The Seattle Seahawks opened the 2017 season with many strengths, and a few significant weaknesses. Among their most vulnerable positions was at left tackle, where Rees Odhiambo would be the starter for the foreseeable future, and at cornerback, where Jeremy Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin would be accumulating starter snaps.
Among the known strengths would be in the secondary with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, as well as a front-seven that included Cliff Avril and Jarran Reed. And positions that seemed to be on the biggest seesaw of either being a strength or weakness included left guard Luke Joeckel, and a running back corps with Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, and Tre Madden.
Here’s what we know about these positions now that the Seahawks prepare for their Week 11 matchup on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons: Many of those players are on injured reserve or won’t be suiting up this week.
Odhiambo struggled, was thankfully replaced by Duane Brown, and then almost immediately put on IR. This would be considered a good thing, but Brown suffered an ankle injury in Week 10 and is a gametime decision. If he can’t go, Seattle will be starting Matt Tobin at left tackle, and that’ll somehow make us all sorry that Odhiambo was put on IR.
Joeckel being out means that rookie Ethan Pocic will be making his fifth start. His play has been uneven and the experience he’s gaining seems to be a good thing, but Pocic’s rookie season seems to be going about the same as players like James Carpenter, Justin Britt, and Germain Ifedi, i.e., not good. The left side of the line could be at a season-low level of quality on Monday, which is saying a lot.
The loss of Carson to a broken ankle may be one of the more underrated injuries in the NFL this year, as he was clearly the only viable option on the 53-man roster following final cuts. The Seahawks are expected to run a lot against the Falcons, but with Lacy and Rawls averaging a combined 2.6 yards per carry, behind a battered offensive line, they may not stick with that plan for long. Lacy is also coming back from a groin injury that held him out of Week 10. Prosise and Madden won’t be there, as they are also on IR.
Defensively, it’s well-established by now that Seattle will be playing without Sherman for the first time since 2010, and without him as a starter for the first time since Week 4 of 2011. The Seahawks had promoted Griffin to the outside spot over Lane, but injuries now force both to be the starters barring how long it will take Byron Maxwell to take over some number one snaps, if he ever does. Chancellor will be out for the rest of the season as well, meaning that Bradley McDougald is Seattle’s new strong safety. So outside of Earl, who is coming back from missing the previous two games, the Seahawks secondary now consists of a backup at strong safety, a number one cornerback who is a rookie, and a number two cornerback who was benched for the rookie OR a cornerback who was cut from his former team just a few weeks ago.
Not that Earl wasn’t already a leader of the defense from his rookie season in 2010, but now more than ever he has to assume a lion’s share of responsibility in the secondary. Unfortunately, the same has to be said for Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson on the defensive line.
Avril only played in four games before the injury that landed him on IR and is threatening his career. If Reed, who is in the midst of a season where he seems to be evolving into a defensive tackle even better than what Seattle thought he would be when they drafted him in the second round last year, is also out (hamstring, gametime decision) then that’s 50% of the expected starting d-line. And Richardson recently missed a start himself, the Week 9 loss to Washington.
Football players are hurt ... constantly. Every week. Every day. Injuries are a part of the game and every team is dealing with having to work with replacements as starters. But some more than others, and the Seahawks are all-too-close to basically having half of their preferred starters on offense and defense on the injury report or IR.
Hopefully the backups can play like starters on a team that will almost certainly remain competitive through December regardless — and if they do, hopefully they can stay on the field.