Despite playoff runs for most of his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll has rarely been faced with the “rest starters” question over the last nine seasons. That is probable to change if the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, locking in their playoff berth and all but sealing their position in the five seed. Based on Seattle’s health status at the moment though, it’s only reasonable to ask: Who could rest against the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals over the final two weeks of the regular season?
On Thursday, six players didn’t practice and four were limited. That’s a significant portion of the 53-man roster.
Seahawks injury report for Thursday. Penny still out and Clark also out with an elbow issue after being limited on Wednesday. Good news is Baldwin is back to limited: pic.twitter.com/lnfeEi0S5W— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 14, 2018
We know that starting right guard D.J. Fluker is in trouble with his “legitimate” hamstring injury and seeing him during the regular season again sounds unlikely. That will give Carroll three more games to evaluate UDFA Jordan Simmons.
Three starters on defense to sit out though were Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, and Shamar Stephen, making up three-fourths of their defensive line. I would doubt them missing this week’s game against the 49ers, but the team may choose not to push them over the final few weeks, especially given the importance of Clark and Reed, who’ve combined for over half of the team’s sacks this season. Stephen has flown under the radar, but has kept Seattle from taking a long look at either Nazair Jones or Poona Ford at defensive tackle, maintaining his position as the starter next to Reed.
The big name on offense to be in question for this week’s game is backup running back Rashaad Penny, who actually seems like a good candidate to be the starter if the Seahawks lock in the number five seed by next week. That’ll give the team a good opportunity to rest Chris Carson, who is oft injured throughout his football career. If both Carson and Penny need rest though, Mike Davis is a fine player to get carries in the interim.
Speaking of offense, Doug Baldwin was limited on Thursday, which actually feels like a step forward for the veteran receiver. He is a key player for Russell Wilson and it seems like the team should be looking to rest him for the playoffs, though Carroll sounds optimistic that he could even play Sunday in San Francisco. That feels like a coach paying lip service to the narrative that Seattle might miss the playoffs and will need Baldwin, because the fact is that the Seahawks are almost assured their spot in the five seed at this point. Still, Baldwin may get in some offensive snaps between now and January to keep the joints oiled, but he may be best served to get rest for an upcoming road trip to Dallas.
More issues on defense though point to limited participation by Bradley McDougald, K.J. Wright, and Dion Jordan, but being limited in Week 15 could be a good sign for availability in the wild card round, especially when it comes to Wright. We know that Mychal Kendricks is out for the season, so the option of Wright for the playoffs could be paramount. McDougald’s value is unquestionable too, so the team should be taking all precautions with him in the secondary.
Overall, the team seems banged up, but if they can lock in a playoff spot this Sunday, it gives them plenty of opportunity to rest key players for at least the next three weeks. Whether or not that includes uninjured starters such as Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, or Duane Brown is a question for another day, but it is not too soon to ask if it’s a good time to play it safe for those who are dinged up at the moment. That “dinged” list is rather long, and that may be a good reason to play it safe in the meantime.