Week 14 Players To Watch: Seahawks vs. Vikings
Jordan Simmons has started a grand total of one NFL game.
Yet that one game is why the Seahawks are good with Simmons blocking two guys who got away from them Monday night.
The guy Seattle claimed off waivers from woebegone Oakland in September will be on the spot Monday night when the Seahawks (7-5) host the Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) and their dangerous defensive line.
The Seahawks will be trying to establish their run again early in the game with running back Chris Carson—but without their best run blocker. D.J. Fluker will miss the game with a strained hamstring he got in the second half of last weekend’s win over San Francisco. That means Simmons will make his second NFL start, and second in a month. He replaced the injured Fluker in the fourth quarter of the 49ers game.
Coach Pete Carroll usually is coy about whether an injured starter is or isn’t going to play, and especially who would start of the hurt guy can’t.
Not this week. Not with Simmons.
“It’s so likely that we were OK there,” Carroll said of assuming Simmons vs. Minnesota. “Jordan jumped in the game and did a nice job this (past) week, again. He seems to be moving in the right direction to be a really, really viable option for us.’
With almost zero preparation, too.
“He doesn’t get that much practice time,” Carroll said, “so when he does get the practice time like he did in the Rams week (when Seattle knew Fluker was out), he did a very good job with it.
“So, we’re going to count on him playing (Monday) and see how that goes.”
Seattle claimed him off waivers from Oakland in September. That was after he spent 2017 on the practice squad.
Monday will give him as many starts in the NFL than he had in college, at USC. Yes, Simmons had just two college starts before the Raiders signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent last year.
Now he’s in the center of the Seahawks’ plans to get to the playoffs.
“Man, I came a long way,” Simmons said.
The Seahawks aren’t fretting, at least not a ton, without Fluker at right guard. That’s because of what Simmons helped them do last month at Los Angeles.
Playing on his college field at the Memorial Coliseum, Simmons started on Seattle’s line that moved Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defensive front around as the Seahawks gained 273 yards rushing in a 36-31 loss Nov. 11.
“I just wanted to go out there and do well for my first game, honestly, and don’t make many mistakes,” Simmons said of his debut. “Try to play without making many mistakes.”
Simmons was so excited to make his first career start, “I couldn’t sleep.” For days.
“That’s the thing about Coach Carroll and this team. You have to be ready, at any time, no matter what the situation is, when your name is called you have to step up,” he said. “Prepare as if you are going to be a starter, because you never know.”
He said the 68 snaps he got playing every down against the Rams were the most his family had seen him play in a game since high school.
“Before the game, I was emotional,” he said. “Just being in my home, college stadium. That was a lot for me.”
He’s about to get more against Linval Joseph, Everson Griffin, Sheldon Richardson, Tom Johnson and the Vikings’ strong defensive front.
Yes, Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson. The same defensive tackles the Seahawks had and let free in the last year. Two that got away, that Seattle could definitely use to slow down the Vikings’ offense Monday night.
Seattle lost Richardson in March to the Vikings. The Seahawks didn’t come close to matching what Minnesota gave him: one year, $8 million with a chance to earn $11 million with incentives.
“We weren’t able to go to where he was,” Carroll said. “We would have liked to have him back. When we took him, we thought we would be able to do that but the market just kind of took him away from us.”
The team also gave away Johnson in mid-September, during their dark days of the 0-2 start to this season. It miscalculated the veteran would perhaps sign back with Seattle after it released him days after he started the season opener at Denver, to add special-teams help for week two in his roster spot.
The jilted Johnson saw an opportunity to return to Minnesota, for which he played before he signed with the Seahawks last year. He signed with the Vikings instead, after his veteran contract was guaranteed by Seattle after he was on its roster for week one.
So, yes, the Seahawks are paying Johnson to play against them Monday.
Asked this week if the Seahawks wanted to have Johnson return in September, Carroll said: “We hoped to, yeah. We had hoped to. We had liked him and we had hoped to. But it didn’t work out.”
It did for the 34-year-old Johnson. He has 3 1/2 sacks for Minnesota. And he has two paychecks for himself.
“He’s been a terrific player over a long period of time with really good motor, savvy (and) the consistency was always there. He kind of rolled through their stuff,” Carroll said. “Last year, he had played the most he played probably in his career in a season and he just showed that he could be an every-down guy for you. We thought of him as an older guy that we would want to make sure we counted his reps and took full advantage of that.
“We just didn’t get the chance to stay steady with it and he’s doing well.”
The Seahawks are choosing Simmons over Ethan Pocic, their second-round pick from last year. Pocic, who backs up at three positions, is a product of a departed system, line coach Tom Cable’s zone scheme that emphasized athleticism and versatility among his blockers. Carroll fired Cable in January and replaced him with veteran Mike Solari. Solari’s more man-on-man blocking scheme needs more brawn and nastiness.
That’s why Seattle signed Fluker in March. That’s why the team claimed Simmons days after the Raiders waived him days before this season began. Simmons is 6-feet-5 and 335 pounds. Pocic is 6-7, 302.
Monday night is why Simmons stayed with it through all his setbacks at USC.
Simmons arrived there in 2012 and redshirted. He had had knee surgery that first offseason. In 2013 he injured his knee again. He missed the final six games of that Trojans season and the first two of the 2014 season. The week after his return, he hurt his knee again. He missed USC’s last 10 games of ‘14. Then USC switched him to defense for 2015, at tackle. He sprained his, yes, knee and played in only one game that season, the Holiday Bowl finale.
In 2016 he was back on the offensive line and played in all 13 of USC’s games, with his two starts. The NCAA denied his appeal for a sixth year of eligibility in early 2017.
He played in just nine of 41 USC games in three non-redshirt seasons. The Raiders signed him as a rookie free agent last year.
Why did he stick with football?
“I just wanted to give myself a chance,” he said. “I wanted to see how far I could make it, whether it was a pro day (at USC), getting invited to camp or ending up somebody’s practice squad, I thought I owed it to myself.
“That’s why I didn’t give up on it.”
Baldwin game-time decision
Carroll said following practice Saturday that the team will determine right before the game whether Pro Bowl wide receiver Doug Baldwin’s will play Monday. Baldwin missed practices this week with a hip injury.
He missed practices all week before the Carolina game two weeks ago because of a pulled groin, yet played almost the entire game and had five catches in that win.
Baldwin has 37 catches in 10 games this season. He missed two in September because of a knee injury.