By Ted Fleming
When the Seahawks and Panthers square off on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, it appears each team will be down a couple of starters due to injury, but for Seattle it goes deeper than that.
The defense was a key to the Hawks success last year and not only is that part of their game hurting, but they knew going in that DT Bruce Irvin would be out for the first four games due to a suspension for a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy.
Without Irvin and starting DE Chris Clemmons, Seattle loses some of its punch in trying to slow down a very mobile Carolina quarterback Cam Newton when he decides to take off running. A pass rush specialist last year, Irvin was moved to outside linebacker for 2013 and until he returns a rotation of players will fill in. Six-year pro Cliff Avril is next up for Clemmons.
Rotational defensive linemen Cliff Avril was limited in practice and should play
On offense, the Seahawks are in much better shape with only starting wide receiver Sidney Rice and backup Stephen Williams being hobbled. They are both expected to be ready on Sunday.
In the secondary, Brandon Browner could be available although if he sees any action it could be limited, at best. Oregon alum Walter Thurmond is a four-year vet who should get the bulk of playing time to help cover Panthers’ wideouts Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell and tight end Greg Olsen.
The Panthers got good news this week when fullback Mike Tolbert returned to practice after missing the entire preseason with hamstring issues. Arguably the best blocker on the team, if he is at or near 100-percent the offense will be much improved.
Rookie Kenjon Barner was expected to step in at running back when Jonathan Stewart was placed on the PUP list and his availability for the game is now doubtful. A foot injury has sidelined him so Armond Smith has been penciled in to replace him as DeAngelo Williams’ running mate.
The Panthers defense came into its own last season even without middle linebacker Jon Beason for most of the season. Luke Kuechly stepped in for him and the job is now his so Beason will shift to weakside linebacker and should be ready at game time despite seeing limited practice.
On the other hand DT Dwan Edwards and S Michael Mitchell did not see any practice so it looks like Kawann Short and Quintin Mikell, respectively, will start instead.
The following is the injury report issued on Thursday by the National Football League for the Seahawks-Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday, September 8, 2013:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE:
T Michael Bowie (shoulder)
DE Chris Clemons (knee)
CB Brandon Browner (hamstring)
DT Jordan Hill (biceps)
FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE:
DT Brandon Mebane (groin), WR Stephen Williams (head)
WR Sidney Rice (knee), DE Cliff Avril (hamstring)
DT Tony McDaniel (groin)
CAROLINA PANTHERS 0-0
DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE:
B Kenjon Barner (foot)
DT Dwan Edwards (thigh)
S Michael Mitchell (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE:
LB Jon Beason (knee)
CB James Dockery (thumb)
WR Domenik Hixon (hamstring)
G Amini Silatolu (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE
TE Ben Hartsock (foot)
RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring)
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.