Rookie Brock Coyle is about to become the next option for the Seattle Seahawks at middle linebacker.
Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said Wednesday the Seahawks are planning on starting Coyle at middle linebacker this week against Oakland. The undrafted rookie out of Montana has only played a handful of snaps during the season but impressed Seattle’s coaches enough during the preseason that they’re comfortable with the move.
"It’s his position to lose. He’s in there right now. He can mess it up by a bad week. We could change our mind," Norton said. "I think we were pleasantly surprised by Brock in his performance this summer, throughout the camp, throughout the preseason. He stepped in when Bobby (Wagner) was out then. He’s going to do the same thing now. We know exactly what we’re getting and we’re very pleased with what we have. That’s why he’s here."
The Seahawks have been without Wagner for the past two weeks because of a toe injury suffered against Dallas. Seattle’s initial move was to slide K.J. Wright to middle linebacker and insert Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith at outside linebacker. But it’s unknown whether Smith will be healthy for Sunday after suffering a groin injury against Carolina.
Rather than completely juggling the linebacker corps, the Seahawks are planning to move Wright back outside and insert the rookie. Coyle’s representatives first tweeted congratulations for their client getting his first start.
"That’s why our depth is so important and Brock’s work that he had with Bobby out in the summertime is very important," Norton said.
Coyle has appeared in every game this season but mostly on special teams. He has played less than 10 defensive snaps. But he got plenty of time during the preseason when Wagner was out with a hamstring injury. Coyle started Seattle’s first two preseason games and saw extensive time in the other two.
Coyle is the latest undrafted rookie to find his way onto Seattle’s roster, a group that includes wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, tight end Cooper Helfet and backup safety Jeron Johnson.
Even with Coyle likely to start, the Seahawks will likely rotate their healthy linebackers. The Seahawks are high on the improvement of rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis, who saw his most extensive play last week against Carolina. Pierre-Louis was in for 20 defensive snaps last week, had three tackles and his blitz on Cam Newton in the third quarter led to an interception.
"He had some exciting plays," Carroll said. "He’s real fast and he played real fast, looked fast on the field. Looked good in the open field, blitzed really well and he’ll be a part of the plan if Malcolm can’t go this week."
NOTES: Center Max Unger (foot) and CB Byron Maxwell (calf) have a chance of returning this week from their injuries, Carroll said. Unger was hurt in Seattle’s Week 5 win at Washington, while Maxwell was injured a week later against Dallas. … Carroll again did not have a timeline for the return of Wagner (toe) or TE Zach Miller (ankle). Carroll said Miller was feeling "the best he’s felt by far" after having treatment last weekend. "It’s the first really positive sign we’ve had," Carroll said of Miller’s recovery.