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Seahawks analysis: Expect more starters next week, and could the Seattle consider re-signing K.J. Wright?

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wears a headset on the sideline during the second half of the team’s NFL preseason football game against the Denver Broncos, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

You may have questions following the Seahawks’ 30-3 loss in preseason game No. 2 against the Broncos Saturday night at Lumen Field.

We’ll try to have some answers.

Here we go, with a Q&A review of what happened Saturday night and what it might mean going forward.

Q: The performance was so putrid because the Seahawks held out 22 starters or key players – including their top two quarterbacks – and 27 including a few who were injured, right? Yes? Please?

A: That’s the obvious and realistic view. Denver played most of its starters for two series. Star safety Justin Simmons had an interception of Seahawks third-team QB Alex McGough on the third series and Pro Bowl linebacker Bradley Chubb, going against Seattle’s second-team offensive line, had a sack to kill the second. And Denver’s starting offensive line played the first two series.

What happened early – a 14-0 deficit after two series – can be easily excused. Maybe somewhat concerning is that when it became a battle-of-the-backups in the second half it never really got better. But it’s hardly a secret that the Seahawks are in trouble if Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, Chris Carson, Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams, etc., are ever out of the lineup for long.

In other words, read nothing into it.

Q: But the starters are going to play Saturday against the Chargers, right?

A: Coach Pete Carroll said after the game that’s the plan.

As Carroll explained it, the Seahawks decided to change things up this year due to the shortened three-game preseason and because there are 15 days between the final preseason game and the first regular-season game. That meant they had what they considered training camp through last week, focused mostly on evaluation and season preparation. But this week the team will treat similar to a usual regular-season game week with an eye toward playing more of the starters, knowing they then have 15 days to recover before the game at Indianapolis on Sept. 12.

“This format for us was different than we’ve ever done before,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve done something different, and it hasn’t been a lot of fun and games with the way we’re playing. But Week 3 is a big deal for us. We’ll go back to a lot of the other guys that haven’t played in the first two games to prepare them for game one of the regular season. That’s been the plan all along.’’

That seems to indicate that the uncertainty at left tackle – where Duane Brown continues to “hold in’’ and Jamarco Jones has been injured – wasn’t a factor. But certainly, if Jones is back this week – as the team expects – that will make it more comfortable to throw Wilson on the field.

Q: Will Ben Burr-Kirven’s injury mean the return of K.J. Wright?

A: First, the worst thing that happened Saturday was knee injuries to Burr-Kirven and receiver John Ursua, each members of the draft class of 2019. While Carroll did not give details of the injuries he said each was “serious’’ and each would be out “a while.’

Ursua confirmed the worst when he announced via Instagram that he had torn his ACL, an injury which would knock him out for the season.

The loss of Burr-Kirven leaves the Seahawks with only Cody Barton listed as an experienced backup at the two inside spots behind Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks.

That led to social media calls for the Seahawks to re-sign Wright, one of the team’s most respected players in its history and still a free agent despite a sterling 2020 season.

But one reason the Seahawks haven’t made a real effort to re-sign Wright is that it wanted to turn over the full-time weakside linebacking role to Brooks, while also reconfiguring its strongside linebacking position, the other spot Wright played last year.

Darrell Taylor is the listed starter at SLB, but the Seahawks are listing Alton Robinson as a strongside linebacker on its depth chart. And depending on how much nickel they plays, that position is only on the field 30% of the time or so (Taylor and Robinson also are slated to see ample snaps as rush ends).

Burr-Kirven was slated to be a backup at the middle and weakside spots this year as well as being a core special teamer. He played 293 special-teams snaps last year and was injured on the opening kickoff last night (which, making everything that much worse, was a touchback).

It seems unlikely the Seahawks would consider Wright a fit at this stage for Burr-Kirven’s role.

The wild card in this is Nick Bellore. Without Burr-Kirven, the Seahawks used Bellore – listed as a fullback but who has 12 starts at linebacker in his NFL career – at linebacker. Bellore had 28 defensive snaps, along with five on offense.

Would the Seahawks consider Bellore a realistic option as a backup linebacker? He certainly seemed to show enough Saturday night. But no question, the linebacking depth could cause it to consider all options.

Q: Is the cornerback spot a concern?

A: Certainly, the Seahawks may have wished it seemed a bit more settled right now. Ahkello Witherspoon, the presumptive starter on the left side, allowed an early 35-yard reception to speedy Denver receiver Jerry Jeudy that keyed the Broncos’ first TD drive (though that was the only reception he allowed in 12 coverage snaps) while D.J. Reed, the presumptive starter on right side, has yet to play due to a groin injury.

Tre Flowers filled in again as a starter on the right side Saturday night, and graded out well via Pro Football Focus, giving up just one reception for 5 yards – on a third-and-six play – on 13 coverage snaps. Rookie Tre Brown played 35 snaps at left corner and did not have a pass thrown his way but seemed to struggle some tackling.

The Seahawks hope Reed returns this week, which could help solidify things. Conversely, it may not be a surprise if the Seahawks scour the waiver wires for veterans as cuts are made the next two weeks.Q: Did anyone play well?

A: Yes. Veteran defensive tackle Al Woods saw his first action of the preseason and was Seattle’s highest-graded defensive player via PFF, showing particularly well against the run (the run defense was solid all night as the Broncos had just 63 yards on 31 attempts and no gain of longer than 8 yards). Rasheem Green had another sack and Barton and Brooks also played well, as did Flowers.

Offensively, an off-the-radar player earned the team’s highest grade from PFF – undrafted rookie free-agent tackle Jake Curhan. Curhan played tackle at Cal but had been used by the Seahawks at guard until the injuries compelled them to move him to right tackle. Curhan graded out equally well in run and pass blocking in 26 snaps.

DeeJay Dallas was another obvious offensive star, especially with his kickoff returns, a spot he may have won Saturday night with 73 yards on two attempts, though it’s worth noting PFF did not grade his pass blocking well, vital if he is to be the third-down/two-minute back.

Ursua, sadly, was had the third-highest offensive grade from PFF with three catches for 34 yards in 19 snaps before he was injured.

His injury leaves the battle for a potential final spot or two at receiver on the roster that much more wide open.

But the Seahawks using Wilson and Smith at QB this week should help bring some clarity to the WR spot.