RENTON — The injury news for a beleaguered Seahawks defense that has allowed the most overall yards and passing yards in the NFL remains a concern as Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys approaches.
The Seahawks on Friday placed third-year defensive end Rasheem Green on injured reserve because of a stinger suffered in the season opener at Atlanta. Green will miss at least the next three games.
Seattle also listed starting defensive end Benson Mayowa (groin) and starting right cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee) as questionable.
Coach Pete Carroll said Mayowa and Dunbar could play and added that Green should return relatively quickly.
After last Sunday’s season-ending injuries to defensive end Bruce Irvin and defensive back Marquise Blair, the Seahawks will face the Cowboys offense, one of the NFL’s best, without three key players and with two other starters at less than full strength.
The best news Friday was that Green’s injury may not be as ominous as it initially sounded.
New rules this year mean any player going on IR during the season can return in three weeks. But nerve issues are notoriously tricky, and an IR stint can last all season (with the new rules, there are no more declarations made at the time of when a player can come back).
But Carroll said of Green that “it’s just going to be a couple more weeks, so this was the right way to handle this. We’re expecting him to come back to us. He’s just got to go through the process to make sure he can pass this test.”
Green led the Seahawks in sacks last year with four and shared time with L.J. Collier at the five-technique end spot in the opener against Atlanta.
Being without Green and Irvin will be challenging enough for a Seahawks pass rush that has just one sack by a player other than safety Jamal Adams.
Being without Mayowa — who has that one sack — would make it worse.
But Mayowa practiced Friday for the first time this week on a limited basis, and Carroll said in a Zoom video call that “he did all right, so it looks like he’s got a chance.”
To help fill in, the Seahawks are expected to have rookie Alton Robinson, a fifth-round draft pick out of Syracuse, active for the first time this season.
“We’re not hesitant to play him in any situation in the game,” Carroll said. “So we’re going in with confidence that he’ll do a good job.”
The Seahawks may also use waiver acquisition D’Andre Walker for the first time this season in a strongside linebacker/rush-end role.
The line, though, isn’t the only area of sudden worry with Dunbar and defensive back Neiko Thorpe listed as questionable. Neither practiced Friday.
Carroll said holding Dunbar out was “to make sure to give him as much rest time as possible” and said “he looks like he’s ready to play.”
Seattle also at least has a ready replacement at the spot if Dunbar has a setback in Tre Flowers, the starter the past two years.
Thorpe sounds more questionable to play, with Carroll saying he has a groin issue “we’ve got to figure out.”
Thorpe’s biggest role is on special teams, where he is the captain and has played 35 snaps. He got four snaps on defense against the Patriots last week, mostly in goal-line situations.
If Thorpe can’t play the Seahawks might want to use the spot that opened on the roster with Green going on IR to add a cornerback (Seattle has until Saturday afternoon to add a player in time for Sunday’s game.)
One option is Ryan Neal, who is on the practice squad and played in three regular-season games and both playoff games last season.
Seattle this week promoted Linden Stephens from the practice squad to replace Blair in the secondary.
Carroll confirmed Friday that Stephens — who made the 53-player roster out of camp before being waived when the team claimed Walker — can play inside and outside, meaning he is now the backup nickelback to Ugo Amadi, who is stepping in for Blair.
The only other player on the injury report is backup offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, questionable because of a pectoral issue that sidelined him the first two games.
As for Green, going on IR could mean the Seahawks might look to the outside to add a pass rusher next week.
COVID-19 testing protocols somewhat complicate the process of bringing in outside free agents during the season, but Carroll said it won’t prevent the team from making any moves.
Seattle has been reported to be getting a visit next week from free-agent defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, but he’s regarded as most likely to play a run-stopping role.
Seattle could also sign linebacker Shaquem Griffin off the practice squad for the open roster spot, or just elevate him for Sunday’s game, and use him in the pass-rush role he began to carve out late last season. He was waived in the cutdown to 53 and then re-signed to the practice squad.
The Seahawks had also hoped to get a boost in the pass rush this season from second-round draft pick Darrell Taylor, with general manager John Schneider saying at the time the team considered selecting him in the first round.
But one reason Taylor fell was concerns over his health after he had a titanium rod placed in his leg in January to repair a stress fracture he played with last year at Tennessee.
The Seahawks had Taylor in for a visit in March just before travel shutdowns and felt comfortable he’d be available this year.
But Taylor has yet to do anything, placed on the non-football injury list to start camp and remaining there once the regular season began.
He can come off the list after six weeks. But as of now there’s no apparent timeline on when he’ll be ready or if he will be at all this season.
“We felt like we had a good feel for it,” Carroll said this week of Taylor’s injury situation at the time of the draft in late April.
Carroll said one problem is that Taylor was doing workouts at Tennessee but was forced to stop when COVID-19 hit, and then NFL teams had to conduct offseason programs virtually.
“He just lost his rhythm of his workouts,” Carroll said. “ … It just wasn’t as monitored as we would like. If he had been here, would have been entirely different.”