The cornerback combination the Seahawks unveiled in the 28-21 victory Sunday over the 49ers — Sidney Jones on the left side and D.J. Reed on the right — will almost certainly remain in place for the showdown Thursday with the Rams at Lumen Field.
But coach Pete Carroll said Monday that in the big picture the position remains far from settled, especially with rookie fourth-round draft choice Tre Brown designated to return to practice off the injured reserve.
But with a short practice week before the game Thursday against Los Angeles, there isn’t much time for change, nor probably for Brown to show he’s ready to play after missing the first four games with a knee injury. Brown can practice for three weeks before he has to be activated.
“It’s a really short week and those are big decisions and we haven’t gotten there yet,” Carroll said when he talked to media members via Zoom on Monday afternoon. “But if we’re playing tonight, they’d (Jones and Reed) be playing again.”
So take that as a strong signal that the Reed-Jones tandem will start again Thursday.
Seattle made its most significant lineup change of the season at any position before the 49ers game by benching Tre Flowers and moving Reed from the left side to the right to take his spot and then inserting Jones on the left side.
The move had the dual effect of putting Reed back where he started the final five games of last season when the Seahawks finished as one of the top defenses in the NFL, while getting Jones in the lineup.
Carroll said Reed “played very, very comfortably on the right side. That’s his best side and that was a good move in that sense.”
Reed was moved from the right to the left the week of the season opener to make room for Flowers, whom Carroll decided deserved a starting role after his play in camp.
The numbers seemed to bear out that Reed liked the return to the right side as he had his best grade of the year from Pro Football Focus (74.0 on a scale of 1 to 100), giving up one reception on three targets for 8 yards.
As Carroll said after the game, Jones is more of a “work in progress” as he continues to adjust to Seattle’s defense after being acquired in a trade with Jacksonville on Aug. 30.
Said Carroll: “Sidney had some good plays, did some nice things and got in trouble a couple times, and it’s just first-time-out stuff. But he was comfortable in the game, he responded well.”
Among the plays Jones got in trouble on was a blown coverage resulting in a 76-yard Deebo Samuel touchdown in the third quarter.
Carroll on Monday declined to say the play was solely Jones’ fault. But Sunday, he noted that one reason the Seahawks waited until the fourth game to play him was to avoid any significant mistakes.
“We made a big error today,” Carroll said. “So, we try to avoid that by buying time.”
Due in part to that play, Jones got just a 35.7 grade from PFF — the lowest on the team — which credited him with allowing seven receptions on nine targets for 170 yards.
Jones also was the nearest defender on the first touchdown of the game, a 21-yard Jimmy Garoppolo pass to Ross Dwelley.
Monday, Carroll praised Jones’ effort on that play — Jones had Dwelley well-covered but Dwelley was able to make the catch anyway.
“Sidney really played that play really well,” Carroll said. “You’re seeing it’s Cover Two and he’s sunk all the way back in beautiful fashion and just couldn’t win at the ball. Would have loved to have had help from the safety on that one.”
But otherwise, Carroll raved about the play of safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams. Diggs had the team’s first interception of the season in the first quarter. Adams, according to PFF, allowed just one reception on six targets for 8 yards and jarred the ball loose from 49ers tight end George Kittle near the goal line on one play (though he had just two pass rushes and remains without a sack this season).
“Really exciting play from our safeties,” Carroll said. “I thought both guys played great.”
So, too, safety Ryan Neal, who played 26 snaps as a sixth defensive back in the team’s dime package. Seattle unveiled it mostly on third downs early but then used it liberally in the second half once the 49ers fell behind. Of Neal’s snaps, 24 were in pass coverage, and he allowed just two receptions on three targets for 17 yards.
When Neal went on the field, he replaced weakside linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who allowed five receptions on six targets for 66 yards against the Vikings, a game in which he also dealt with cramps.
Brooks played 50 snaps Sunday and was on the field for 24 of the 49ers’ 29 rushing attempts (he also had 23 snaps in coverage, allowing three receptions on four targets for 25 yards).
Carroll said he’d like to see Neal continue to play, though opponent and game plan each week also will factor in.
“I think what Ryan adds to us is the special juice that he brings,” Carroll said. “His toughness, that he brings his willingness to go throw his body around.”
Gerald Everett ‘has a chance’ to play against Rams
Tight end Gerald Everett did not play against the 49ers while on the COVID-19 reserve list. But Carroll said Everett had a negative test Monday which gives him a chance to play against his former team, the Rams.
Everett needs two negative tests 24 hours apart to play.
Carroll noted that Everett tested negative last Monday before testing positive on Wednesday. NFL rules state teams need to test players only once a week, but Seattle does it twice.
“The fact that we tested on Wednesday saved us,” Carroll said. “He would’ve been on this trip and would’ve played in this game. And all of that exposure would have taken place if we didn’t test on Wednesday. So I’m thrilled that we understand that and we made the step to do it. The one case we’ve had in 18 months or whatever, we got saved because of testing.”
Injury updates on Dee Eskridge, Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, more
Carroll said the Seahawks in general came out of the 49ers game healthy and that “we have a chance to get everybody” available for Thursday night.
The biggest concern might be on the defensive line where Benson Mayowa, Carlos Dunlap and Darrell Taylor are all nursing injuries.
Mayowa was inactive Sunday for the second consecutive game with a neck injury while Dunlap suffered a toe injury and Taylor an ankle.
While Carroll said it was too early to know anything definitive on Taylor and Dunlap, he said Mayowa would practice this week and then be evaluated again.
Also remaining in question is rookie receiver Dee Eskridge, who has been inactive the past three games with a concussion.
Carroll said Eskridge was scheduled to practice Monday but that “we’re going to watch and see how he handles the work. Whenever you’re coming back from concussion stuff it’s really sensitive and critical that we do it right so we’re going to keep protecting him.”