Another day, another starter on the Seahawks defense hurt.
All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and rookie starting right cornerback Tre Flowers both missed practice for the second consecutive day. And Shaquill Griffin, Seattle’s other starting cornerback, missed Friday’s final full team workout before Monday night’s game at Chicago with a new thigh injury.
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Griffin had not been on the injury/practice-participation report the Seahawks issued Thursday.
That’s three starters on a defense that already had eight new starters in week one compared to the 2017 opener. That changed defense allowed 470 yards to the Broncos and Denver’s debuting quarterback Case Keenum last weekend in a 27-24 loss.
And that was with Wagner, Flowers and Griffin starting.
Yes, it’s only practice. But missing consecutive days so early in the season, as Wagner and Flowers have, hints at a larger concern than rest and injury preservation so they can play.
Wagner has missed only one game in the last four seasons. He played hurt on a bad hamstring in December, while the Seahawks got smacked 42-7 by the Rams in a changing-of-the-guard game in the NFC West. Fellow All-Pro and teammate Earl Thomas said after that game he didn’t think Wagner should have played injured that day.
Wagner played all 74 snaps of last weekend’s opening loss at Denver, then showed up on Thursday’s first practice report for the Bears game with a new groin injury. Austin Calitro, a second-year free agent from Villanova, made the team early this month to be Wagner’s backup at middle linebacker after an impressive preseason.
Calitro played 33 snaps from the second through fourth quarters against the Broncos—at weakside linebacker. That’s because Shaquem Griffin, the rookie fill-in starter there for injured Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright, struggled early in the game. The speedy Griffin played linebacker outside mostly in passing situations over the final 2 1/2 quarters at Denver, with the more rugged Calitro in for him on early downs.
The Seahawks addressed their concerns at weakside linebacker and Calitro possibly needing to play for Wagner by officially announcing on Friday the signing of Mychal Kendricks. He was the starting weakside linebacker in Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense in February’s Super Bowl.
Seattle’s short-term agreement with Kendricks, who is facing possible prison time for admitted insider trading with sentencing scheduled for January, became known on Thursday.
The Seahawks waived recently acquired backup linebacker Jermaine Grace with an injury designation to make roster space for Kendricks.
It’s shaping up as if Kendricks will indeed debut for the Seahawks at Chicago Monday, having just two full practices with the team. Wright appears to be at least one or two weeks away from returning from arthroscopic knee surgery late last month.
If Griffin can’t start against the Bears, look for usual nickel back Justin Coleman to be at left cornerback and perhaps nickel, too.
If Flowers is unable to play Monday, Akeem King, recently promoted from the practice squad, or special-teams ace Neiko Thorpe would be next up.
Griffin and Flowers are the third and fourth Seahawks starting cornerbacks hurt in the last month. Byron Maxwell went on injured reserve before receiving an injury settlement this month. Dontae Johnson was going to start last week’s opener until he suddenly went on injured reserve after apparently getting hurt in practice.
All this, and it’s only week two.
“It’s next man up,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “You can’t sit there and worry about a guy that’s not there.”
The one piece of good injury news for the battered-already defense: end Dion Jordan practiced fully for the first time since December. He had offseason knee surgery and then a stress fracture in his leg this summer. Jordan played 15 snaps last weekend at Denver. Coach Pete Carroll said this week Jordan will be able to play more than that opposite starting end Frank Clark against the Bears.
On offense, starting right guard D.J. Fluker hasn’t practiced in more than two weeks because of a strained hamstring. J.R. Sweezy will apparently start again for Fluker in Chicago.