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Next man up: Byron Maxwell
The Seahawks already have played – and won – games without three of their starting offense lineman, their middle linebacker, their tight end and one of their starting cornerbacks.
Now, the 10-1 Seahawks are preparing for a “Monday Night Football” matchup with the 9-2 New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field down two corners.
But as coach Pete Carroll put it after Tuesday’s bonus practice, “That won’t deter us at all from having an extraordinary week in getting ready and getting jacked up about a great opportunity here with a fantastic football team coming in for Monday night.”
That’s because “next-man-up” has not been just a catchphrase for the Seahawks this season, it’s been a way of life. So with starting right cornerback Brandon Browner out indefinitely with a groin injury and backup Walter Thurmond beginning a league-imposed four-game suspension Tuesday, it’s time for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to step up – just as they did down the stretch last season, when Browner was serving a four-game suspension and Thurmond was injured.
Tuesday, Maxwell was at right corner with the No. 1 defense and Lane was the nickel back who covers the slot receiver. The club also signed Perrish Cox to the 53-man roster and Akeem Auguste to the practice squad to provide depth.
“Byron Maxwell’s going to step up and do a lot of playing for us,” Carroll said. “Jeremy will jump in. … We’re really excited for these guys. They can play. They’ve played for us before. They’ve done great stuff when they have.
“We have nothing to think about but the positive and the upside – just guys are going to contribute in a big way. Just like our guys have across the board.”
For Maxwell and Lane, it will be contributing in a different way. Their efforts as the gunners on the punt coverage unit are a big reason why the Seahawks have yielded a league-low 15 yards on punt returns. Lane has seven coverage tackles to share the team lead with Heath Farwell and Chris Maragos. Maxwell has three.
Last December, Lane started the final three regular-season games at right cornerback, when the Seahawks rolled past the Buffalo Bills 50-17 and 49ers 42-13 and also beat the Rams 20-13.
One thing working in the Seahawks’ favor in their next two games is the limited use of more than two wide receivers on first and second downs by the Saints (34 percent of their snaps, seventh fewest in the NFL) and San Francisco 49ers (a league-low 11.4 percent).
“Byron has been a fantastic player for us whenever we’ve given him his opportunities,” Carroll said. “When he started last year he did really well. When he’s played for us in all situations, coming off the bench and on special teams, he’s a fantastic player. He’s well-schooled. He’s totally versed in our style of play. And he’s had a great season working here for us, we have nothing but confidence in him.
“So he’ll jump right in and I don’t hesitate saying he’ll play really well this game.”
That’s because it’s Maxwell's turn to be next-man-up.