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What a weekend it’s been for the Seattle Seahawks — and they haven’t even played a game yet.
On Friday, Mychal Kendricks, an admitted insider trader facing prison time, practiced for the first time with the team as the new weakside linebacker, replacing rookie Shaquem Griffin. Griffin started last week’s opener because veteran K.J. Wright is recovering from knee surgery.
Saturday, Bobby Wagner became the third Pro Bowl veteran out for Seattle’s game Monday night at Chicago. The All-Pro middle linebacker has a groin injury he got late in the opener against Denver while playing all 74 defensive snaps. That means second-year free-agent Austin Calitro will start in Chicago for Wagner. And that means Calitro can’t play weakside linebacker, as he did last weekend in Denver. So the Seahawks need Kendricks to play weakside linebacker against the Bears after just two practices with the team — and one of those was Saturday’s light walk-through before the team flew to Chicago.
And linebacker isn’t the only position where Seattle is ailing.
Both starting cornerbacks are hurt. Rookie right cornerback Tre Flowers is doubtful to play Monday night because of a hamstring injury. Nickel back Justin Coleman, special-teams ace Neiko Thorpe and Akeem King, promoted last week from the practice squad, are the options to replace Flowers.
Shaquill Griffin, the left cornerback, is listed as questionable with a thigh injury, though coach Pete Carroll said Saturday Griffin will play against the Bears.
Plus, the Seahawks cut their starting defensive tackle, Tom Johnson, because they are so concerned with depth behind banged-up strong safety Bradley McDougald. They needed Johnson’s roster spot to promote safety Shalom Luani from the practice squad on Saturday.
And it’s only Week 2.
The Seahawks have won four in a row and five of the past six meetings. Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll point to Seattle’s last game at Soldier Field, specifically to the fourth quarter on Dec. 2, 2012, as the first time the Seahawks’ coaching staff decided to turn Wilson “loose.” Carroll instructed then-play caller Darrell Bevell to ditch much of the offense’s structure and let Wilson improvise his way to an overtime win. Wilson’s pass to Sidney Rice won it. Now-Seahawk Brandon Marshall had 10 catches for 165 yards that day for the Bears.
“That game back in Chicago my rookie year feels like yesterday,” Wilson said Friday. “It’s exciting to go back to Soldier Field in one of the best cities in America. They love football and it’s a great environment. It doesn’t get much better than Chicago and Soldier Field. …To be able to find a way to win in overtime, I remember Sidney Rice making an unbelievable play. It was just a fantastic game, back and forth. I remember Brandon having a great game that game, actually. It was fun to watch him play. Those are great memories. Hopefully, we can make another one this week.
“I think it gave us clarity on who we could be.”
SEAHAWKS WIN IF THEY …
They handle Khalil Mack: Germain Ifedi, come on down. One week after having to combat All-Pro and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Seattle’s maligned right tackle goes against another one of the best edge rushers in the game. Newly minted $100-million man Khalil Mack almost single-handedly staked Chicago to a 17-0 lead last week at Green Bay in his first Bears game. Seattle must keep tight end Will Dissly — and maybe running back Chris Carson and others — in to help Ifedi keep Mack from doing what Miller did last week while getting three sacks as his Broncos beat the Seahawks. Good luck.
They run the ball: After an entire offseason and preseason setting the primary goal for 208 as running the ball, after hiring new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and line coach Mike Solari to restore the rushing offense, it’s time for the Seahawks to do what they’ve set out to do. Make opponents defend both the run and the pass. Make edge rushers read their keys. Have blockers fire out at defenders. Run the ball.
Their offense produces: You may have heard by now Seattle no longer has the Legion of Boom, and that just three starters remain from its championship and playoff defenses of a couple years ago. And you see above what’s happening with Wagner and other starters Seattle now counts on to succeed. If ever Wilson and the offense needed to carry the night, it appears to be in this one. Perhaps 30 points, to be safe?
RB Chris Carson — Time for more than the seven rushes he had last week. The explosive, decisive way he runs, he deserves more than seven carries.
RT Germain Ifedi—Another All-Pro pass rusher (Khalil Mack) coming at the maligned pass blocker. Ifedi gave up one of Denver’s six sacks last week. He’ll need help with Mack in this one from rookie tight end Will Dissly — and others.
WLB Mychal Kendricks — The Seahawks are so desperate to fix the weakside LB spot while K.J. Wright recovers from knee surgery that they rented a Super Bowl starter facing prison time for insider trading. Look for Chicago to test Kendricks in pass coverage with tight ends and running backs.
LB Khalil Mack RB — The richest defensive player in NFL history looked almost worth $100 million last week with sacks, a fumble recovery, an interception and a score in his Chicago debut at Green Bay
QB Mitch Trubisky — The Seahawks may not be completely sure what they will be getting in Trubisky — the top quarterback picked in last year’s draft — other than athleticism to escape pressure. Trubisky ran the ball seven times in the Bears’ opener.
WR Allen Robinson— 153 catches and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016 with the Jaguars. Look for the Bears to use him to test Tre Flowers and Shaquill Griffin — or whoever is playing cornerback for Seattle.
The Bears and second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky are going to find soft spots and mistakes on Seattle’s remade defense, which is full of fill-ins and head-scratchers. But the Seahawks ability to run the football slows down Mack and sets up Wilson’s big-play passes as Seattle avoids the dreaded 0-2 start.