By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — As loaded as the Seattle Seahawks defense is overall, it’s easy to forget just how thin Seattle has been at linebacker this preseason.
Yet in their first two preseason games, the Seahawks were without three of their top four, and arguably four out of their top five linebackers with Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith and Korey Toomer all sidelined by injuries.
On Monday, the Seahawks got two of those linebackers back — Smith, the Super Bowl MVP, and Toomer, who after missing all of last season with a knee injury was one of the standout players in offseason workouts, or as head coach Pete Carroll put it at one point, “The hottest player in camp.”
Smith, who had offseason ankle surgery, and Toomer, who opened camp on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury, were both limited in Monday’s workout, but it was a good step for the Seahawks in getting their linebacking unit whole again.
“It’s good to see those guys back out there,” Carroll said. “They’ve been dying to get back on the practice field … Tomorrow they’ll try to take a little bit more, and we’ll work them through the week and see what happens, see what that means.”
The Seahawks are still without Ivrin (hip) and Wagner (hamstring), who could both return to practice next week, though Carroll said Irvin, who is also on the PUP list, might not come back until after Seattle’s final preseason game.
With Toomer and Smith returning to action Monday, and with Irvin and Wagner getting closer, linebacker is going from a position with depth concerns to one of the strongest position groups on the team.
In their first two preseason games, the Seahawks started undrafted rookie Brock Coyle at middle linebacker and Mike Morgan, a special teams standout who has had very limited defensive playing time since first singing with the Seahawks in 2011, at strongside linebacker. If the Seahawks are at full strength by the end of this month, neither of those preseason starters is even a lock to make the 53-man roster, though both have certainly made a very strong case to be included.
When everyone is healthy, Irvin, Wagner and K.J. Wright will start, meaning the Super Bowl MVP is likely the top backup at both outside linebacker positions, while Toomer, Morgan and Coyle lead a group of roster hopefully that also includes the likes of rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis and veteran Heath Farwell.
“It’s a really good group,” Carroll said. “We are really excited about these guys, and it’s been thin all throughout the camp. Mike Morgan, Brock and K.J. have really held it together for us, so it’s really fun to see these guys come back. Not only do they do well in scrimmage plays, they’re a fantastic addition to special teams too so we will get faster and more experience real quick as they return.”