RENTON — The Seahawks have listed strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Rams in Los Angeles with a hamstring injury, which could pave the way for rookie Cody Barton to get his first NFL start.
But the combination of Kendricks’ injury, as well as Rams tight end Gerald Everett being ruled out with a knee injury, might also compel the Seahawks to go with a nickel defense more than they have all season.
The Rams threw for 417 yards last week against Arizona, going mostly with a three-receiver lineup instead of the two-tight-end look they featured quite a bit in the first meeting with Seattle in October when Everett was healthy (Everett caught seven passes for 136 yards against the Seahawks).
Kendricks continues to struggle with a hamstring injury that crept up in practice last week and has not practiced this week.
Due to the hamstring injury, Kendricks was considered a game-time decision for Monday’s contest against the Vikings. But he was cleared to see action after a pregame workout and played 26 snaps in a game in which the defense was on the field for 52 snaps.
But the Seahawks are working on a short week, and Seattle’s potential desire to play more nickel against the Rams appears to have led to a decision to play it cautious with Kendricks this week to avoid a more significant re-injury.
“We just feel we’ve got to get him back and make sure that he’s back to stay,’’ Carroll said.
Carroll also announced that backup cornerback and core special teamer Neiko Thorpe had sports hernia surgery this week in Philadelphia and is out for the year. The team has yet to make a roster move with Thorpe and could save it for next week to bring back offensive lineman Ethan Pocic off injured reserve. Thorpe has been with the Seahawks since 2016 but has played in only seven games this season and 21 over the past two.
The Seahawks also listed tight end Luke Willson (hamstring) and fullback Nick Bellore (quad) as doubtful. Neither practiced this week and both seem unlikely to play.
Seattle listed defensive ends Ziggy Ansah (neck) and Jadeveon Clowney (core) as questionable. Clowney was a full participant Friday, which would seem to indicate he’ll be fine, and Ansah was able to practice on a limited basis all week.
Carroll said that “so far’’ both Clowney and Ansah had made it through the week OK but stopped short of declaring that they’ll play Sunday.
“We’ll still check those guys both out (Sunday),’’ Carroll said. “They did practice enough this week where we feel good about it, but we’ve got to check them out on game day.’’
Clowney was also listed as questionable last week before the game against the Vikings and he responded to play 43 snaps (or 80%). Ansah suffered a stinger in the final minutes of the Vikings game.
Defensive end Branden Jackson also missed Friday’s practice with an illness.
But otherwise Seattle appears to be in pretty good shape physically.
That may leave the question of the strongside linebacker spot and how much nickel Seattle plays as the big question heading into the game. Seattle has used the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Akeem King as its nickel corner the past two weeks to match up with the offenses of the Eagles and Vikings, who also made ample use of two tight-end sets.
But if the Seahawks expect the Rams to go more with three-receiver sets they could go with the smaller, quicker Ugo Amadi (5-9, 201) as the primary nickel.
Carroll, as might be expected, wouldn’t say which player will be the nickel Sunday, saying only the team has options.
Barton, a third-round pick out of Utah taken 88th overall, has played just 18 snaps on defense this season in a reserve role. He has seen action in every game on special teams and worked basically as the primary backup at all three linebacker spots.
But playing time has been hard to come by with all three of the veterans at those positions playing well (Kendricks, Wagner and Wright have started all 12 games together as the team’s linebacker trio this season). Barton filled in for Kendricks on 11 snaps Monday (the position typically comes off the field when Seattle goes to a nickel defense) but didn’t record a statistic.
“Cody is a particularly diligent worker and a smart kid and plays all three spots,’’ Carroll said. “He’s as well-versed a guy coming in as you could hope for for a young guy, so we really don’t have any hesitation in trusting that he can play.’’
Barton getting a start could also give Seattle some information it can use to make some decisions down the road.
Kendricks is working on a one-year deal that could pay him up to $4.5 million and will be a free agent at the end of the season. The contract includes bonuses of $125,000 for every game Kendricks is on the 46-man active roster, money he won’t get if he can’t play Sunday.
Barton, working on a rookie deal, has a cap number of just $716,031 this year and $879,031 next year.