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Seahawks defense banged up as 2018 NFL season opener looms

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We are just two weeks away from the Seattle Seahawks beginning their 2018 NFL regular season campaign against the Denver Broncos. There is obviously still one preseason game left to be played on Thursday vs. the Oakland Raiders, but there’s no remotely good reason for the first-team players to have more than one series.

On the injury front, I think it’s fair to say that the Seahawks (and many other teams, to be fair) have come away relatively unscathed in terms of devastating long-term injuries to key players in training camp or preseason action. However, Seattle does have quite a few presumptive starters on the mend and with their respective statuses uncertain for Week 1.

By now you’ve read that linebacker K.J. Wright is having his knee scoped, and is out indefinitely. If he can’t make the season opener, then rookie Shaquem Griffin gets the unexpected start. You may remember last year that Shaquill Griffin wasn’t supposed to have that many snaps in the opener against the Green Bay Packers, but Jeremy Lane’s ejection meant that in his own rookie debut, Shaquill effectively played as if he was the actual starter. This is obviously a different situation, and Shaquem figures to be a downgrade from KJ, as opposed to Shaquill proving to be a clear upgrade over Lane.

At the free safety position, Tedric Thompson is day-to-day with a combination of a rib injury and a neck stinger on a collision he had against the Minnesota Vikings last Friday. Earl Thomas’ holdout obviously isn’t over, so with him and Thompson not practicing on Monday, that shifted Bradley McDougald to FS and Delano Hill and Maurice Alexander split time at SS. That is not an ideal combination at SS, so hopefully Thompson’s “day-to-day” is exactly that, as hurt ribs and a stinger can’t be taken lightly.

Staying in the secondary, we’ve not seen Byron Maxwell play due to a hip flexor problem, and Carroll says “I can’t tell you” when he’ll practice again. Seattle has used Maxwell’s absence to take a look at rookie CB Tre Flowers, and then you have Dontae Johnson back in the mix following his broken foot. Maxwell was the CB2 last year as a midseason pick-up when Richard Sherman went down, and was favored to retain that role in 2018 on a one-year deal. Hell, there’s no guarantee he makes the team depending on how they view Flowers and Johnson.

On the front line, DE Frank Clark had just returned from wrist surgery, but evidently hyperextended his elbow in the Vikings game. Carroll said this was just a case of resting him on Monday, so that appears to be a positive. As for Dion Jordan, he’s making a push for Week 1 despite dealing with a stress fracture in his leg, but Carroll has not ruled out just placing him on the PUP list, which would render him unavailable for the first half-dozen games. Jordan’s impressive 2017 despite limited action gave fans some hope that he’d be an important part of Seattle’s revamped pass rush in 2018.

Assuming Clark is okay, if you take the worst case scenario, Seahawks at Broncos could potentially see Seattle’s defense without its second-best linebacker (Wright), #2 cornerback (Maxwell), a starting pass rusher (Jordan), and its backup safety-turned-starter if Earl Thomas isn’t back soon (Thompson).

It looks as if the strength of Seattle’s defensive depth is going to have an early test come September.