The Seahawks were in nickel defense -- with five defensive backs and two linebackers instead of their base four DBs and three linebackers -- on 57 of 62 defensive snaps against Green Bay in the opener. That's why linebacker Malcolm Smith was a non-factor; he was on the sideline watching nickel back Jeremy Lane play.
And that's why Lane going on injured reserve with a designation to return in eight weeks and Seattle signing former Carolina Panther starter Josh Thomas yesterday matters more this week than last.
I don't think the Seahawks will be in nickel as much Sunday in San Diego. Then again, Chargers lead running back Ryan Matthews carried just 12 times last night in a low-scoring, 18-17 loss at Arizona that would suggest more ball control and running. Either way, the Seahawks need to settle on a nickel back before Philip Rivers begins throwing at it in five days.
The players are off today, but it's a safe assumption their coaches are in Renton today deciding between Thomas, recently acquired Marcus Burley -- the second-year man and former Indianapolis Colt who replaced Lane last week when he re-injured his groin in the third quarter -- or perhaps starting right cornerback Byron Maxwell as the new nickel back. From seeing Maxwell dabble in it during practices in the preseason, I'd say he has as good a chance of being there in San Diego as the other two. Burley's been with the team for 10 days since his trade. Thomas is 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds -- only one inch shorter and five pounds lighter than Lane. But he has never played nickel back in the NFL.
For tomorrow's News Tribune I am profiling how Thomas got to Seattle, and these options the Seahawks have at nickel for Sunday in San Diego and beyond.
--For today's newspaper I detailed why Andrew McDonald had an extra special 26th birthday on Monday. Not only did the Seahawks rescue the 6-6, 317-pound offensive tackle from
Carolina's practice squad and put him on the active roster of the Super Bowl champions, McDonald is beating testicular cancer he found himself in May. He has a recent family history of a grandmother and step-mother dying from cancer, and feels fortunate the CT scans and blood work he gets every other month is showing his cancer is gone.
That's why he said Monday his arrival in Seattle is "a huge blessing."
--TNT columnist Dave Boling was with me as usual yesterday in Renton. He -- and some Seahawks teammates -- think understated middle linebacker Bobby Wagner may be on his way to a Pro Bowl season.
Wagner, by the way, has 29 tackles in his last two home games. That's counting the NFC championship against San Francisco in January. If the Seahawks stay in nickel a lot, Wagner will continue to shoulder much of the run-stopping responsibility for the defense.
--The Union-Tribune in San Diego details how the Chargers blew it last night, missing a sure interception, a snap that took them out of field-goal range late, containment on "stone-legged" Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's scramble for a first down late -- and ultimately an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and the game last night in Glendale, Ariz. As the U-T notes, it was the fifth time in the past three seasons San Diego lost a game it led by a touchdown or more in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers lost veteran starting center Nick Hardwick to an ankle injury in the game, with the severity not immediately known. His backup, Rich Ohrnberger, had the bad snap to Rivers that cost San Diego a field goal that would have given the Chargers a 20-12 lead late. The Seahawks will have a staffer keeping an eye on Hardwick's progress back from the injury in this short preparation week before Sunday's game.