Quandre Diggs nearing return; Cody Barton ready to replace Mychal Kendricks

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers

RENTON -- It hasn't taken a rigorously trained football eye to notice the significant difference in play the Seahawks defense has been capable of this season with and without free safety Quandre Diggs in the starting lineup.

“You all saw it and felt it too, you asked us questions about, ‘Hey, it looks like things are a little different when he’s playing.’ It is,” head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “His experience, his savvy, his confidence, it has an effect. So I’m thrilled to get him back out there if that’s the case. We need him, we need everything we can get.”

Diggs has missed the last two games for Seattle after sustaining a high-ankle sprain in the team's win over the Carolina Panthers. With Lano Hill in the lineup at free safety the last two weeks, the Seahawks allowed 16 plays of greater than 15 yards, including six plays of over 25 yards. Those explosive plays don't all fall in Hill's lap, but Diggs' ability to read, react and tackle along with getting the defense set correctly could have made a significant difference.

Diggs returned to practice with the team on Wednesday and has a good chance of returning to the lineup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

“It feels good,” Diggs said prior to practice. “I’m excited to get to practice with my guys again. You always miss these aspects of playing the game, practicing, you miss those things when they’re taken away from you… I’ve got to get through the week, and we’ll go from there. You never know what’ll happen at practice, so I just want to try to put my best foot forward.”

Diggs has yet to play in a playoff game in his five-year career. He was a part of the Detroit Lions playoff team that lost in Seattle in 2016, but a pectoral injury kept him from playing and he didn't even make the trip to Seattle.

"Thinking I'm a second-year guy, we made the playoffs. It's going to be consistent. And then you've got to wait until your fifth year to make them again. It's definitely a blessing, definitely excited. It will be a fun atmosphere," Diggs said.

Diggs was officially limited in his return to the practice field on Wednesday.

"I really want to give a shout out to Saquon Barkley and Luka Doncic because I watched everything and saw how they bounced back," Diggs said. "They just kind of put a goal in my mind of what I can do. Those guys push me, and they don’t even know it."

Cody Barton to step into starting role in place of injured Mychal Kendricks:

With starting strong-side linebacker Mychal Kendricks out for the rest of the year after tearing his ACL in Sunday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, rookie Cody Barton will be tasked with handling the job the rest of the way.

Barton has already started two games in place of Kendricks this year against the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams when Kendricks was sidelined with a hamstring strain.

"I've already got a couple games under me so that definitely helps my confidence," Barton said.

Barton has made errors at times as he's adapted to playing an unfamiliar position. Barton played behind the line of scrimmage in the roles of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright during his time at the University of Utah. That's the position he was put at to begin his time with the Seahawks as well. The strong-side linebacker role in Seattle's 4-3 base defense is aligned on the edge of the formation and typically on the line of scrimmage. It comes with a different vantage point and different responsibilities than the off-ball positions Barton is most familiar with.

"That's the difference. Being on the line of scrimmage," Barton said. "Your field of view is different as opposed to playing off the ball where you're seeing everything and seeing the whole picture and shooting gaps and this and that, you're down the line of scrimmage where you're holding edges and fighting the tackle instantly. Just a lot of holding edges.

"But, I mean, playing any position beats sitting on the sidelines."

Barton has 23 tackles and a pass defended in his 16 games played for the Seahawks this season. While his play hasn't been perfect - including his fill-in duty for Kendricks on Sunday - Carroll said they have trust him to man the position.

"Cody did alright. He did a solid job," Carroll said. "I’m hesitant to say he played great because he missed a couple opportunities there. He’s a good football player for us. Get him a whole week of starting and all the reps and stuff and he’ll do a nice job for us. He’s very able to play well for us.”

Kendricks will be placed on injured reserve but remains on the active roster for the time being.

Injury Updates:

-- Left tackle Duane Brown (knee): "He’s working at it. He’s trying to get back. He’s going for it. We’ll see what he can do. I don’t know anything right now. There’s nothing he’s done on the field yet."

-- Wide receiver Malik Turner (concussion): "He’s got some tests to do today to get cleared for tomorrow. Everything is trending towards he’s going to be back, but he’s got a meeting here right now that he’s got to perform in and show that he’s OK."

-- Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (core): "He’s practicing and going. He’s doing the best he can so he’s ready to go again."

*Note: Clowney did not practice on Wednesday

-- Running back Marshawn Lynch: “He’s ready to go. Ready to practice today, no hesitation.”

Carroll also gave updates on injured running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

Carroll said that Carson will not need surgery to address the hip injury he sustained against the Arizona Cardinals. The expectation is he will be healthy for training camp.

“As a matter of fact, I saw Chris yesterday and he was in very good spirits because of that. It’s still quite an extensive recovery, but he has no surgery and he doesn’t have to undergo any of those issues. He was really thrilled about that. The recovery will be as quickly as possible. He was really of good attitude about it and all that. He’s a great worker. We don’t have any problem expecting him to come back."

Penny had more damage in his knee beyond the torn ACL sustained in the loss to the Los Angeles Rams on December 8. However, the trajectory for him also is that he'll be ready for training camp.

"All the expectations are that he’ll make it back," Carroll said. "It was a legit surgery that’s going to call for the full length of time, and it’s a little bit less predictable with his recovery than it would be for Chris.”

The team placed offensive lineman Ethan Pocic on injured reserve due to a core muscle injury that will require surgery and elevated guard/center Kyle Fuller from the practice squad.

“He kind of developed over time a core injury that was just too much for him and he couldn’t overcome it," Carroll said. "We tried like crazy and he stuck it out as long as he could. He’s going to have to get fixed up. He’s played with it for a little bit of time and it popped up here and he couldn’t do anything about it unfortunately."

Injury Report:

Photo Credit: CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 15: Seattle Seahawks defensive back Quandre Diggs #37 tackles Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey #22 in the first half at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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