Safety is growing thin for the Seattle Seahawks as the calendar prepares to turn to December. Seahawks safety Ryan Neal is the latest injury to the position group.
Neal left late in Week 12 because of an elbow injury. While talking to the media on November 28, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll described the injury as “pretty serious,” but didn’t rule out Neal playing in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams.
“He’s a little banged up,” Carroll told the media. “His elbow is the lead concern, but he did bang his shoulder as well, so we’ll be taking care of both. His elbow is of more concern.
“They think he’s going to be OK — might miss a couple of days here, but we think he’ll have a chance to play this weekend. That’s really good news for what it looked like. We were concerned that it might be more than that.”
Injury Bug Hits Seahawks Safeties in 2022
Seattle has been healthy at safety for more than two months, and the injury prognosis for Neal is better than originally projected, but it’s still possible that this is the second major injury to the backend of the Seahawks secondary this season.
Former All-Pro safety Jamal Adams suffered a torn quadriceps tendon in his right knee during Week 1. He hasn’t played since then, and on October 26, Carroll officially ruled out Adams returning this season.
Neal didn’t immediately fill the hole in the Seahawks secondary left from Adams’ injury, but Neal has started at strong safety for Seattle in each of the last seven games.
The loss of Adams was a significant blow for the Seahawks defense. Seattle gave up multiple first-round picks to land Adams before the 2020 season. Adams has All-Pro talent and made the Pro Bowl during his first season with the Seahawks in 2020.
But Neal has played extremely well in place of Adams. In 11 games, Neal has earned the second-best player grade (80.9) from Pro Football Focus among safeties who have played at least half of their team’s defensive snaps this season.
He’s done particularly well in coverage, earning the best PFF coverage grade at his position.
Neal has posted 45 combined tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hit, 1.0 sack, 6 pass defenses, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble this season.
The 26-year-old has already lined up for a career-high 528 defensive snaps in 2022. His 433 snaps last season was previously the most of his career. He’s also played 106 snaps on special teams in 2022.
In his 11 games, Neal has played a career-high 68% of Seattle’s defensive snaps.
Seahawks Depth at Safety
With how well Neal has played this year, and given the loss of Adams already, Neal’s absence would be a major blow for Seattle. If he can’t play in Week 13, the Seahawks will likely turn back to veteran Josh Jones.
The 28-year-old received the first opportunity to replace Adams, as he started Weeks 2-4. But Seattle benched Jones in favor of Neal in Week 5.
In 376 defensive snaps, Jones has earned a player grade of 52.0, which is, by far, the worst among Seattle safeties this season.
In addition to Jones, the Seahawks could also turn to veteran Teez Tabor and undrafted rookie Joey Blount at safety if Neal can’t play on December 4. Through 12 weeks, both Tabor and Blount have only played on special teams.
The Seahawks will visit the Rams on December 4 in what will be the first of two meetings between the two rivals in the final six weeks of the 2022-23 season.