If the sky isn’t completely falling on the Seahawks’ defense, the ceiling is so dangerously low.
And an era is so absolutely over.
The Seahawks had 23 combined Pro Bowl selections on their starting defense this time last season. For Monday night’s game at Chicago, they will have six. and all six are by Earl Thomas.
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Just think if Thomas hadn’t ended his holdout last week.
The All-Pro free safety is the only member of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl defense from the 2013 and ‘14 seasons who will be on the field when Seattle plays at Chicago Monday in the second game of the 2018 season.
The Seahawks declared All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner (groin), Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright (knee surgery) and Pro Bowl wide receiver Doug Baldwin (sprained knee) out for the Bears game. Rookie starting cornerback Tre Flowers is doubtful to play because of a hamstring injury.
Wagner will miss his first game since October 2015.
“He had a groin thing that showed up kind of late (in last week’s game),” coach Pete Carroll said following Saturday’s walk-through practice. “He felt it, but thought it was a cramp or something coming out of the game and it just took him a couple of days to get it assessed. He’s running. He’s already working hard, but he’s not quite ready.
“So we’ll get him probably next week.”
Though Carroll would not confirm it, expect second-year free agent Austin Calitro will play at middle linebacker; backing up Wagner is why Calitro made the team this month.
Carroll said Wright also has a chance to play in next week’s home opener against Dallas.
Baldwin will end his streak of 89 consecutive games played. That dates to 2012, his second year in the league with Seattle. Monday’s will be only the third game he’s missed in his eight-year career.
Wagner played all 74 snaps of last week’s opener at Denver, and Flowers played 72 of the 74, before they missed practices this week.
Calitro played weakside linebacker last week, replacing struggling rookie Shaquem Griffin in the second quarter against the Broncos and played the rest of the game mainly on early, run downs with Griffin entering on passing downs.
All this, including Wagner’s injury this week, is why the Seahawks took the desperate step of signing admitted insider trader Mychal Kendricks for a week or two rental while he faces a possible prison sentence this winter.
“Yeah, he’s going to play,” Carroll said Saturday before Kendricks and his new team flew to Chicago.
In fact, the Eagles’ starting weakside linebacker in February’s Super Bowl will likely start for Seattle against the Bears. That’s how much they thought Griffin struggled in his debut at that position last week.
“The background that he has and the instincts that he has and he’s been coached really well over the years, he really has a chance to pick it up really quickly and get in there and help us,” Carroll said. “He had three really good days and studied like crazy with the coaches and he’s ready to help us out.”
But what about the insider trading and possible prison sentence and/or NFL suspension Kendricks could be getting?
“Well, we had done a lot of homework on it and it happened four and a half years ago, so it’s a story that’s been worked on for a long time,” Carroll said. “A lot of good information. We have come to learn who he is and what he’s all about and how remorseful he was and how he admitted to his mistake a long time ago. He paid the money back. He did all of the right things along the way and the process continues. But he just...we just checked everything that we could possibly check out.
“This guy deserves a second chance.”
Especially when the decimated Seahawks really need a weakside linebacker who has started a Super Bowl.
“I’m as ready as I can be, with the two days,” Kendricks said Saturday. “It’s football, you know, it’s a game I’ve played since I was a little boy and there’s a lot I’ve learned in my seven years as a pro. So, I’m going to take that knowledge and use it in the game, if I get a chance to play.”
Carroll said Seahawks general manager John Schneider has talked “extensively” to the league office regarding possible NFL punishment of Kendricks.
“And there’s nothing that we can really report on it,” Carroll said. “We have to respect the process right now and just wait it out.”
Nickel back Justin Coleman is likely to start for Flowers at right cornerback, though Carroll said Flowers was making the trip to Chicago “and we’ll see how he is on game day.”
Special-teams ace Neiko Thorpe and Akeem King, promoted from the practice squad last week, are other options there.
The Seahawks listed starting left cornerback Shaquill Griffin as questionable for Monday because of a thigh injury. But Carroll said Griffin is “ready to play.”
D.J. Fluker being doubtful after not practicing for the second consecutive week because of a hamstring strain makes J.R. Sweezy the expected starter again at right guard in Chicago.
Backup strong safety Delano Hill is doubtful with yet another hamstring injury to a Seahawk. That’s why Seattle on Saturday signed safety Shalom Luani from the practice squad. Starting strong safety Hill replaced starting strong safety Bradley McDougald for 13 plays last week at Denver. McDougald was limited in two practices this week by an injured knee.
How much do the Seahawks think they need Luani against Chicago, on defense and special teams? They cut starting defensive tackle Tom Johnson to clear a roster spot for Luani.
The Seahawks signed Johnson as a free agent from Minnesota this spring to a one-year, $900,000 contract to be a run stopper inside. Nazair Jones, inactive last week, is poised to play a lot Monday night.
“Yeah, because of what happened with the numbers we just, we had to do something to make a move,: Carroll said of Johnson’s unexpected release. “We had to figure out which is the best way for us and over the long haul of this thing. Tom did a great job for us. We love him. We hated to have to separate like that. He’s a good ballplayer.”
Asked if Johnson could be back re-signed onto the team soon, the coach said: “Yeah, there definitely could be a chance for that.”
Whew! All that, and it’s only week two.
The Seahawks in Chicago will be without nine starters on defense that started in week two of the 2017 season. Thomas and defensive tackle Jarran Reed are the only returning starters who are healthy and ready for the Bears game.
And Thomas wants out of Seattle because the Seahawks haven’t traded him or given him a rich extension of his contract that ends after this year.
So, yes, it’s about as bad a start to a season that an already-changed defense as the Seahawks could have.
“I think the way we respond is really important, and we always respond,” Carroll said. “We give the love to the guys that are going to have to step out for a bit, but the focus really goes on the guys that are stepping in. And we asked them to elevate, to play at the same level that the guy before him (did) without exception....
“We embrace the new opportunity that’s there, at hand.”