The Seahawks will checking on more than just the weather before kickoff this weekend.
Seattle’s defense has two major questions on the eve of facing the league’s best offense Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Kam Chancellor has “a little groin aggravation” from practice on Thursday, coach Pete Carroll said after Chancellor sat out Friday’s practice. Seattle listed the four-time Pro Bowl strong safety as questionable. Carroll said Chancellor will be a game-time decision on Sunday against the 4-1 Atlanta Falcons.
Pass rusher Frank Clark also did not practice Friday. He is also questionable and will also be a game-time decision.
Clark “tweaked” (again Carroll’s term) his hamstring in practice on Monday, the team’s first day back from the bye week off.
“He just came out of practice Monday with a sore hamstring,” Carroll said. “Talked to Frank today. He feels really good today, but we are still going to have to wait a couple days and go all the way up to game time on that one, too.
“We’ve got to make a decision on him about long term and all that. He thinks he’s ready to go. We’ll wait and see.”
The fact forecasters are calling for thunderstorms with winds that could gust to past 40 miles per hour might make Sunday the wrong time to test Clark’s hamstring. Or Chancellor’s groin, for that matter.
Such wind would be an issue in the game, especially against Atlanta’s league-leading passing game and Seattle’s recent success throwing with injured Russell Wilson in the pocket.
“It’s more just the winds,” Wilson said of Sunday’s potential for stormy weather.
Seattle’s defensive line this week got back rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed from a hip injury that kept him out of Seattle’s win Oct. 2 at the New York Jets. Carroll said Reed is ready to play fully Sunday.
End Garrison Smith is questionable with an oblique injury he got in this week of unusual attrition for no-contact work following a week off.
“Garrison practiced full today. He’s fine,” Carroll said.
The coach said that’s the reason he thinks Seattle’s defensive line depth is OK, even if the Seahawks determine the risk of playing Clark Sunday is too great for his availability beyond the Atlanta game.
Seattle’s been using Clark inside with Pro Bowl end Michael Bennett as tackles in nickel defenses on passing downs, with Cliff Avril and Cassius Marsh outside off each edge. Clark has three sacks in four games.
If Chancellor can’t play, veteran backup and special-teams mainstay Kelcie McCray will at strong safety. McCray started three games last season when Chancellor was out with a pelvis injury, and in that time earned the trust of Seattle’s coaches.
“Kelcie’s already ready to step in,” Carroll said. “We are very fortunate to have him.”
Carroll said this injury is on the opposite side from the groin strain that Chancellor had in 2014.
The coach said wide receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner Tyler Lockett is fully healthy. Lockett sprained his knee in the second game, Sept. 18 at Los Angeles, and has been limited to only returning punts and a few plays on offense since then.
“He’s back,” Carroll said.
But he would not say whether Lockett will return kickoffs against Atlanta. If he does not, C.J. Spiller and Paul Richardson likely will again.
When asked Friday if he will be fully back in the offense Sunday, the second-year wide receiver sounded like his 65-year-old coach.
“We shall see. Your guess is as good as mine,” said Lockett, who starred at Kansas State for Bill Snyder, a coach notoriously mum on injuries.
“I mean, I used to play for Coach Snyder, so I don’t really say much when it comes to playing.”
The Seahawks list C.J. Prosise as questionable for Sunday, but Carroll said it will be next week before the rookie third-round pick returns from a broken bone in his wrist. Spiller, signed days before Seattle’s last game two weeks ago, remains the third-down back with Prosise out.
With Mike Morgan out for a while following surgery for a sports hernia, Carroll said Kevin Pierre-Louis will play a lot at strong side linebacker against the Falcons. Seattle’s fourth-round pick in 2014 has only played weak side linebacker in his career — in a regular-season game, that is. Seattle’s had him working at strong side linebacker since the spring, after Bruce Irvin signed with Oakland.
“We’re going to see a lot of KPL, and Cassius is ready to go if we need him,” Carroll said. “(Recently signed) Jordan Tripp also backs up there too, so we’re in good shape.”
Then again, who’s at strong side linebacker has been almost a moot point in recent Seahawks games. They’ve played mostly nickel defense, with five backs, two linebackers — K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner — and no strong side linebacker.
Atlanta typically plays in more two-running-back, two-tight-end sets than any of the Seahawks’ first four opponents. That would suggest more base defense for Seattle on Sunday, and thus plenty of Pierre-Louis in his debut there.
But given his inexperience there and the fact the Seahawks are leading the league in yards allowed while primarily in nickel so far this season, don’t be surprised if Seattle is in five defensive backs the majority of the game again on Sunday.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle