By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks will play the biggest game of their season Monday night minus two of their top three cornerbacks. Oh, and they’ll be doing so against a New Orleans Saints offense that ranks third in the NFL in yards, second in passing yards and third in scoring.
So clearly, with Walter Thurmond suspended and Brandon Browner both injured and reportedly facing a suspension of his own, the offense better be ready to put up some big numbers, right?
“No, not really,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Because I don’t think there’s going to be much of a drop-off. Last year, we didn’t have Brandon Browner or Walter Thurmond, and we still won all three of those games, so we don’t expect any drop-off.”
That was the prevailing attitude in the Seahawks locker room Wednesday. No, it’s not ideal that Thurmond and Browner are both unavailable, but everyone has the utmost confidence in Byron Maxwell, who is expected to start at right cornerback, and Jeremy Lane, who will likely play in passing situations, which will mean a lot of playing time against the Saints. Nor will anyone worry about DeShawn Shead coming into the game if called upon even if he was just signed off the practice squad this week.
“Byron Maxwell is going to step up and do a lot of playing for us, Jeremy Lane will jump in, DeShawn Shead will step up on the roster,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re really excited for these guys; these guys can all play. They’ve played for us before, they’ve done great things when they have, and we have nothing to think about but the positive and the upside.
“These guys are going to contribute in a big way, just like our guys have across the board. So that won’t deter us at all from having an extraordinary week of getting ready and getting jacked up about a great opportunity here with a fantastic football team coming in for Monday night.”
To the Seahawks, this belief in the “next man up” is not some form of baseless confidence or a meaningless mantra. They finished the 2012 season 4-0 with Browner suspended for the final four regular season games, and with Thurmond sidelined for the last three games and the postseason because of a hamstring injury. Then again, Seattle didn’t face an offense even close to as dangerous as the Drew Brees-led one coming into town this week while winning those final three games convincingly last year.
But while the task is much more difficult, both Maxwell and Lane should be better for the experience they gained a year ago when thrown to the fire as players who had very little experience at the time.
“Yeah some experience helps,” Maxwell said. “Experience helps with anything you do. … Just the experience, to see how you feel when you get out there, the movement, the speed of the game, everything. Just experience basically.”
Nobody will have more asked of him that Maxwell, who until recently was playing mostly as a special teams player this season. He was worked into the rotation more heavily against Minnesota. Now Maxwell will be on the field for nearly every snap while trying to stop one of the NFL’s most prolific passing attacks.
Seattle has produced top-flight cornerbacks from unlikely places. Browner was signed out of the Canadian Football League, All-Pro Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick and Thurmond a fourth-round pick. So, nobody sees Maxwell as anything but another talented player who just needs a chance to shine.
As safety Earl Thomas noted, “Nobody knew about Richard Sherman until he got his opportunity, so it’s just like that.” And indeed, Sherman did begin his rookie campaign third on the depth chart, only getting his shot after Marcus Trufant and Thurmond both were injured.
“We have nothing but confidence in him,” Carroll said of Maxwell, a sixth-round pick out of Clemson in 2011. “I don’t hesitate in saying that he’ll play really well in this game.”
In a surprising move, the Seahawks waived Perrish Cox on Wednesday, just a day after signing the former 49ers cornerback. The Seahawks used that open roster spot to promote DeShawn Shead off the practice squad, a move Carroll said was coming. Carroll addressed the media before this transaction was made, however, so no explanation for Cox’s brief tenure was given.
That the Seahawks made this move points to one of two things: either the Seahawks are bringing somebody else in later this week (Antoine Winfield, perhaps) or that they actually think Brandon Browner has a chance to win his appeal, which took place Wednesday.
If the only goal was to get Shead on the roster, the Seahawks could have waited as late as Sunday since he is already on the practice squad, and it was presumed that he would eventually just take Browner’s spot. So, it would appear that either the Seahawks haven’t given up the possibility of Browner playing again this season, or they’ve got somebody coming in this week.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.