RENTON — The left side of the Seahawks’ offensive line remained in some question — if not some doubt — as Seattle departed for Green Bay following practice Friday.
Seattle listed starting left guard Mike Iupati as doubtful with a neck/stinger issue while left tackle Duane Brown (knee) and his replacement, George Fant (groin), were each designated as questionable. Iupati did not practice Friday while Brown and Fant were each listed as limited participants.
Coach Pete Carroll said Iupati is “kind of a normal doubtful” which would indicate he’s got a slim chance of playing in Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field against the Packers and would likely be replaced again by Jamarco Jones.
Carroll said both Brown and Fant will be game-time decisions. Brown has not played since having surgery to repair a meniscus injury on Dec. 23 while Fant is dealing with an injury suffered last week against the Eagles when he stepped in for Brown.
If neither can go, Seattle could turn to Chad Wheeler, who was signed from the practice squad this week, but had 19 starts in the 2017-18 seasons with the New York Giants. Carroll confirmed Wheeler has been practicing mostly at left tackle since joining the Seahawks on Oct. 15.
The line will be particularly challenged going against a Green Bay defense featuring the pass-rush duo of outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, who have combined for 25.5 sacks this season (Za’Darius with 13.5 and Preston with 12).
The two are not related and each joined the Packers last offseason as free agents helping revive a defense coordinated by former Browns head coach Mike Pettine, who spent the 2017 season as a consultant for the Seahawks (he was also the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets for three years when Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was the OC in New York).
That familiarity with Pettine gives Seattle a pretty good idea of what the Packers might do Sunday. But as always, knowing something is coming and stopping it can be two vastly different things and if Seattle has go to without Iupati, Brown and/or Fant, the degree of difficulty will be that much greater.
“(Za’Darius and Preston) are both really effective and they are going to make it hard on us for sure,” Carroll said. “And we have to do a really nice job of keeping them where we want them an take care of them when we get our opportunities.”
Carroll said Brown, who was a second-team All-Pro pick in 2018 in his first full year with the Seahawks, was able to do some work at times this week but otherwise offered no real prognosis on his chances of playing against the Packers. When it was decided he would have surgery to repair an injury that had lingered much of the season the Seahawks professed optimism he would return for the playoffs and the thought is that if he is at all capable of playing he will be out there Sunday.
“We’ll find out on gameday (if Brown can play),” Carroll said.
Jones struggled when he played left tackle in the regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, but has played better in three games at guard.
“He’s a really good pass-protector,” Carroll said.
As for Wheeler, his experience with the Giants, where in 2017 he was coached by current Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari, gives Seattle confidence he can step in, if needed (Wheeler was also All-Pac-12 as a left tackle at USC in 2016).
“Mike knows him real well and is real confident that if we needed him he’d be able to jump up,” Carroll said.
At the very least, Wheeler could allow Seattle to again use its jumbo blocking package that usually features Fant as an eligible tackle. Jones filled that role for a game when Fant had to start at left tackle. Seattle couldn’t use it last week with both Jones and Fant having to play on the line and Carroll said that was a factor in Seattle’s struggles to get its running game going against the Eagles.
Ansah questionable, Clowney had good week, Jefferson will play
Seattle’s defensive line has one big uncertainty as the game nears with defensive end Ziggy Ansah listed as questionable after suffering a stinger against the Eagles.
But Carroll said another player listed as questionable — end Quinton Jefferson (ankle) — will likely play while end Jadeveon Clowney was not listed on the injury report, signifying he is fully cleared to play.
But Jefferson was a limited participant in practice Friday and Carroll said “looks like he’s going” against the Packers Sunday.
Ansah, though, sat out again on Friday as he had on Thursday leaving his status less clear.
Clowney was limited on Wednesday and Thursday as he continues to battle a core muscle injury that will likely require surgery after the season, but was a full participant Friday and Carroll said “as the week progressed he felt much better than he did last week, so he’s in good shape and ready to go. We’re excited about that.”
Clowney played 83% of the snaps against the Eagles and had a sack in reviving a pass-rush that had a season-high seven sacks overall.
Receivers back to full strength, Blair questionable
Also not on the injury report were receivers Jaron Brown and Malik Turner, who each sat out last week when Seattle had just four healthy receivers.
Their return will give Seattle its full complement of six for the game and could mean rookie John Ursua will go back to being inactive. Turner sat out the past two games with a concussion while Brown had a family matter to attend.
“Yeah we are really at full strength there,” Carroll said.
However, cornerback Marquise Blair was one of three players who sat out Friday — along with Iupati and Ansah — after spraining his ankle in practice during the week.
But Carroll said Blair is “very optimistic” about playing Sunday.
Blair played nine snaps on defense in the team’s dime package (meaning, six defensive backs on the field) and also has been one of the standouts on special teams.
Seahawks hoping to beat the storm
A snow storm that could dump 5-8 inches on the Green Bay area is expected to hit Saturday afternoon.
But the Seahawks should miss that as they were scheduled to fly out Friday afternoon following practice. The team now stays in downtown Green Bay after years of having to stay in nearby Appleton, which Carroll said makes trips much easier.
The storm is supposed to pass by the 5:40 p.m. local time kickoff Sunday.
Carroll has downplayed the weather all week, but noted that Seattle practiced outdoors Thursday when he said the temperature was within five degrees or so of what they expect to get during the game.
Asked if the weather would impact travel, Carroll shook his head and said “I’m going to fly the plane exactly the same way.”