The way things are going, the Seahawks might end up playing two defensive linemen all game against Oakland on Thursday. And the season opener at Carolina might not be much better.
Already toilet paper thin at the position, the Hawks got more crappy news this week when Brandon Mebane pulled up with a groin injury, the hobbled Jesse Williams landed on injured reserve and Michael Bennett left town to have a toe problem taken care of.
With Chris Clemons (ACL), Cliff Avril (hamstring), Jordan Hill (bicep), Tony McDaniel (groin) and Greg Scruggs (knee, PUP) injured, the Hawks are down to Red Bryant and a handful of guys trying to secure spots.
It means Clinton McDonald, Sealver Siliga, Jaye Howard and Benson Mayowa all have a shot based on how they play Thursday.
McDaniel has played in just one game and will miss the Oakland game because of an ongoing groin injury, but it sounds like he has made the team.
Coach Pete Carroll told reporters Wednesday that Mebane and McDaniel won’t play Thursday but the coaches “hope to get both those guys back next week.” Teams have to cut down to 53 players Saturday, so it sounds like Carroll is counting McDaniel among the 53.
McDaniel, a free-agent pickup from Miami, finally got into a game on Friday in Green Bay and played pretty well, coming up with a batted pass and a tackle for loss.
“Tony had a nice game,” Carroll told reporters Monday. “He did well. He was active and was aggressive. He knocked a ball down, got some movement in his pass rush. We were happy with the way he played, so we’re going to need to put another week together. I’ve been telling you for a long time that it’s going to be the whole preseason to figure it out. I would love to see him come back and have another big game.”
Well, he isn’t coming back, and unless Carroll is just covering his bases by saying he hopes to get McDaniel back next week, the lineman appears to have made the team.
But how many injured players can they keep on the defensive line?
Carroll seems unsure what the team will do with Clemons, who has “made fantastic progress … but he hasn’t worked against anybody or practiced or any of that kind of stuff,” Carroll told reporters, per The Seattle Times. “We have a big decision to make there and we’re going to have to figure that one out.’’
Carroll also is unsure about the availability of Hill and Avril for the opener.
“(Hill) is responding really well and we are hoping it’s a week-to-week situation,” Carroll said. “We will find out where he is next week and just take it from there. … There is a chance he will get back here maybe sooner than we had thought originally.”
As for Avril, Carroll said, “We’re hoping he will be able to go next week, but we won’t know until we get there (Carolina).”
With final cuts looming Saturday, the Hawks have some tough decisions to make based on injury availability.
With Bruce Irvin suspended for four games, that’s five or six front-seven guys who are questionable or worse for the opener.
Positional flexibility — e.g., Bryant and Bennett can play inside, Mike Morgan and O’Brien Schofield can play LEO — means the Hawks don’t have to reach to keep less-talented players merely because of the position they play.
If the Hawks keep 25 defenders and 10 are defensive backs as usual, that leaves 15 for the front seven. The locks are Bryant, Mebane, Clemons, Hill, Bennett, Irvin, Morgan, Schofield, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith. That leaves four spots, plus one to replace the suspended Irvin and one to replace Clemons if he stays on PUP.
Because the Hawks have seven guys who can play linebacker, they figure to keep only two more true ‘backers: probably Allen Bradford to back up Wagner and one from among Heath Farwell, John Lotulelei and Ty Powell.
That would leave two permanent spots and one or two temporary positions for McDonald, McDaniel, Siliga, Howard and Mayowa. If Clemons stays on PUP, Mayowa seems almost certain to be the fourth guy. If Clemons comes off PUP, five guys are competing for three spots. But can McDaniel really make the team if he has barely competed all preseason?
It all depends on how many injured players they plan to keep on the D-line.
All of the uncertainty makes one thing very certain: The 53 players the Hawks keep Saturday will not be the 53 who are active for the opener.