By Chris Cluff
It looks like Malcolm Smith might get another chance to start this week — and thus another chance to oust Leroy Hill from the weakside linebacker spot.
Smith filled in admirably in Chicago last week as Hill missed the game with a sprained ankle. Hill is questionable again for the home game Sunday against Arizona, and Smith figures to play on defense whether Hill can go or not.
“You’re always waiting for the opportunity to show what you can do,” Smith told Seahawks.com this week. “I prepare like a starter and want to play, so when the opportunity comes, you just do it.”
Smith had just two tackles against the Bears, but one was a slashing stop behind the line of scrimmage against running back Matt Forte.
“We’ve become faster with him on the field,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told Seahawks.com in what would seem to be an indicator that the coaches want to see more of Smith.
“When Leroy couldn’t play, we could have been lamenting, ‘Oh gosh, we’re going to lose an experienced player.’ And we hate to miss him,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters. “But Malcolm just did a remarkable job of making plays and doing his assignments and playing hard. That’s what you hope happens.”
Drafted in the seventh round last year, Smith played well on special teams but didn’t get on the field with the defense very much. Earlier this season in Seattle, he helped kick-start a blowout of the Dallas Cowboys by blocking a punt, which Jeron Johnson scooped up for a touchdown.
If Smith plays well against Arizona, it’s easy to see the 23-year-old former USC Trojan supplanting the 30-year-old Hill.
Hill isn’t the only injury concern on the defense. As expected, cornerback Marcus Trufant is out with a pulled hamstring for the second straight week.
With Brandon Browner beginning his suspension, the Hawks are going younger with Walter Thurmond and rookie Jeremy Lane.
“They (Thurmond and Lane) had a lot of activity this week,” Carroll told reporters, per The News Tribune. “Walter’s very comfortable with the opportunity, and for Jeremy it’s a first time-shot. He’s a very talented kid and he knows what he’s doing and he’s been practicing well all year at the spot, so it’s not that big a transition for him. We just need to see how he responds in the game.”
Defensive end Red Bryant, who has been playing through plantar fasciitis for several weeks, practiced Friday and is probable.
On offense, center Max Unger is probable with a hip issue, and it looks like J.R. Sweezy is in line to get some more playing time with James Carpenter out.
“(Sweezy) practiced with the ones quite a bit this week to make sure he’s prepared,” Carroll said. “He and John (Moffitt) will play the spot (left guard), so we’re in good shape there.”
Wide receiver Sidney Rice has been cleared to play after taking a high hit on his winning touchdown in Chicago.
Rice was limited in practice Wednesday, went full Thursday and was limited again Friday, but he is expected to play.
OUT: CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Leroy Hill (ankle).
PROBABLE: DE Red Bryant (foot), SS Kam Chancellor (groin), RB Marshawn Lynch (back), WR Sidney Rice (calf), C Max Unger (hip).
IR: DE Dexter Davis (hip), TE Cameron Morrah (toe), RB Vai Tuau (knee), WR Ben Obomanu (wrist).
DOUBTFUL: DE Ronald Talley (ankle).
QUESTIONABLE: DE Calais Campbell (calf), RB Beanie Wells (knee), WR Andre Roberts (ankle), QB Kevin Kolb (ribs).
PROBABLE: DB Justin Bethel (shoulder), WR Early Doucet (ribs), LS Mike Leach (back), LB Paris Lenon (shoulder), S Kerry Rhodes (quad), CB Greg Toler (hamstring), LB Reggie Welker (knee).
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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.