This is a heck of a way to get a team ready for the season.
With 10 key players now injured or just coming off injuries, the Seahawks are simply not at full strength, and this game against a powerhouse Vikings team might resemble the 35-9 butt whooping by the Vikings last season.
The Hawks figure to be without four offensive linemen, two linebackers, and two defensive ends.
They’re already down to their third left tackle—last year it took until the second game of the season for that to happen—with Russell Okung (high ankle sprain) and Ray Willis (knee surgery) both out indefinitely.
That’s not a good thing for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but it will be a great test for Mansfield Wrotto, who played fairly well after replacing Okung in the first quarter last Saturday against Green Bay.
He’ll have a tough test against QB hunter Jared Allen, but it should show whether Wrotto can handle it. The Hawks surely will use their second tight end or fullback to help as necessary.
The entire left side will be new as Mike Gibson replaces a gimpy Ben Hamilton at left guard. Apparently this move was in the works even before Hamilton pulled up with a bad knee, which is a bit of a surprise considering Hamilton was brought in to tutor Okung.
The Seahawks signed Gibson, a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia in 2008, off the Eagles’ practice squad last year because they thought he was a good fit for the zone blocking scheme, and line guru Alex Gibbs apparently agrees. The Seahawks have not run the ball very well in the first two games, so perhaps Gibson can help in that department.
With Chester Pitts expected to start practicing at left tackle soon, the Hawks might not be too bad there while Okung is out. But Okung is missing valuable time to learn the offense.
Speaking of missed time, one of the few bright spots among all of these injuries is the return of middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who is finally going to play after missing almost all of camp so far with a hamstring injury.
He returns just as David Hawthorne goes down with a hip injury, taking Tatupu’s place on the sideline next to Leroy Hill, who is still out with a sprained knee.
Will Herring will continue to start, although the Hawks should take a good look at Tyjuan Hagler, who was all over the field in the second half of the Green Bay game.
Although Herring has not done anything this preseason, Carroll told reporters he’s a “front-line player in our program.” But the coaches should see Hagler, a five-year vet who started 17 games for the Colts over the last three years, with the first team to see whether he fits as well as he appeared to Saturday with and against backups.
The injuries to ends Kentwan Balmer (bruised ankle) and Nick Reed (arthroscopic knee surgery) are unfortunate. The Hawks barely got a look at Balmer, acquired from San Francisco to play behind Red Bryant at the jumbo end. Reed apparently will miss a few weeks, which is bad news for him but good news for rookie Dexter Davis.
Like Hagler, Davis needs some work against higher-caliber players to see exactly what the Hawks have. For now, he’s the No. 2 Leo behind Chris Clemons.
What we want to see vs. Vikings
In addition to seeing how Wrotto and Gibson play and seeing more of Hagler and Davis, here are things we’d like to see against the Vikings:
**How does Leon Washington look as the starting running back? He showed great burst against Green Bay and now gets his shot with the No. 1 offense after Julius Jones and Justin Forsett each had a crack.
**Will Golden Tate and Deon Butler get to play with Hasselbeck? They are the best playmakers on the outside the Hawks have. Butler has made big plays in each game, but Tate has been buried with the reserves.
These two should rotate through Deion Branch’s position in this game (although they probably won’t because the coaches love Branch for some reason). At least the Seahawks have given up on the crazy Vincent Jackson idea.
**It’s time to see tight end John Carlson get really involved. After having just one ball thrown to him in the opener, he had about five chances against Green Bay and came up with only one catch while dropping two or three. He and Hasselbeck need to hook up a few times in this game.
**Aaron Curry has shown nothing yet, but hopefully the presence of Tatupu will galvanize him. He rushed the Packers quite a bit, but with little to no impact; and he recorded zero tackles against them. The dude should be making double-digit tackles every game, and he needs to start right now.