RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks will be without defensive lineman Chris Clemons, their leader in sacks, when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday.
Clemons, who had 11.5 sacks, was placed on the injured reserve with ACL and meniscus tears in his left knee on Wednesday.
It will take the Seahawks three players to replace Clemons’ production.
Bruce Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round draft pick this season, will go from a third-down, pass-rush specialist to an every-down player, taking Clemons’ role as Seattle’s starting defensive end.
It’s the role the Seahawks drafted him to eventually fill, so Irvin gets an early opportunity to show what he can do.
Irvin finished the regular season with eight sacks, leading all NFL rookies. He notched another sack on Sunday against Washington in the NFC wild-card game.
Even better for Irvin, he gets his first career start while playing in his hometown of Atlanta.
“He’s had a very consistent work ethic of a mature player that’s been around,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said about Irvin. “He’s still watching the older guys and learning from them. He’s been productive. I think he has more sacks in him. I think he can be a double-digit sack guy for years to come.”
Carroll also will look to rookie Greg Scruggs, a seventh-round pick, to provide pass-rush help on the outside. The University of Louisville product served as a backup to Red Bryant, along with working as an inside rusher at defensive tackle in passing situations. Scruggs has two sacks this season, and at 6-foot-3 and 284 pounds, Carroll said he’s more of a classic 4-3 defensive end.
“I’m the renaissance man of the D-line,” Scruggs said. “I’ll take a little bit more snaps to relieve Bruce (Irvin). But I’m also still in my same role to relieve Red (Bryant), and come in on third down and do the same things I’ve been doing.”
The Seahawks also signed Patrick Chukwurah to take Clemons’ spot on the active roster.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2001 by Minnesota, Chuwurah spent three seasons with the Vikings. He also played for Denver from 2004-06, recording a career-high 4.5 sacks with the Broncos his final season there.
Chukwurah spent 2007 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he played for current Seattle defensive line coach Todd Wash and current defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Chukwurah also played two seasons in the United Football League for the Florida Tuskers.
“It went pretty good, man,” Chukwurah said about his tryout. “I was thankful to have the opportunity. I felt that I went out there and gave it everything I’ve got. There were a couple things I felt that I lost a step or two on, but I made up for it in other areas. So according to them they thought I did pretty good.”
At 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, the 33-year-old Chukwurah has been working out in Tampa waiting for another opportunity, so his speed and athleticism stood out during his tryout with the team on Tuesday.
Carroll also liked the possibility of Chukwurah playing special teams in a pinch, along with serving as a backup to Irvin.
“I’m here for the team,” Chukwurah said. “Hopefully we have a long run to the Super Bowl, because it definitely would be a nice ending to the story to get a Super Bowl ring, along with all the stuff that happens this week.”
CHIPPY SEAHAWKS? FALCONS OK WITH THAT
The Atlanta Falcons are familiar with the chippy, voluble Seahawks defensive backfield embodied by cornerback Richard Sherman.
They see it. They hear it. They’re cool with it.
“All good defensive secondaries have swagger and have confidence,” veteran Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said Wednesday. “Second-guessing yourself, that’s when the ball goes over your head. Richard Sherman? He likes to mess with your mind. More power to him. You need some swagger on the back end. He’s bought into that.”
The Seahawks had three players sit out of practice on Wednesday.
Running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice because of a foot injury. Lynch has missed practice in the past because of a nagging back injury.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) and safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring) also did not practice for the Seahawks.
For Atlanta, two reserves in the secondary were held out of practice Wednesday: cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring) and safety Charles Mitchell (calf).
Safety William Moore (hamstring) and defensive end John Abraham (ankle) were limited in practice, and cornerback Dunta Robinson (head) was a full participant in practice.
Abraham and Robinson suffered their injuries in Atlanta’s final regular-season game two weeks ago against Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks released defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga from the practice squad, and signed defensive tackle Myles Wade in his place. Wade played for Portland State and spent part of 2012 with Tampa Bay. … Former Fresno State coach Pat Hill, once a candidate in the job search that brought Steve Sarkisian to the University of Washington, oversees the Falcons offensive line. Another assistant — offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter — is a former Arizona State head coach familiar with some of the schemes Carroll once used at USC. “Not even the same,” Koetter said. “This is the NFL. Both teams have 16 games of film to put together on the opponent. It’s not close to what we were doing at Arizona State and USC.”Staff writer John McGrath contributed to this report. Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com @eric_d_williamsblog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks