By Chris Cluff
It was right around this time a year ago that linebacker K.J. Wright — then a rookie — started to really make an impact.
He had about half of his 65 tackles in the final six games, and he went on a five-game tear in late November/early December in which he had a tackle for loss and/or a pass defended each week. It validated the coaches’ decision to promote the fourth-round pick ahead of former first-rounder Aaron Curry.
Then, in preseason this year, Wright picked up right where he left off, making plays all over the field. His dominance in exhibition games raised hopes that he might even play his way to Pro Bowl recognition in his second season.
He certainly had been a tackle machine in the first eight games, finishing with double digits four times and leading the team. He also had five tackles for loss and three passes defensed. But he had only one forced turnover (a fumble at Arizona in Week 1) and had not come up with the game-changing plays his preseason play had seemed to augur.
His inexperience also had shown in games against New England and Detroit, in which he (along with Seattle’s other young defenders) dropped too deep on zone pass plays and gave up a lot of yards — and the winning touchdown drive in Detroit. Against San Francisco, Wright and the other linebackers found themselves sealed off by second-level blockers for big gains by Frank Gore.
Wright still recorded double-digit tackles against the Patriots, 49ers and Lions. Then he got dinged in the head on the first play against Minnesota, and Adrian Peterson proceeded to run all over the Hawks in the first half (144 yards). (The Hawks were saved in the second half as the Vikings for some reason went away from running Peterson.)
The concussion kept Wright out of the win against the Jets, but now he is back, and everyone is happy about it.
“This game is really special to me,” Wright told Seahawks.com this week. “When I was standing there on the sideline, I saw how much I wanted to be out there. It was a good thing, in a way. I didn’t get too hurt, where I’d miss the whole season. But I got hurt enough to realize playing this game isn’t something you should take for granted. You love this, so you should take every day like it’s your last.”
Coach Pete Carroll said, “It’s a huge get-back. K.J. comes back to us and he brings savvy and awareness in our system. He’s a great communicator on the field. He helps the guys up front. He helps (rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner). It’s just a big deal.
“Plus, he’s a terrific playmaker for us. So it’s a big boost for us to get him back out there.”
Wright said, “I know how important I am to this team. So I’m just going to go out there, like I have since I first got here, and do what I do, which is produce out there on the field and just play football.”
WILL CARPENTER AND MOFFITT BOTH START?
Guard James Carpenter practiced fully Thursday and is expected to play in Miami. He seems likely to return to his starting position at left guard after John Moffitt started the past two games.
In Carpenter’s five games at left guard, the offense has rushed for 649 yards on 142 carries (4.6 average). In Moffitt’s two games on the left side, the Hawks have run for 369 yards on 88 attempts (4.2 average).
The question is: Will the Seahawks replace right guard Paul McQuistan with Moffitt?
A few weeks ago, the answer would have been yes. McQuistan had a horrible game against New England — the Hawks ran for just 85 yards on 26 carries, and McQuistan was responsible for at least three stuffed runs. He seems to have gotten more comfortable since that game, however, as the Hawks have run for at least 130 yards in the four games since.
Of course, they were no slouches with Moffitt at right guard either, running for 309 yards on 70 attempts (4.4 average).
The numbers are about the same, so the Hawks might be smart to stay with what is working rather than shake it up yet again.
They already have started five combinations this season, and they averaged 4.6 yards per carry in a five-week run during which Carpenter was at left guard and McQuistan was at right guard.
**Defensive end Red Bryant sat out practice Thursday because of a foot nagging injury, although it is not expected to cause him to miss the game in Miami. He missed practice because of the injury before the Jets game, but he was listed as probable and played.
**Bryant was the only player to sit out practice this week. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (groin), who missed the Jets game before the bye, is back. He will be probable, along with running back Marshawn Lynch (back), defensive end Greg Scruggs (oblique) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring).
**Recently banged-up players Doug Baldwin (ankle), Kam Chancellor (thigh), Braylon Edwards (knee), Jason Jones (ankle), Moffitt (knee) and Unger (finger) are all off the injury report.
PROBABLE: DT Red Bryant (foot), OG James Carpenter (concussion), LB K.J. Wright (concussion), DT Clinton McDonald (groin), RB Marshawn Lynch (back), DE Greg Scruggs (oblique), CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring).
IR: DE Dexter Davis (hip), TE Cameron Morrah (toe), RB Vai Tuau (knee), WR Ben Obomanu (wrist).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Austin Spiller (ankle).
PROBABLE: LB Karlos Dansby (biceps), P Brandon Fields (knee), C Mike Pouncey (ankle), S Jimmy Wilson (ribs).
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.