RENTON — Before Wednesday’s Seahawks practice, coach Pete Carroll launched a defense of first-round pick L.J. Collier, who has been inactive for games despite being healthy two of the past three weeks.
“We don’t have any thought about that he’s not going to be a really good player,’’ Carroll said of the defensive end from TCU picked No. 29 overall in the 2019 draft. “We just think it’s time and experience.”
The time for Collier to make a big move could come Sunday at Cleveland.
A few hours after Carroll said to expect to see Collier on the active game-day roster against the Browns, the Seahawks revealed veteran defensive end Branden Jackson sat out practice with a neck injury.
Jackson’s injury is the only new one listed by the Seahawks. Seattle has eight defensive linemen on its 53-man roster this week and had just seven active for last Thursday’s 30-29 win over the Rams. If Jackson can’t play Collier will be active, so the Seahawks would have at least seven active defensive linemen against Cleveland.
Jackson has played in all five games with 141 snaps, almost 44% of all defensive snaps, with eight tackles and one sack. But he played just 14 snaps against the Rams with the injury (which was not reported during the game).
Collier has played in only two games (against the Steelers and Cardinals), making one tackle. He was also inactive for the season opener while still dealing with an ankle injury that held him out all of the preseason.
But that ankle is now healthy, and when Collier was inactive for the Saints and Rams games, it was simply a question of roster numbers and cutting the roster from 53 to 46 on gameday.
That, in turn, raised questions about Collier’s progress. Carroll, though, points mostly to the ankle injury as the reason Collier has yet to really make an impact.
“I think that L.J. is going to show you here now in the next few weeks that he’s going to be able to figure into what’s happening,’’ Carroll said. “It’s just taken him awhile. He missed so much football. I’m planning on him being a factor this week and continue to grow with that.”
Here’s more of what Carroll said during his weekly Wednesday news conference.
FLUKER SITS OUT AGAIN
Guard D.J. Fluker played just the first two series against the Rams before leaving with a hamstring injury.
Fluker sat out practice Wednesday, and Carroll said, “He can’t practice right now. He’s not ready to go.”
And while that can change over the next few days, signs seem to be pointing to Fluker likely not playing against the Browns, which would likely mean a first career start at right guard for Jamarco Jones.
Jones replaced Fluker against the Rams with Ethan Pocic — who started the first game of the year at left guard — also continuing to deal with a mid-back injury. That injury is still bothering Pocic, who was limited Wednesday.
Carroll, though, declined to say Jones would start, saying only, “You’ve got to wait and see.’’
Jones played well against the Rams, particularly against standout tackle Aaron Donald, and the assumption is that he will start if Fluker can’t play.
Left tackle Duane Brown also sat out practice with a biceps injury. But Brown has dealt with the injury since the Saints game and has not missed a snap in the past two games.
BLAIR ‘ZEROED IN’ AT FREE SAFETY
In addition to Collier, safety Marquise Blair, the Seahawks’ second-round pick in the 2019 draft, also was inactive against the Rams.
Blair was an early preseason standout with a pair of wow-inducing hits against Denver. But he later suffered a back injury that slowed his progress. He has played in just three regular-season games, inactive for the last two.
Carroll said the injury played a role in slowing Blair’s ascension but also noted the Seahawks have veteran safeties ahead of him in Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson and Lano Hill. Seattle also signed free agent Adrian Colbert, who started 12 games for the 49ers in 2017 and 2018, in September.
“It’s hard to get him in there,” Carroll said. “When do you work him in these games? There’s not much time to do that. … He’s just playing behind some guys that know what they’re doing, and it’s hard to unseat those guys.’’
Carroll, though, said not to rule out that Blair could be active — and maybe even play — this week.
“He’s practicing for play time this week,” Carroll said. “We’ve already conveyed that to him. We think he deserves that.”
While Blair has been tried at both free safety and strong safety, Carroll said Wednesday that, for now, Blair is being used solely at free safety, which could help his progress by simplifying what he has to learn.
“We’ve zeroed him in at free safety just to keep it as much the same as possible to expedite the learning and the responsibilities,’’ Carroll said.