By Chris Cluff
The Seahawks went into their wild-card playoff game against Washington about as healthy as a team can be at this point in the season.Unfortunately, they did not come out of it the same way, losing leading sacker Chris Clemons (ACL) and kicker Steven Hauschka (calf) for the balance of the postseason.
The loss of Clemons is a big blow as the Hawks prepare to go against the high-powered passing attack of the Atlanta Falcons. But Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could turn it in his favor, if he is as smart as everyone thinks he is. Bradley seemingly hates to blitz on the road — the Hawks rarely do it. But if they are going to get some pressure on Matt Ryan, he is going to have to pull the trigger.
First-round pick Bruce Irvin will start for Clemons, and seventh-round pick Greg Scruggs will continue to help outside and inside. He has been backing up Red Bryant at end and playing inside in passing situations (he has two sacks).
“I’m the renaissance man of the D-line,” Scruggs told reporters. “I’ll take a little bit more snaps to relieve Bruce. But I’m also still in my same role to relieve Red, and come in on third down and do the same things I’ve been doing.”
The Hawks also just signed Patrick Chukwurah, and Bradley told reporters he was hoping the 6-foot-1, 250-pounder would be able to help on third downs. The better option, of course, is to bring the ‘backers and safeties from all directions. Keep Ryan guessing. Use K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Leroy Hill. Blitz Earl Thomas, Jeron Johnson and Kam Chancellor.
The Hawks are going to have to do better than a four-man rush, or Ryan will pick them apart.
One guy who has been playing pretty well inside on third downs is Clinton McDonald. He has commanded a double team most of the time, and he has managed to be disruptive, if not come up with any sacks. Against Washington, he was the one who finally jumped on the ball after Robert Griffin III fumbled late in the game.
Even with Clemons out on third downs, Bradley and McDonald are confident the Hawks will be OK.
“I don’t feel like there’s extra pressure,” McDonald told Seahawks.com. “I just feel like we’ve got a man down and guys are made to step up in this situation. So we’ve just got to show what we know. “I wouldn’t say I’m worried. We know what we’re missing in Chris Clemons. But at the same time, we’ve still got a game to play. We’ve still got to take that field and go out and produce.”
**RB Marshawn Lynch missed a second straight practice Thursday with a foot problem (not his back) — a rare double absence for the NFL’s No. 3 rusher — but he figures to play Sunday.
**CB Byron Maxwell and SS Jeron Johnson each sat out with hamstring injuries.
Probable: RB Marshawn Lynch (foot)
Questionable: S Jeron Johnson (hamstring), CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring).
IR: DE Chris Clemons (knee), DE Dexter Davis (hip), K Steven Hauschka (calf), DT Jason Jones (knee), WR Charly Martin (calf), TE Cameron Morrah (toe), WR Ben Obomanu (wrist), CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring).
Questionable: CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)
Probable: DE John Abraham (ankle), S Charles Mitchell (calf), S William Moore (hamstring), CB Dunta Robinson (head).
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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.