RENTON — The Seahawks will be without two of the team’s best defensive players and pass rushers for Sunday’s game at Carolina — defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks — after each was ruled out by the team Friday.
The two are tied for the team lead in sacks with three (Rasheem Green also has three).
The Seahawks initially ruled Clowney as questionable after he returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after missing Wednesday and Thursday with the flu, the latest player to catch a bug that has circulated around the team for three weeks.
But shortly after coach Pete Carroll met the media and professed optimism Clowney would be all right by Sunday, the team downgraded him to out.
Kendricks continues to deal with a hamstring injury that isn’t getting better, with Carroll saying that when Kendricks tried to practice Wednesday it became clear he isn’t ready yet. Rookie Cody Barton will again step in for Kendricks.
It will be the second time in four weeks Clowney has missed a game. He also sat out a win at Philadelphia with a core muscle injury that will bother Clowney all season.
After practice, Carroll had said Clowney would be a game-time call.
“He’s recovering still,” Carroll said. “He’s been pretty sick. … just judging from how other players have recovered the couple of days from this point forward he should bounce back pretty good. But it hasn’t been a great week for him at all, so we just need to wait and see.”
The only other player listed as out was running back Rashaad Penny. But Carroll announced after practice he will soon be put on injured reserve — he will have surgery to fix an ACL injury suffered against the Rams — to make room for Ethan Pocic, who will be activated to add depth on the offensive line. Pocic has not played since Sept. 15 and went on IR in October due to a back injury and could specifically help at center and guard.
Seattle listed three other key players as questionable: defensive end Ziggy Ansah (neck), cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and tight end Luke Willson (hamstring).
Ansah will be a game-time decision, Carroll said. He was listed as questionable before last week’s game but then listed as out before kickoff with Carroll saying the big issue is Ansah having the needed strength in his shoulder area (he suffered a stinger late in the win over the Vikings).
“He’s working (to make it back),” Carroll said Friday. “We’ll see. We’re going to take every day to game time with Ziggy.”
That Clowney will be out puts a little more urgency on Ansah to be ready. The Seahawks have not played a game this season without both of what were their two marquee offseason additions, each aimed at beefing up the team’s pass rush.
But with both players dealing with issues of late, as well as Kendricks, Seattle has no sacks in the past two games and just 23 for the season, 30th in the league (the only teams to have fewer are Miami with 17 and Cincinnati with 21).
Shaquill Griffin played all 70 defensive snaps against the Rams but tweaked his hamstring during the game, Carroll said, and “it’s bothered him a little bit. We’re just making sure that we are managing him through it.” Akeem King would appear set to start for Griffin if he can’t go Sunday.
Willson has not played in three weeks but was able to return to practice earlier this week with the hope he will play.
Everyone else on the roster was ruled as good to go, meaning fullback Nick Bellore will return after missing the past two weeks.
BARTON TO START IN PLACE OF KENDRICKS
That Kendricks will be out means Barton will get a chance to put to test the lessons he said he learned last Sunday against the Rams.
Barton, a third-round pick out of Utah, was on the field for 58 snaps against the Rams in taking the place of Kendricks after playing just 11 snaps in the first 12 games.
Barton this week echoed what both Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of his play – that there was some good and some bad.
To name a couple: Barton had what was one of the team’s only three pass defenses of the game on the first series when he burst through on a blitz and batted down a Jared Goff pass on second-and-nine (a play later a 33-yard completion to Tyler Higbee set up the Rams’ first TD); but in the second quarter, Barton couldn’t contain Todd Gurley on a third-and-one play as he was locked up with tight end Johnny Mundt. Gurley was able to squeeze by for 2 yards and the Rams then scored three plays later to go up 21-3.
Carroll also said the fact that it was Barton’s first game was among the things that contributed to some issues with the defense not getting lined up as quickly as it needed to at times, particularly during the first two series as the Rams grabbed a 14-3 lead
“I think he will feel much more comfortable,’’ Carroll said of Barton playing Sunday at Carolina. “It was just fast and furious and he was busting his tail running around trying to make his plays and all that, and I think he will be much more settled in. … We’re expecting him to make a little jump here just cleaning things up, just being more specifically accountable on stuff. The running and hitting part, he was fine, it was just the little things with assignments and recognition and things like that.’’
Said Barton of what he thought of his play against the Rams: “There were some things I did really good and there were some things I didn’t do so good. So my assessment was it was a great learning experience. Just actually playing in a game was very valuable, feeling the flow of the game, the speed, the tempo, just the overall experience.’’
Barton specifically mentioned the third-down play (which is pictured above) as one he wished he had back.
The play occurred with 1:10 left in the half with the score 14-3 and limiting the Rams to a field goal could have kept it a two-score game at halftime and also given Seattle a little more time to drive for its own score before the break.
The Seahawks have contended that holding could have been called on the play. But Barton said what he learned is that being held can’t be an excuse.
“I was holding the edge and he got around me,’’ Barton said. “Or, he was holding me but I got no call. Being a rookie they may not give you the call. But regardless, if they are going to hold you or not, there is still (a way) . You’ve got to knock his hands down or something like that — don’t let him hold you. So there’s just some little things like that, just knowing where your plays are to be made and just assuring that no matter what that guy does you are going to make that play.’’
PANTHERS RULE OUT VETERAN TIGHT END OLSEN
The Panthers ruled out three players including veteran tight end Greg Olsen, who will miss his second straight game while in the concussion protocol.
He will be replaced again by second-year player Ian Thomas, who has nine receptions for 81 yards and a TD in the past two games.
Carolina also ruled out left tackle Greg Little (ankle) and rush end Marquis Haynes (knee).