Since January, the Seahawks have lost an entire starting secondary to the injured list. But Pete Carroll is quick to dismiss vulnerability for a road playoff game.
The season-ending hip fracture to S Delano Hill disclosed this week completes an unusual sequence that lurks in the background of the Seahawks wild-card playoff game against the Cowboys in Dallas Saturday evening.
On the injured reserve list, the Seahawks have had an entire starting secondary.
That accounting doesn’t even include Kam Chancellor, nor the departed Richard Sherman, who was recovering from injury when he was cut and signed with the 49ers.
While some of that seems old news, it impacts Saturday because the Seahawks are counting on premium performances from youngsters populating the secondary in their first experiences in a playoff road game.
All-Pro Thomas started the first four games this season, including the home-opening 24-13 win over the Cowboys, in which he had two interceptions, before breaking a leg. Hill, in his second season, started the past two games at strong safety.
You likely had forgotten about Maxwell and Johnson, for good reason: They never played in 2018.
After being cut by Miami at mid-season 2017, Maxwell was picked up and started six games for the Seahawks. He was re-signed as a free agent May 1, and placed on injured reserve Sept. 1. Johnson was a 16-game starter for the 49ers in 2017 and was signed April 11 in free agency, was put on IR Sept. 8 and cut Sept. 27.
The accounting of players lost is not to say the Seahawks would be better Saturday if all had stayed healthy (although that would certainly be the case with Thomas). It points up what a scramble it has been to find, train and attempt to flourish with newcomers for what coach Pete Carroll considers his most vital unit.
The Seahawks did have some good health news Friday: Second-year CB Shaquill Griffin has healed enough from a rolled ankle to come off the injury report and into the starting lineup, where he will join second-year Tedric Thompson, also recovered from multiple ailments. Griffin has been a starter since Week 9 last season, and Thompson has 10 starts at free safety this season.
The other cornerback is Tre Flowers, a rookie who made 15 starts. The secondary’s two veterans are SS Bradley McDougald, 28 and in his sixth season, and nickel back Justin Coleman, 25 and in his third season.
Here’s a listing of players since Jan. 1, 2018 who are or were members of the Seahawks’ secondary and its practice squad at some point. Keep in mind that all NFL teams sign and then release many players who never get in a regular-season game, for reasons of health, ability, contract or some combination. And some are cut and re-signed multiple times.
Dontae Johnson, Byron Maxwell, Tre Flowers, Trovon Reed, Lorenzo Jerome, Alex Carter, Elijah Battle, Jeremy Boykins, Shalom Luani, Simeon Thomas, Akeem King, Kalan Reed, T.J. Green, Maurice Alexander, Jeremy Boykins.
Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane, DeShawn Shead, DeAndre Elliott, Alex Carter, Elijah Battle, Jeremy Boykins, Lorenzo Jerome, Akeem King, Trovon Reed, Mike Tyson, Maurice Alexander, T.J. Mutcherson, Simeon Thomas, Shalom Luani, T.J. Green.
Injured reserve (4):
Byron Maxwell, Delano Hill, Dontae Johnson, Earl Thomas.
Griffin, Thompson and Flowers are among 28 Seahawks experiencing the playoffs for the first time. But Carroll brushed off any concern with whether the injury losses and subsequent use of inexperienced replacements will leave the defense vulnerable against a Cowboys attack upgraded since September via a trade with Oakland for talented WR Amari Cooper.
“It’s been horrific, I can’t even tell you . . . ” said Carroll sarcastically when told of the list of missing. “I wouldn’t have even known that.
“You’ve watched how we’ll handled it. It hasn’t been an issue because guys have stepped up all along. We’ve had a lot of confidence in the guys who’ve been here and worked through the system.
“When Akeem stepped up last week (filling in for Griffin), we didn’t flinch. Delano jumped up for a couple of weeks (filling in for Thompson) and has done a fantastic job. It’s an illustration of the work of the entire coaching staff to keep these guys at a high level. When (reserves) step in, you can’t tell the difference.”
As a former DB in college, Carroll has always been a whisperer when it comes to his players in the secondary. Perhaps the most prideful personnel feat of his career was the weaponizing of the Legion of Boom into a destroyer of football worlds.
Those days are over. The new guys have yet to be tested in the crucible of the postseason road. They likely will discover why the Seahawks have only three wins in the 14 away games in their playoff history. It’s one of the hardest feats in team sports.
Then again, gotta start somewhere.
Carroll says JerryWorld is “an unusual place”
The Seahawks and Cowboys have met only once in the playoffs, Seattle winning 21-20 in 2007 at the Clink when Dallas QB Tony Romo botched the hold on what would have been the game-winning field goal.
So the trip to ginormous AT&T Stadium, which has not held a great reputation for home-field noise, will be a novel experience for players and Seahawks travelers.
Carroll had some fun Friday describing the emporium of excess, nicknamed JerryWorld for club owner Jerry Jones.
“I think their scoreboard may get in the way of the sound – bounces back at you or something, I don’t know,” he said, smiling. “It’s a real glitzy place. When you come out of a football locker room ready to play football and you go into a night club . . . it’s kind of like we’re in the club, then, wait a minute, you’ve got to play ball. Then you come back through the club.
“(The high-end clientele) is right there with you too. Those people that are sitting behind us (in field-level boxes), I don’t know how they see the game. It doesn’t look like they care, they’re having such a good time. It’s an unusual place.”