RENTON — Improving what has been an historically porous pass defense through three games already loomed as a significant challenge for the Seahawks.
Adding to the degree of difficulty now is a spate of injuries.
Of the 10 safeties or cornerbacks on Seattle’s 53-player roster, six were listed on the team’s injury report for Wednesday, including two starters who were out — strong safety Jamal Adams and right cornerback Quinton Dunbar, two of the team’s marquee offseason acquisitions.
Listed as limited were starting left cornerback Shaquill Griffin (shoulder) and backup Neiko Thorpe (hip) and backup safety Lano Hill (back) while backup corner Tre Flowers was a full participant but listed with a hand injury.
The two biggest question marks are obviously Adams, who was injured early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Dallas suffering what coach Pete Carroll called a first-degree groin strain; and Dunbar, who sat out last week with a sore knee.
Whether either will be able to play Sunday at Miami against savvy veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick remains unclear.
“He’s pretty sore,’’ Carroll said of Adams, who he said is getting as much treatment as possible. “I wouldn’t put anything past him that he couldn’t pull it off, so at this point he’s working really hard at it and we’ll see what happens. We don’t know enough to tell you about the weekend at this time.’’
The team hoped Dunbar would play last week before his knee got worse over the weekend. That he didn’t practice again Wednesday might seem ominous but Carroll said that was the plan.
“He’s holding on to a good thought that he can get back this week,’’ Carroll said. “… he’s not going to do anything for the next couple days. We’ll just wait all the way to the weekend to see where he is in the end.’’
Seattle has a ready replacement for Dunbar if needed in Flowers, who went all the way against Dallas in a game in which the Seahawks allowed Dak Prescott to throw for 472 yards, the most ever against the Seahawks.
Via Pro Football Reference, Flowers allowed 10 completions on 13 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown and a passer rating of 135.1, the highest of any of Seattle’s defensive backs.
But Carroll said he thinks Flowers would benefit from preparing during the week as the starter, which he will with Dunbar being rested.
“I think not knowing whether he was playing is harder on a guy,’’ Carroll said of Flowers, a starter the past two years before losing the job to Dunbar in camp. “…But now that he’s back in battling I think he’s going to turn a good corner here.’’
Adams would likely be replaced by Hill if Hill is available.
If not, the Seahawks could go back to Ryan Neal, who was one of the heroes of the Dallas win with the clinching interception with six seconds left.
On Wednesday, the team officially signed Neal to its 53-player roster after he had been returned to the practice squad on Monday.
But there’s also another intriguing option — veteran Damarious Randall,
Randall, a 2015 first-round draft choice of the Packers, has started games at all four secondary spots and has 56 starts in his career, including 11 last year for the Browns at both safety positions.
Carroll said Randall will be a safety for the Seahawks.
“He’s played corner in his past and he always felt like he was safety and felt like he’s been at his best in his history (at safety),’’ Carroll said. “I see it that way, too, watching the film and all that. He was so fast everybody wanted to try him at corner — that was the thought. But he’s most at home playing on the back end.’’
Randall won’t have long to learn the Seattle defense but his experience in the league gives him a head start. Seattle can wait until Saturday to elevate him to the roster for the Miami game if it wants.
That Griffin was limited indicates he’ll play. Still his backup situation is uncertain – Thorpe is the listed backup but he sat out last week. Behind him is Linden Stephens, who has played only on special teams this year.
Having to maybe play without two starters in the secondary, though, would be the latest hurdle for a defense that has allowed 1,298 passing yards, the most of any team in NFL history in the first three games of a season.
According to Pro Football Talk Seattle easily surpassed what had been the record of 1,131 by the Patriots in 2011.
When he talked to the media via Zoom on Wednesday, Carroll said all the moving parts in the back end isn’t helping with the communication and coordination necessary in the back end, saying at one point “sometimes it looks like we haven’t been practicing.”
“We have to quit making the errors that come from the newness and the guys not being out there together,’’ Carroll said. “It’s been sloppy at times and the communication has not been as effective as it needs to be. We’re trying, and we’re working on it and the principles are there and all that, but we’ve had a few breakdowns that, you know, we give up a regular routine play access to those e end zone.
“Getting beat over the top is a different story, but when the player comes across the field and we’re in zone and they make touchdowns that’s not supposed to ever happen. So we just have to be better. Try to recapture the emphasis of keeping the ball in front of us and a lot of intent here. It’s really important. We’ve got to get this done. We’ve got to slow guys down.’’