RENTON Officially, you will see the NFL injury report has Jimmy Graham questionable to play for the Seahawks Sunday at Tennessee.
But coach Pete Carroll said Friday his big tight end and his ankle “issue” looked much improved in the light, final practice of the week, and that Graham should be able to play against the Titans (1-1).
“He did really well today. He made it through the whole practice and did everything. Practiced full,” Carroll said. “So he’ll be all right.”
Asked if that meant the coach expected Graham to play on Sunday despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday, Carroll said: “Yes.”
Whether that matters for the Seahawks’ stalled offense is another matter.
Two games into the final season of his $40 million contract, Graham has 9 yards receiving on four catches and nine targets, with two dropped passes. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw to him just twice in last week’s 12-9 win over San Francisco, for one catch and 1 yard. The second target, on the game’s first series, Graham dropped the ball down the middle because of a hard hit by 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt.
The potentially even-better injury news for the Seahawks from Friday: DeShawn Shead, the starting right cornerback last season, could be on the way to returning next month.
Shead is on the physically-unable-to-perform list recovering from reconstructive knee surgery in January. The first date he can return to practice per PUP-list rules is Oct. 16, the first day of the seventh week in the regular season. He has a three-week window starting then when he can either return to practice or else go on injured reserve.
Carroll said the current target is for Shead to be back at practice on Oct. 16. That’s been Seattle’s best-case scenario all along.
“That’s possible, yeah,” Carroll said.
“DeShawn has done an incredible job of coming back. His mentality is extraordinary. His drive to continue to press and push and to max out the process is there. He is running really fast right now. He’s doing everything he can do. It’s just a matter of time before he can be back and rolling. But he’s done a great job.”
Nickel back Jeremy Lane and rookie third-round pick Shaquill Griffin have been at right cornerback in the first two games, and seem certain to continue that for the next three games including at home against Indianapolis next week and at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 8 before the bye.
You see on the report above Richard Sherman getting the day off. His injury du jour was Achilles. The Seahawks continue to be overly compliant with putting Sherman on the injury report for anything, even a “hangnail,” the three-time All-Pro cornerback joked this week. That’s after his sprained knee late last season the team didn’t report. I say again: Don’t be surprised if Sherman is on this report each week of this regular season.
Carroll said defensive end Dion Jordan is running and looking good in recovery from offseason knee surgery. He’s on the non-football-injury list and is subject to the same return-to-practice rules as Shead.
“It was very encouraging to see Dion look as quick as he did. He’s 275 pounds,” Carroll said of the former Miami Dolphin who’s yet to play in a game or scrimmage of any kind for Seattle. “He has to get in shape again, because he hasn’t been able to work hard at his conditioning. But just physically being able to do the movements and things, I was fired up for him. I was excited for him, too, because it’s been a long haul for him getting back.”
Back to Graham: Seattle has scored one touchdown this season. Its pass-protection issues have been so urgent the Seahawks have often kept Graham in to help the tackles with “chip” blocks on rushers, before he then often goes out on 1-to-2-yard dump-off routes late in pass plays.
During last weekend’s game, my News Tribune colleague Lauren Smith charted Graham’s plays. He stayed into block or helped with “chip” blocks on 23 snaps. Most of those blocking assignments were in the first half, when he left the game with his injury. He went down field running pass routes 30 times, but Wilson only targeted him down there once. That’s because Wilson was often scrambling away from more pressure by the time Graham was turning around to complete his route, as has been the case often during Graham’s three seasons with Seattle. Graham was on the sideline for 26 snaps, some of those while the team’s medical staff was looking at his knee before he returned to the game.
For those who are growling about how much the Seahawks are “forcing” the ball Graham’s way: They’ve run 127 offensive plays this season. Only nine have been to Graham. That’s 7 percent of the time so far.
Sunday, the Seahawks are facing a Titans defense with guru coordinator Dick LeBeau that likes to blitz and bring pressure from everywhere. Pass protection and picking up edge rushers will be a key to Seattle’s day in Tennessee.
Asked how much the need to keep Graham in to help pass protect has effected his game, and Seattle’s passing offense as a whole, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said this week: “Well, we are trying to move the protections all over.
“I mean, it is definitely something that is a factor. You can see that there are times when we can’t get a tight end out, but we need the help. So we are mixing it in. We can’t do it all the time because you can also throw defenses to defend against that, as well. It is something that we are mixing up.
“You saw last week, we had a lot of misdirection, ‘naked’ (bootleg)-style plays. We had a lot of play-action passes, as well, and then different kind of drop backs, where everybody is out, where we got guys chipping and helping. Because we need to move the protection around as much as we can.”
And there was this from Friday on Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril losing some cash: