Seahawks Rookie Marquise Blair Poised to Make First NFL Start

Corbin Smith

Two hours before kickoff, the Seahawks have officially ruled safety Bradley McDougald out for Sunday’s game against the Ravens with back spasms.

McDougald did not practice at all this week, but he was listed as questionable on Seattle’s final injury report on Friday. Coach Pete Carroll expressed hope the veteran defender would be able to turn the corner, but he clearly didn’t make enough progress to be able to play.

The Seahawks will also be without reserve safety Lano Hill, who was ruled out with an elbow injury on Friday despite being listed as doubtful. Carroll anticipates it’ll take a few weeks before he has a chance to return to action, leaving the team short-handed in the secondary.

With McDougald and Hill both sidelined, rookie safety Marquise Blair should receive his first career NFL start at strong safety alongside Tedric Thompson. The second-round pick out of Utah has only played 12 defensive snaps the entire season and produced a single tackle, but Carroll has made an effort in recent weeks to get him onto the field.

Injuries have been an issue for Blair, as he missed time during organized team activities with a hamstring strain and missed two preseason games with back spasms. With the missed time, he’s still been working on earning the coaching staff’s trust while mastering both safety spots.

Despite playing only a handful of meaningful snaps in regular season games, Carroll knows what Blair is capable of on the field and after enjoying a strong week of practice with a ton of reps replacing Hill and McDougald, he believes he’s ready to seize this opportunity.

“I want him to kick butt. I’m counting on him playing really good.” Carroll said on Friday. “He’s a runner and a hitter. He’s shown that. We don’t have any question about that. It’s just can he settle in and be comfortable with the calls and adjustments and all that stuff and just play good ball. There’s no question about his ability level.”

Playing his first extensive NFL action against a talented Ravens squad, Blair will certainly make some mistakes, especially given his history as a hard hitter who enjoys attacking the line of scrimmage. He paid dearly for guessing wrong in the preseason opener back in August and has to play smarter.

But as Carroll and other coaches have likely advised the talented safety, Blair can’t overthink things and needs to let his instincts and skill set take over. He also can’t be afraid to deliver big hits out of fear of drawing penalties. If he can do those things, he’ll have a shot to impress in the starting lineup.