Seahawks Insider Blog

Michael Bennett, Justin Britt expected back Sunday vs. Carolina; Earl Thomas runs to test hamstring

Pete Carroll eventually cuts off questions about Seahawks' O-line

"We were just ... off."
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"We were just ... off."

RENTON They are humbled.

But they are healing.

The Seahawks are expecting to get at least three starters back from injuries for Sunday night’s home game against the Carolina Panthers, coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. That’s Michael Bennett, Justin Britt and perhaps DeShawn Shead.

Carroll spoke one day after Seattle (7-3-1) produced a dud for the third game this season, a 14-5 loss at Tampa Bay.

“Really disappointed with our performance (Sunday), from the top on down,” Carroll said.

“A bad outing. But we’re going to get right this week.”

He added the result makes the team “really respect what’s going on” and what level of performance they need to sustain to keep winning.

In other words, Tampa Bay humbled the Seahawks, who had won three consecutive games before Sunday.

The coach also said three-time All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas “ran hard” on Monday testing his strained hamstring, though Carroll said Thomas is behind Shead in their recoveries from the same type injury.

Thomas didn’t even make the trip to Tampa and missed his first game Sunday after 118 consecutive starts to begin his career. That is a team record for a defensive player.

“DeShawn, I think, is a little ahead. We need to see,” Carroll said. “Earl ran really hard (Monday) and had a good workout. We’ll have to see as we get through the week. Shead was about that level last week. DeShawn looks like he’s ahead.”

Carroll said the Seahawks are “counting on” Bennett to play against the Panthers. The Pro Bowl defensive end has missed the last five games following arthroscopic knee surgery last month.

“He thinks he’s on,” Carroll said after he talked to Bennett. “We have to get all the clearance from the doctors, trainers think he’s in great shape and ready to go, so we’re counting on him playing. He’s very positive about it, really looking forward to getting back.”

His return would be timely. When he’s been in there for all four of the Panthers-Seahawks games since 2013 Seattle has succeeded in limiting Carolina quarterback Cam Newton from getting outside and extending plays with his legs, the situations in which he is most dangerous.

Britt’s sprained ankle that sidelined him for the loss to the Bucs should be healed for him to start at center for the 11th time in 12 games this weekend.

“Yeah, he should be back,” Carroll said.

Rookie center Joey Hunt made his first career start against Tampa Bay and played OK.

“I thought Joey did a nice job,” Carroll said. “He handled the fronts, handled the calls, run blocked effectively, helped in pass protection. He was not at issue there. He held up his end of it.”

But the coach emphasized about his offensive line that allowed the Buccaneers to sack Russell Wilson six times: "Nobody played very well. We had problems.”

Garry Gilliam started at right tackle as he had each previous game this season, but exited after just three plays against the Bucs. Bradley Sowell, who had started the season as the left tackle, replaced Gilliam for the final 60 plays.

I asked Carroll Monday if Sowell played better than Gilliam had been playing.

“Well, he played a lot of the game, so we got a good evaluation of him. He did OK,” the coach said, not exactly gushing. “He held up pretty well at the right side.”

Sowell indicated following the game the plan had been to alternate him and Gilliam almost by series. Carroll said Monday Gilliam exiting for good after just one series and three plays “kind of just happened that way.”

After a couple more questions about the offensive line Carroll ended the issue with: “Let's go to the next question. Offensive line, we're done.”

Which, of course, means that the offensive line is THE issue.

Britt’s return will only help that. He’s emerged as the most consistent blocker this season -- and a pleasant development. Seattle moved him the center this offseason. It’s his third position in three NFL seasons with the Seahawks, after he was the starting right tackle as a rookie in 2014 and left guard last season.

This season coaches have credited him for anchoring what until Sunday in Tampa was an improving line, and for being on point in his pre-snap reads and communicating calls to fellow linemen.