RENTON, Wash. – Adding “Snacks” wasn’t the only move the Seattle Seahawks made Wednesday to beef up their defensive line.
In fact, in something of a surprise, Damon “Snacks” Harrison will start his career on Seattle’s practice squad as the team takes a few days to see if he is ready to contribute on Sunday.
But Harrison was not the only addition Seattle made to try to shore up its leaky defense, signing defensive end Jonathon Bullard off Arizona’s practice squad.
Bullard went straight to Seattle’s 53-player roster with Seattle putting cornerback Neiko Thorpe, who is dealing with a sports hernia injury, on injured reserve.
Bullard was a Bears third-round pick in 2016, when Clint Hurtt, Seattle’s current defensive line coach, was Chicago’s outside linebackers coach.
“So we have some inside scoop on him,” Carroll said of Bullard when he talked to the media Wednesday via Zoom. “We’re excited to see how he fits in the rotation.”
Bullard appears likely to start out as the backup five-technique end, behind L.J. Collier, where Seattle has no one else listed on its depth chart while Rasheem Green is on IR.
Bullard has 3½ sacks in his career – one came last year against Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ win over the Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona.
Carroll said Green, who’s dealing with a stinger, has a chance to be back after the bye week, so Bullard may need to make a quick impression.
But it’s Harrison – who got the nickname “Snacks” when he was with the Jets from 2012-15 because teammates said he was always eating in meetings – that Seahawks fans are surely most excited to see.
Harrison was a first-team All-Pro with the Giants in 2016 and spent last year with the Lions before being released in February in what he termed a mutual agreement.
Harrison, who will turn 32 in November, openly contemplated retiring before deciding he wanted to play again.
He was also reportedly considering the Packers and Bears, but after his workout with the Seahawks on Tuesday, he agreed to a deal with Seattle. Harrison arrived in town last week to begin the league’s COVID-19 testing protocol and was cleared for practice Wednesday.
The next few days of practice, Carroll said, will determine if Harrison will play Sunday.
While he is on the practice squad, Harrison could be elevated to the active roster for Sunday, with teams this year able to elevate two players each week on Saturday (or the day before the game).
Asked how realistic it is that Harrison could play against the Vikings, Carroll said: “Let me see him on the practice field first, see what he looks like running around. Learning the defense, he’ll be fine there. He’s a really smart football player – that’s not going to be a problem. It’s just how fit he is and all that. He’s a big man, you know, so we got to see what it looks like.”
The Seahawks list Harrison, in fact, at 6-foot-3, 350 pounds.
Befitting that size, Harrison has earned a reputation in his previous eight seasons in the NFL as one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the league.
While Harrison has 11 sacks in his career, Carroll said run-defending ability is what Seattle expects most out of Harrison.
“He’s been a notorious run defender,” Carroll said. “I mean, he’s big time in the middle and stopping things. He’s not going to be a guy that’s going to be a third-down pass specialist. … (But) he’s so big and so strong and so stout in the middle.”
Run defense has been Seattle’s defensive strength this season, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, which is third in the NFL and would be the second best in Seahawks history if carried out for the entire season.
But the Seahawks also have a big run-defense challenge this week in Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, who leads the NFL in rushing with 424 yards at 5.7 per carry, and also have all six games left against NFC West foes Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Each ranks among the top 11 in the league in rushing yards per game.
Seattle has a set starting duo at tackle in Jarran Reed and Poona Ford, and Carroll has sounded pleased with backups Bryan Mone and Anthony Rush.
But adding a player with Harrison’s pedigree was hard to resist, Carroll said.
“He’s a player that’s got a big character in the locker room and his attitude and personality that you add to the team is really special,” Carroll said. “So whenever we can do that, we’re trying to get better.”
The new practice squad rules this year also make it a bit easier.
Players with any level of experience are now eligible for the practice squad, and all practice squad players make a set salary – for a player with Harrison’s experience, he’ll get $12,000 a week.
If Harrison is elevated to the roster on Saturday, he will then get a prorated share of his regular contract.
Seattle last week signed veteran safety Damarious Randall and added him to the practice squad and then elevated him for Saturday’s game.
“We’ve been able to use players off our practice squad that have been playing in games and they’ve been part of it,’’ Carroll said. “It’s an expanded roster in this new format, and we’re trying to take full advantage of that and make the most of it.’’
Adams out again; Neal to start
There’s an awful lot of new things suddenly happening for Seahawks safety Ryan Neal.
Two Sundays ago, he got his first NFL snaps on defense and his first interception, clinching Seattle’s win against Dallas with 6 seconds left.
Last Sunday, he got his first career NFL start at Miami in place of the injured Jamal Adams, getting another interception and playing every snap as the Seahawks won again.
Wednesday morning, he found himself being interviewed on the NFL Network after he was told he will start again Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, as Carroll told the media via Zoom that Adams is out again.
With a bye week next week, the Seahawks hope giving Adams this week and next week off means he can return Oct. 25 against Arizona fully healthy for the rest of the season.
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