On a Monday evening where few things went as planned for the Seahawks in a devastating 13-10 loss to the Saints and dropped to 2-5 on the season, the situation somehow became even worse when third-year defensive back Marquise Blair exited late in the fourth quarter with what coach Pete Carroll called a "significant" knee injury.
While Blair looks to have thankfully avoided a dreaded patellar tendon injury, Seattle still faces the prospect of being without the former second-round pick for the remainder of the season. Per Carroll, the ex-Utah star fractured his right knee cap and will need to undergo surgery to repair the injury.
"He's going to have to have that cleaned up," Carroll said on his weekly radio show on ESPN 710 on Tuesday morning.
Riding a three-game losing streak for the first time in a decade, Blair's injury is just the latest blow for the Seahawks, who sit in last place in the NFC West and find their playoff hopes on thin ice before the calendar flips to November. It's unprecedented territory for a franchise that has made the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons and never finished with worse than a 9-7 record during that span.
Unfortunately for Seattle, however, seeing a top draft choice such as Blair stricken by injury is anything but unprecedented for general manager John Schneider and the organization. It's become an all too familiar feeling - and a running joke for fans - over the past five years.
Since 2017, a strong argument can be made that no team in the NFL has been snake-bitten by injuries to early round picks more than the Seahawks. That year, second-round pick Malik McDowell suffered undisclosed head injuries in an offseason ATV accident and wound up never playing a single snap before being released in March 2019. The team's other second round selection, center Ethan Pocic, has been placed on injured reserve three times and missed a grand total of 26 games in five years.
The situation hasn't been any better for Seattle's 2018 draft class, starting with oft-injured running back Rashaad Penny. Drafted No. 27 overall in the first round out of San Diego State, the fourth-year back has yet to hit 1,000 career rushing yards and has missed 26 regular season games, including five already this season. He's been placed on injured reserve twice and spent most of the 2020 season on the PUP list rehabbing from a torn ACL.
Even late round picks from that 2018 class haven't been able to stay healthy. Fourth-round pick Will Dissly missed 22 games in his first two seasons with a torn patellar tendon and ruptured Achilles, while fifth-round pick Jamarco Jones sat out his entire rookie season with a broken ankle and has been dogged by other injuries over the last three seasons to miss a grand total of 23 games.
Looking at Seattle's last three draft classes from 2019 to 2021, keeping first and second round picks healthy has remained problematic. Defensive end L.J. Collier missed most of training camp as a rookie with an ankle injury, which set him back tremendously as he finished with three tackles in 11 games. Since then, he's fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and despite an encouraging 2020 season, he's been a healthy scratch in five of the team's seven games so far.
Blair, who the Seahawks picked 47th overall in the second round after Collier, has shown brief spurts of promise. But like Penny, he hasn't been able to stay on the field due to significant injuries. He missed the final 14 games last season with a torn ACL and if he is sidelined for the rest of 2021 with his latest knee injury, he will have missed 28 combined games in three years.
Then in 2020, Seattle traded up and drafted defensive end Darrell Taylor in the second round, only for the player to miss his entire rookie season recovering from offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. While he's had a strong bounce-back season so far with 4.0 sacks in six games, he sat out Monday with a sore neck and has now missed 17 games. First-round pick Jordyn Brooks missed a pair of games with his own knee injury as a rookie as well.
Even with only three picks entering this year's draft, misfortune has continued to strike the Seahawks, as second-round selection Dee Eskridge took a shot to the head in the team's season opener and hasn't played since with a severe concussion. He remains on injured reserve and it's unclear when he will be able to return to action.
Amid Seattle's disappointing start, no injury has been more debilitating than losing star quarterback Russell Wilson three weeks ago with a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger. Without him, the offense has operated like a sinking ship without a captain and like most NFL teams would, they haven't been able to overcome his absence. The struggles with backup Geno Smith should have been expected.
But looking at the big picture, the inability to keep high draft picks healthy, or in the case of Collier receive consistent production from them, was eventually going to come back to bite Carroll, Schneider, and the Seahawks. While some of this can be attributed to bad luck, after several years of Wilson's heroics masking the problem, the chickens have finally come home to roost as evidenced by the standings.