RENTON – Versatility is Josh Pinkard’s strong suit.
The 25-year-old safety bided his time on the practice squad last year in his first season in the NFL.
Now, after proving himself to the coaches in practice and game situations, the USC product gets his first career start on Saturday in Seattle’s third exhibition game, at Denver.
Pinkard will fill in for second-year pro Kam Chancellor at strong safety. Chancellor missed practice all week with a foot injury and will not play against the Broncos.
Pinkard suffered three different anterior cruciate ligament injuries at USC – two in his left knee and one in his right – but diligently rehabilitated and recovered from those setbacks to get back on the field
“For Josh, this is a great opportunity,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s worked very hard to get to here. It’s been a long haul for Josh, coming off the surgery, too. So we’ll wish him the best.”
Pinkard hopes to fill a role left vacant when Seattle did not re-sign veteran defensive back Jordan Babineaux – a versatile performer who played cornerback, safety and special teams.
Pinkard, who is being groomed to play a similar role, showed his playmaking ability against Minnesota last week. He saved a TD by tackling wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux from behind at the 5-yard line and punching the ball out of his hands and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Pinkard is part of a fierce battle for a roster spot at safety that includes veteran Atari Bigby, along with fifth-round draft pick Mark LeGree and undrafted free agent Jeron Johnson.
“It feels good just getting out there and getting a feel for it,” Pinkard said. “It’s always good to go out there and make plays because it builds your confidence, so it turned out really well for me.”
Joining Pinkard making his first start is rookie linebacker K.J. Wright, who will start at middle linebacker while David Hawthorne sits out with a sore knee.
And either Leon Washington or Justin Forsett will get the nod at running back, because Marshawn Lynch is sitting out with an ankle injury. Carroll said Lynch could play if Saturday was a regular-season game.
Two regulars will return to action on Saturday. Playing for the first time in the exhibition season will be defensive end Chris Clemons and receiver Ben Obomanu.
Obomanu is coming off a minor shoulder injury and Carroll said that he likely will play at least a half.
“Ben is looking great,” Carroll said. “We’ve had him out here quite a bit, but just not steady, full speed We got kind of glimpses of him, but this week he worked very hard. Ben started the last half of last season and really made a difference for us, and he’s just picked up right where he left off.”
Expect to see Obomanu in the slot with the first unit when they run three-receiver sets.
Clemons returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out most of the week to rest his surgically repaired ankle.
“We’d just like to get him out there and start him on his comeback,” Carroll said. “He looked fine in practice when he’s taken his turns. We’ll get him in there two or three plays at time and then out.”
Carroll said the starters will play into the third quarter against the Broncos. A key for the Seahawks and starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will be getting the offense going.
The first unit offense hasn’t scored in nine drives of the team’s first two exhibition games, a fact which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Jackson.
”I’m just looking to go out there and put some points on the board,” Jackson said “So we’re looking to move the ball and put the ball in the end zone a couple times, just try to get a little conditioning, more of a full-game tempo.”
Starting linebackers Aaron Curry (knee) and Leroy Hill (knee) were at full speed at practice Thursday, and are expected to play on Saturday. Defensive ends Dexter Davis (hip) and Pierre Allen (hamstring) did not practice on Thursday and will not play in the game. Tight end John Carlson (shoulder) is still out, and Russell Okung (ankle) participated in individual drills but will not play against the Broncos. Carroll said that wide receiver Deon Butler (leg), cornerback Roy Lewis (knee), defensive tackle Colin Cole (ankle) and tight end Cameron Morrah (toe) are not expected to come off the PUP list by the end of exhibition play, meaning they are unlikely to be active for start of the regular season. “Right now we’re being real patient with that,” Carroll said. “We don’t expect them to make it by the first game at all. They’re not going to make it. It’s going to be awhile.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks