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Originally published October 11, 2013 at 9:00 PM | Page modified October 11, 2013 at 11:58 PM

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Unger expected to start against Titans

Center will help shore up dinged up offensive line after missing two games with arm injury.


Seattle Times staff reporter

SUNDAY

Tennessee Titans @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 7

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I think having Unger back will be huge. I also am feeling like a big game for Kearse... MORE

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RENTON — Max Unger, the leader of the Seahawks’ offensive line, is expected to return Sunday after missing the last two games with an arm injury.

Unger’s return to the lineup should shore up a banged-up offensive line that has severely struggled the last two weeks.

“He’s a tremendous captain out there on the field for all the identification, all the signals, all the stuff we need,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He helps people around him play better. It’s a big factor, and it’s obvious when he’s out there.”

The Seahawks could use all the relief they can get along the offensive line. Pro Football Focus grades Seattle as the fourth-worst run blocking team in the league and the second-worst pass blocking team. Sports Illustrated also ranks Seattle as one of the league’s worst lines in terms of allowing pressure.

The Seahawks have played the last two games without three starters — tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini as well as Unger — and it showed. The most crippling part of those injuries weren’t just that the Seahawks lost starters; it was that they lost their best offensive linemen. Okung and Unger have both made the Pro Bowl.

The earliest Okung could return is Nov. 17 against Minnesota. He hasn’t played since leaving the second game of the season with a torn tendon in his left big toe. Giacomini could return in a couple of weeks after having surgery on his knee at the end of September.

Without Unger, quarterback Russell Wilson shouldered more of the responsibility for identifying what defenses might be doing. He tried to communicate with his linemen more to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Those responsibilities now fall from Wilson back to Unger, who is well-versed in Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme under offensive line coach Tom Cable.

“All of his stuff is going to be right,” receiver Doug Baldwin said, “and he’s going to make sure all the guys around him are right. That’s going to uplift the whole offense.”

Without Okung, Unger and Giacomini in the lineup, Seattle is just 5 for 26 (19 percent) on third down over the last two games. Carroll cited the struggles of the offensive line as a big reason for that inefficiency, but some of the communication issues that have plagued the unit should subside with Unger’s return.

“He’s probably the most well versed in this offense,” Baldwin said. “Having a guy like that helps the communication. As a whole, the offensive line will work better because they have that guy who has seen it all before.”

Notes

• LB Bobby Wagner (ankle) is not expected to play. Said Carroll, “Bobby has an outside chance if you’re really optimistic.”

• RB Marshawn Lynch (hip) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game and did not practice on Friday. Carroll, though, said Lynch is fine and made it sound like Lynch will play.

• TE Zach Miller (hamstring) has a chance to play. Carroll said the Seahawks will test Miller on Sunday to see if he can go. CB Jeremy Lane (hamstring) is in the same situation.

It hurts to line up
Injuries on the Seahawks’ offensive line this season:
NamePostion InjuryOut since
Max Ungercenterupper armWeek 3
Russull Okungleft tackletorn tendon in big toeWeek 2
Breno Giacominiright tacklekneeWeek 3

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com



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