A week after giving up 38 points and 402 passing yards to a rookie quarterback, the Seahawks’ defense will be without its most pivotal defensive player, FS Earl Thomas, when Seattle hosts the Washington Redskins at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. And he probably won’t be back for the following game Thursday at Arizona, according to a report on NFL.com.
“You’re going to miss Earl, because Earl’s Earl,” said coach Pete Carroll Friday after practice. The specter of last season’s final six games after Thomas broke his leg Dec. 4 is not easily forgotten: The Seahawks gave up 34 or more points three times.
Thomas strained a hamstring in the fourth quarter Sunday trying to chase down WR DeAndre Hopkins on a 72-yard catch and run in Seattle’s wild 41-38 win over Houston. But Carroll has trumpeted all week the skills of Thomas’s replacement, fifth-year pro Bradley McDougald.
He was signed away from Tampa Bay in free agency last off-season for just such an occasion. A year ago, undrafted free agent Steve Terrell was no match for the job of replacing Thomas, and was not brought back.
A 6-1, 215-pounder out of Kansas, McDougald has been mostly used on special teams with 46 snaps in the nickel and dime sets after starting 31 games over the past two seasons with the Bucs.
“Bradley has been a starter in the league for years,” Carroll said Wednesday. “He’s got the experience, the savvy, he is a playmaker, he is really tough, he’s a good tackler. We have spotted him all over the place, to do things in coverage as well as the running game. He is just a really, really good football player. There is no question. We don’t have any hesitation in him playing or keeping the principles intact.
“This was a guy that we were very fortunate to get in the off-season. (General manager John Schneider) figured this one out early on. He’s been a great addition to our team and now he is ready to go.”
Regarding whether Thomas will miss the game in Arizona, Carroll said, ““I’m not even thinking (about that). I don’t know that. I hope not.”
Also unavailable is CB Jeremy Lane (thigh contusion), who returned after his aborted trade to Houston because he flunked the Texans’ physical. Before he was traded, Lane lost the starting job to rookie Shaquill Griffin, and was also supplanted in the nickel position by newcomer Justin Coleman. The obvious question was whether Lane was holding a grudge, especially after tweeting angrily before the trade about losing his starting job while hurt.
“I haven’t noticed anything at all,” Carroll said. “I’ve hung out with him some. He’s fine. He just wasn’t able to work this week.”
Another defender listed as questionable was DT Sheldon Richardson, who tweaked an oblique during practice this week. That was probably the most consequential injury on a list that included SS Kam Chancellor (ankle) and LB Bobby Wagner (hamstring). On offense, WR Tanner McEvoy (hamstring) and RB C.J. Prosise (ankle) were also questionable.
Prosise “looked to be at full speed,” Carroll said. “We need to see if he can recover from it and be OK and then make a call with the game coming up on Thursday. We just got to make sure we are right on this one.”
Prosise’s return will help spell on third down Eddie Lacy, whom Carroll said would be the featured back for this game instead of sharing the job with Thomas Rawls.
Newcomer LT Duane Brown, who played against the Seahawks Sunday before being traded to Seattle Tuesday, “has done exceptionally well,” said Carroll, who plans to start him despite his sudden arrival after playing just a single game for the Texans because of a contract holdout. “We have every reason to think he’s going to play good football.”
Meanwhile, the Redskins have more serious injury issues with four of their five starters on the offensive line likely to miss the game, plus the top two tight ends.
But after the takedown by the Texans’ offense, defensive coordinator Kris Richard was nowhere close to assuming anything about an opponent.
“If I had hair, I’d be going bald,” he said “Not satisfied, but none of us are. It’s sort of rare that we were rewarded in that fashion (with) the victory at the end. Our level of execution wasn’t anywhere near where it should’ve been.”