RENTON — Two weeks into training camp, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still has a muddled picture of which four players will be his team’s pass rush group when the season opens Sept. 8 at Carolina.
Identified as the team’s top priority this offseason, Carroll brought in edge rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency. Adding them to the team’s Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin should give the Seahawks one of the better pass rush units in the league.
However, Clemons remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while rehabbing from major reconstructive knee surgery and might not play in an exhibition game this season.
Irvin has been out nursing a groin injury since Aug. 4, and will miss the first four games of the regular season because of a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Carroll does not have a timetable for Irvin’s return.
And on Wednesday, Avril returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since the third day of training camp.
Avril missed most of the team’s offseason training program because of a plantar fascia injury, and he has been sidelined most of training camp with a sore hamstring. It’s not the way Avril, who signed a two-year, $13 million deal with Seattle in free agency, wanted to begin his tenure with the team.
“It’s part of football — things happen,” Avril said. “For me, it’s just getting better every day and progressing with the injuries, and getting ready for the season.”
Even though Avril practiced some on Wednesday, Carroll said he likely will not play in the team’s second exhibition, Saturday against Denver at CenturyLink Field.
“It was just a start,” Carroll said. “We couldn’t get him past the individual periods yet, but we’re going to do a little bit more tomorrow. And then we are just going to start bringing him back. It’s just great to get him back on the field. We need him to be a part of this.”
The Seahawks played O’Brien Schofield and Mike Morgan at defensive ends, along with Bennett and rookie Jordan Hill during passing situations against San Diego last week.
Carroll likely will play the same group against Denver, giving the Seattle coach just two more games to figure out his four most talented and healthy pass rushers to play on third downs.
However, one player who has been a pleasant surprise is Hill. A third-round draft choice by the Seahawks in April out of Penn State, Hill has been an effective inside pass rusher on passing downs. He has performed better than expected in place of Alan Branch, who signed as a free agent with Buffalo in the offseason, at the position of run-stuffing defensive tackle next to nose guard Brandon Mebane in running situations.