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Seattle Seahawks
Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: Seahawks’ critical defensive injuries might be too much for even Russell Wilson to overcome

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 23, 2020

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin with a season-ending knee injury during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle.  (Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin with a season-ending knee injury during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – What are you feeling right now if you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan?

Are you still riding the euphoria of that win over the Patriots, when you wore out your larynx after that stop on the 1-yard line?

Are you still oohing and aahing over those five touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, who took over as the Vegas favorite to win NFL MVP? Or has your mood altered drastically over two key injuries on the team’s weaker side of the ball?

Because if you’ve gone from blissful to bitter in a matter of moments, nobody would blame you. Defensive end Bruce Irvin and safety/nickel cornerback Marquise Blair are out for the year for the Seahawks after suffering ACL tears Sunday night. Irvin was likely the second-biggest offseason acquisition for Seattle (after Jamal Adams), given the 8.5 sacks he provided the Carolina Panthers in 2019. Blair was a second-year player who had fans and teammates salivating about his season, with linebacker K.J. Wright saying two weeks ago, “We’ve got to get Marquise on the field.”

Let’s not exaggerate and say these injuries are on par with someone such as Wilson going down. But this is a gut shot that likely will not come with a full recovery.

Irvin, really, is the deep cut here. Before he was signed, Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle’s defensive line as the NFL’s worst. Not surprising considering the Seahawks were tied for 29th in sacks last year – and that was with three-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney on the edge.

After his productive year in Carolina in which he tallied a career-high sack total in just 13 games, Irvin was supposed to help provide some semblance of a pass rush for Seattle from a linebacker spot. Now a pass rush the Seahawks hoped would be adequate might have just downgraded to absent. And if they don’t sign an impactful pass-rusher, these next 14 games could feel like 40.

Did you see what Patriots quarterback Cam Newton did to them Sunday? The man completed 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards. The worst part is the Seahawks knew New England was going to pass on just about every play. Yet Newton still was able to drop back, check his email, call mom to say hi and fire off a pass with no hit coming after the throw.

The Seahawks were 1 yard from losing despite Wilson having what might have been the finest game of his career. Magic as he might be, that isn’t going to happen every game, so Seattle should be concerned.

Had the Seahawks lost, say, a receiver such as Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf, it would have hurt. But given the depth at that position, it wouldn’t have quite hit with the same force as the Irvin loss.

The absence of Blair, meanwhile, won’t quite have the same impact as Irvin’s, but it is still significant. Blair’s bruising hits in 2019 were memorable, and his playmaking during camp drew rave reviews. As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said via Zoom on Monday, “Marquise was just breaking in for the first time and getting it and really making a big splash.”

Making a splash indeed. But now the Seahawks’ D might be taking a bath.

These next few days are going to be intriguing for the Seahawks. Who will they sign to replace Irvin? Might it be former Packers star Clay Matthews, 34, who had eight sacks with the Rams last year? Could it be 31-year-old Jabaal Sheard, who had 4.5 sacks last year for the Colts?

Assuming the Seahawks can get one of them, matching Irvin’s expected production could be difficult. So again: How are you feeling?

In the early part of last season, Wilson was showing MVP flashes and torching opponents. The Seahawks were winning despite their defensive shortcomings, but Wilson’s dominance didn’t last, and that made Seattle vulnerable. Aside from the addition of Adams, is there reason to think that won’t happen again this year?

Here’s a hypothetical for the 12s: If you had the choice between winning Sunday, or keeping Irvin and Blair healthy, which would you have chosen? My guess is most of you take the win, but given how thin the D is – particularly when it comes to pass-rushers, it’s at least something to think about.

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