Jackson suffered a turf toe injury (read about it here, it’s a lot more painful than it sounds) after the last catch he made in the Seahawks’ 27-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 10. Jackson caught five balls for 60 yards in that game, and he leads the team in receptions (63), receiving yards (956) and touchdowns (10). Mike Holmgren has said on more than one occasion that Jackson’s situation will be monitored very carefully, most likely because the team wants to make sure Jackson’s ready for the playoff game next week. Jackson is not expected to play in the regular season finale.
INJURY IMPACT: The one receiver who has benefited most from Jackson’s absence is third-year man D.J. Hackett. In Seattle’s last two games against the 49ers and Chargers, Hackett has caught 11 passes for 124 yards. Expect to see him continue to play a major part in the team’s offense against the Buccaneers. No receiver has better rapport and timing with Matt Hasselbeck than Jackson, but Hackett is living up to his great promise. He’s a tall, reliable target who runs routes well and doesn’t fear traffic.
Trufant suffered a high ankle sprain against the Chargers last week. Though he’s been a bit better in coverage this year, the fourth-year cornerback from Washington State still has difficulty turning around on the run to properly play passes, especially longer-distance plays. He is one of the better tacklers among his position in the NFL. According to FOXSports.com, coach Mike Holmgren has compared Trufant’s injury to the one that sidelined right tackle Sean Locklear for five weeks.
INJURY IMPACT: 2006 top draft pick Kelly Jennings will make his first NFL start in Trufant’s place at right cornerback. Most likely, he will face former Seahawks receiver Joey Galloway most of the day. Though he’s 35 years old, Galloway still has a second gear that can leave lesser defenders in the dust. Jennings doesn’t have Trufant’s tackling acumen, but he’s a better cover corner already, if the work he did against San Diego’s Vincent Jackson last week is any indication.
Jennings reminds this observer a great deal of Andre Dyson, the current Jets CB who played in Seattle last season and was very effective when he could stay healthy. Jennings will no doubt display his inexperience at times through this game and the playoffs (Dallas’ receiving corps will provide him with a stern challenge next week, if that’s the way the ball bounces), but the Tampa Bay game is a good opportunity for him to get reps and learn on the job.
QUESTIONABLE: G Chris Gray (Thigh)
The Seahawks’ current Iron Man, Gray hasn’t missed a start since 1999 – a streak of 121 straight games – but his severely bruised thigh had the team switching his status from probable to questionable in Friday.
INJURY IMPACT: With Gray, the Seahawks must weight the continuity concept against the fact that the 36-year-old guard has spent a great deal of the last two seasons fighting against the inevitable downturn of his own abilities. A gamer who always gives his all, Gray nonetheless gets pushed back far too often, and it will be interesting to see how Floyd Womack does at the right guard position should Gray not be able to go – Womack outweighs Gray by at least 20 pounds. Seattle’s offensive line would start its ninth different rotation in 2006 if Womack replaces Gray, and that lack of continuity has been a major factor in the line’s poor overall performance this season after dominating the league in 2005 when one line started almost the entire season.
PROBABLE: C Robbie Tobeck (Hip); DT Rocky Bernard (Foot); LB Niko Koutouvides (Ankle)
Tobeck, who has missed several weeks with flu and a hip abscess, could be activated if Gray is out. However, Holmgren mentioned this week that his veteran center is still getting his strength back, quipping that “he weighs 150 pounds”. Second-year backup Chris Spencer is gaining valuable experience and doing very well in Tobeck’s stead, so expect that to continue. Gray was the backup center to Spencer before his injury, and Tobeck would most likely take that role if he’s fit. He has been cleared to do so, though he did not practice this week.
Bernard has practiced all week despite a foot injury. He is expected to play on Sunday. Koutouvides, who backs up Lofa Tatupu at MLB and provides special teams help, practiced all week and is expected to play as well.