Two Seahawks offensive line positions will be game-time decisions for Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game at Green Bay, according to coach Pete Carroll after practice Friday. Left tackle, the key protector of QB Russell Wilson’s backside , is the most vulnerable.
Both Duane Brown (knee surgery) and George Fant (groin), the two who have taken most of the snaps at the position this season, were listed on the injury report as questionable. At left guard, Mike Iupati is doubtful with a neck stinger that has lingered.
As is typical for Friday, Carroll was circumspect about plans for Sunday. Brown has been out since Dec. 23, so how long he can play if he does start is a big question. If neither he nor Fant can play, moving up from the practice squad for his first action of the season would be Chad Wheeler, a 6-7, 318-pound former first-team All-Pac-12 left tackle at USC.
He started 17 of 29 games for the New York Giants before being waived on an injury settlement Sept. 9, then signed onto Seattle’s practice squad Oct. 15. He was the Trojans’ offensive lineman of the year in 2016 but went undrafted before signing as a free agent with the Giants.
His line coach with the Giants was Mike Solari, who’s now with the Seahawks.
“He’s played for Mike, and Mike knows him really well,” Carroll said. “I’m real confident that if he we need him, he’ll be able to jump up. He’s worked on the left side for us almost the whole time.
“He’s been in the system and he knows what we’re asking of him. He’s been really solid throughout. The main thing is to ask him to just do what he’s capable and not overreach.”
If Iupati doesn’t play, second-year OL Jamarco Jones will fill in. He subbed at left guard when Iupati went down last week, and earlier in the season started two games at right guard for injured D.J. Fluker.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Carroll said. “He’s a really good pass protector. Has a good feel for stuff in general. He’s very flexible, too. He’s been able to move around and play different spots. We feel very confident about him playing.”
The health of the O-line is critical because the Packers have two formidable pass rushers in Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, who have combined for 25 sacks this season.
“They’re really well equipped,” Carroll said. “Obviously, the production is ridiculous. Za’Darius is a guy that moves a lot more than Preston does, but they’re both really effective. They’re going to make it hard on us for sure. We have to do a really nice job of keeping them where we want them.”
With the healthy returns of Jaron Brown and Malik Turner, the Seahawks will have their full complement of wide receivers. On defense, three are listed as questionable: DEs Ziggy Ansah (neck) and Quinton Jefferson (ankle) and FS Marquise Blair (ankle). The good health news was that DE Jadeveon Clowney is OK after a productive game in the 17-9 win over the Eagles.
“As the week progressed, he felt much better than he did last week,” Carroll said. “So, he’s in good shape and ready to go. We’re excited about that. We’re really certain about his return. He’s in good shape to go.”
The Sunday weather in Green Bay is predicted to be cold (about 22 degrees at the 5:40 p.m. CT kickoff) but dry with light winds. However, a storm Saturday could dump several inches of snow on Lambeau Field. Crews there have some experience at clearing the field.