Butler and Chimdi Checkwa – for workouts on Wednesday.
Simon and Burley are not expected to play. If Smith also cannot go, the Hawks would be down to DeShawn Shead behind starters Richard Sherman and Cary Williams. They also have two on the practice squad — Kevin Short and George Farmer.
Carroll said Burley will have surgery on his broken thumb Thursday “and we’ll find out what that means. There’s a chance that it’s a very quick recovery, so we’ll see how that goes. It depends on what happens in the surgery.”
As for Simon, who has been bothered by various injuries ever since the Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round in 2013, Carroll said, “Tharold Simon is not going to make it right now. We’re still working with his injuries. It’s still been an issue for us and for him.” It wouldn’t be surprising if the Seahawks ended up just placing him on injured reserve.
Injuries aside, the secondary (and the entire defense, for that matter) has another problem: It has not intercepted a pass yet this season.
“That eats at me,” Carroll said. “We’re extremely committed to getting the football and taking it away. But you’ve seen some games and some ways that people have thrown the ball at us to maintain their possession of it. We had a lot of quick throws last week from a very high-powered offense, and the week before they were very careful with the ball.”
Teams have learned the best way to beat Seattle’s defense is to dink and dunk down the field, using short passes to backs, tight ends and shallow-routed receivers. The Legion of Boom has proven it will not let teams get over the top, so they go underneath instead.
“We’ve taken the ball off people pretty consistently for years, so it’s a good way to try to nullify that factor,” Carroll said. “I think it’s a combination of stuff, but they’re going to come in bunches now though. It’s going to happen.”
Meanwhile, the undefeated Bengals lead the NFL in big passing plays. They have 15 of at least 25 yards and Andy Dalton leads the league at 10.2 yards per attempt.
But the Seahawks have Kam Chancellor, whose return has put the clamps on big plays by opponents. After yielding six pass plays of at least 25 yards in 60 throws over the first two games, the Seahawks have allowed one such pass play in 52 attempts with Chancellor back in the lineup. Most of those big plays started as short passes, so Chancellor obviously has done a good job of putting teammates in the right positions.
The silver lining to the cornerback injuries is that the full Legion of Boom will be there, and the Bengals figure to have a tougher time breaking big pass plays than they have had in wins against Oakland, San Diego, Baltimore and Kansas City.