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Seahawks look like a team in disarray as Cowboys arrive for home opener

Seahaks free safety Earl Thomas, left, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) react on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Seattle in 2017. While Wagner is returning from an injury after missing two games, Thomas has been absent to take care of a personal matter. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)
Seahaks free safety Earl Thomas, left, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) react on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Seattle in 2017. While Wagner is returning from an injury after missing two games, Thomas has been absent to take care of a personal matter. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)
By Gregg Bell Tacoma News Tribune

The Seahawks are getting back one All-Pro.

Another is ratcheting up his anger – at his own team.

What, you thought the drama-filled Seahawks would get through one week without doubt and issue among their stars.

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will return Sunday from his first missed game in three years to orchestrate Seattle’s defense and spy Dallas’ increasingly running quarterback Dak Prescott in the Seahawks’ home opener at CenturyLink Field.

But All-Pro safety Earl Thomas went into sudden limbo as the weekend began, after he mysteriously missed Friday’s practice for no reason. At least none coach Pete Carroll or his team would reveal, other than to say it was a “personal” reason.

So it goes for the winless, but not news-less, Seahawks.

And they’re not even out of September.

“I’m not going to give them no cliché. You don’t want to be 0-3,” Wagner said of this test against Dallas (1-1), after road losses to Denver (27-24) and Monday night at Chicago (24-17).

He’s right. You don’t.

Since 1980, 177 teams have started an NFL season 0-3. Five have gone on to make the playoffs. That’s a microscopic 2.8 percent chance at the postseason if you’ve started 0-3.

That’s what’s at stake for the Seahawks vs. Dallas.

“I look at it as we’re coming back home; you want to win every game at home,” Wagner said. “This is our first opportunity to be at home and give our crowd something to cheer for. We’re going to come out, we’re going to do our thing.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said of the Seahawks’ slow start. “Through my career, we’ve started all type of ways. We started really good. We started 1-4. We started all types of (ways). It really doesn’t matter, which is why we’ve been successful towards the end of the season.

“I think it’s just that mindset of understanding it’s a long season, understanding there’s a lot of teams that start hot and don’t finish that way. You would rather be the team that starts slow but finishes fast than the team that starts 7-0 but doesn’t make the playoffs.”

Thing Is, This Seahawks Team Doesn’t Have The Talent Nor Experience Their Predecessors Had While Rallying Into Their Multiple Playoff Runs Of The Past.

These Seahawks will have seven new starters on defense Sunday compared to last season, now that rookie right cornerback Tre Flowers is returning from a sore hamstring that kept him out of Monday night’s loss at Chicago. Last year at this time, the Seahawks were 1-1 with a combined 23 Pro Bowl selections on defense. Now they have six Pro Bowl appearances, all by the disgruntled Thomas.

His status to play Sunday was in doubt after he didn’t practice Friday for what the Seahawks reported was a reason “not injury related.” Instead of just saying his 29-year-old star got a rest day common to veterans, Carroll added to the intrigue and innuendo by saying: “He couldn’t work today. We’ll see how he’s doing. Make sure he’s OK.”

Carroll said it was not an injury, but that “he’s got some other stuff going on, that we are working on. Yes, it (of) a personal nature. That’s why I’m not talking about it.”

Wagner’s Pro Bowl linebacking partner K.J. Wright will miss his third straight game after arthroscopic knee surgery late last month.

Mychal Kendricks was Wright’s fill-in at weakside linebacker against the Bears. That was after just two practices with Seattle, and four days after signing while facing prison time for insider trading. Kendricks is questionable to play against Dallas because of a sore foot he got in practice Thursday, but Carroll said Friday the Super Bowl starter in February for Philadelphia should be able to play against the Cowboys.

Wagner starting instead of second-year free agent Austin Calitro, who replaced him against the Bears, is huge for Seattle’s task of containing Prescott. Dallas’ quarterback is running more this season, called runs like Cam Newton does for Carolina. That makes Dallas more dynamic and tougher defend than it was when Seattle beat the Cowboys on Christmas Eve.

Prescott had a career-high 45 yards rushing last weekend while the Cowboys beat the Giants. Wagner has the speed and strength to shadow Prescott through blockers when he takes off outside. But Wagner is not playing at full health.

Asked this past week if he feels as good now after the game off as he did before he hurt his groin Sept. 9 in the second quarter of the opener at Denver, Wagner said only “I feel better (than last week). So I’m good.”

On offense, the Seahawks must run the ball more than they have through two games, to slow down a Cowboys defense that is blitzing more and more effectively than when these teams last met nine months ago in Texas. Dallas is second in the NFL with nine sacks. Chicago has 10, after sacking Seattle’s Russell Wilson six times Monday night.

Stop me if you’ve read before that the Seahawks need to run the ball more.

Primary back Chris Carson has 13 carries through two games. He didn’t touch the ball at Chicago after the 11:51 mark of the second quarter. Seattle has been 73 percent pass and 23 percent run this season, despite both its contests being one-score games for almost the entire duration. And despite the eight months Carroll talked about re-establishing the run as the basis for the Seahawks’ offense this season.

“We just need more runs,” Carroll said, and play caller Brian Schottenheimer reiterated. “We just need more first downs and more runs. It’s an important part of the way we play. That’s no change. That’s nothing. We just haven’t got it done yet.

“I’m hoping that it feeds off of third down conversions and we get our chances and then we can keep the ball running.”

Carson getting, say, 20 carries, would help. And it would likely mean Seattle is winning in the second half.

Wilson would benefit for more effective and consistent running by Carson and rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny, or just more running period. He’s been sacked an NFL-high 12 times through two games.

Carroll raised some eyebrows this past week when he said the Seahawks’ pass protection is better than it has been in recent seasons. What he meant was Wilson has caused at least five of the 12 sacks by holding onto the ball to long and extending plays that just aren’t there. That’s been especially the case on third downs, as receivers struggle to get open and Pro Bowl wide out Doug Baldwin, Wilson’s favorite third-down target, misses a third consecutive game Sunday with a sprained knee.

Starting right tackle Germain Ifedi said Seattle’s offensive line has been emphasizing the need to give Wilson a larger, longer-lasting pocket from which to throw.

“Me, personally, as us as an offensive line want to be firmer. We want to give Russ more space, to be able to operate more in the pocket, and not have it collapse on him.

“And we are working on getting better, keep improving. We see it. The sack numbers are what they are. We are have a piece of the puzzle there, and can do better…

“We think we are pretty close.”

That’s the silver lining to an early season of losses and chaos, the Seahawks’ stated belief they are not that far away from a turnaround.

“I think that we’re close,” Wagner said. “ I do think that we have a lot of pieces in place. We just got to grind. We got to work.

“This is not going to be easy.”

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