By Dave Boling
RENTON _ It seems to go against Pete Carroll’s nature to have to list injured players as “Doubtful.” Surely he’d prefer a category like “Early Stages of a Speedy Recovery.”
But the NFL has its rules, and so it has to pain everybody involved with the Seahawks to have to list All-Pro center Max Unger (triceps) and starting right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee) as “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against Houston.
That designation signifies a 75-percent likelihood of not playing.
Not only are those two offensive-line veterans likely to be on the shelf along with Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung, already ruled out until mid-season with a toe injury, but it all comes the week Seattle faces what is perhaps the fiercest pass rush in the NFL.
Giacomini didn’t practice Friday and Unger was listed as having limited participation. Carroll said after practice that their status would be determined Sunday morning.
It would leave the Seahawks protecting quarterback Russell Wilson with only one player -- right guard J.R. Sweezy -- at the same position where he started the season three games ago.
Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter would be on the left side as they were in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville, but Lemuel Jeanpierre would be expected to start in place of Unger, and rookie Michael Bowie would go for Giacomini.
“Our (backup) guys are ready to play ball if they're called on to do so,” Carroll said. “It won’t be the story about the guys who aren’t playing, it will be about those guys stepping up and doing their thing. It might be the young guys and if it is, it is, and we’re going to crank it up and go.”
Unger’s injury appears to be less problematic than Giacomini’s knee, which has been sporadically bothersome since training camp. Bowie played much of the Jacksonville game after Giacomini came to the sidelines.
“There’s nothing about Michael's play that hasn't excited us,” Carroll said. “He's coming along so fast. He's going to be a lot better later when he gets more time to learn what's going on, but he’s physically capable of doing this. The more he plays now, the stronger he'll be down the road, so we look at this as a positive.”
So Carroll is hopeful, not doubtful.
Jeanpierre at least has more experience, having started four games at right guard and one at center in 2011. Carroll said he’s comfortable that Jeanpierre can handle the blocking calls required by a center.
But he acknowledged the obvious, that the replacements will face a daunting challenge in a Houston front seven that includes last year’s top sacker in the league, J.J. Watt, and aggressive linebacker Brian Cushing.
“This is a really good group, (and) the best pass rusher we’ll see all year I would think,” Carroll said. “J.J. is the most dynamic player we’ve seen; (added to) the fact that he plays right in front of Cushing, who is a very aggressive, attacking player. Those two guys have a real style about them that causes you problems. They have the ability to really wreck the game for you.”
Counterbalancing Seattle’s injury situation to some extent was news out of Houston that Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown (toe) and receiver Andre Johnson (third in the NFL in catches, 25) were listed as questionable. Coach Gary Kubiak still said Friday that he expected Johnson (bruised shin) to start against the Seahawks.
Regarding other injuries for the Seahawks: RB Spencer Ware (ankle), DT Jordan Hill (biceps) and S Jeron Johnson (hamstring) are out. DE Michael Bennett (groin), CB Brandon Browner (hamstring), DE Red Bryant (back), WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle) and LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring) are listed as probable.