By Dave Boling
RENTON _ If there’s a team that could use affordable health care about now, it’s the Seattle Seahawks.
Coach Pete Carroll on Friday added starting tight end Zach Miller to the list of players questionable for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis against the 3-1 Colts.
Miller injured a hamstring during the week and did not practice on Friday. Center Max Unger (triceps) also is listed as questionable, which means the Seahawks could face one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the NFL without four mainstays across the front wall.
Miller and Unger, both with Pro Bowl appearances on their resumes, likely will be sidelined along with starting tackles Russell Okung (toe, injured-reserve) and Breno Giacomini (knee surgery).
And although Miller, as a tight end, isn’t officially an offensive lineman, he often is expected to act like one, particularly in aiding pass protection when backups are being asked to fill in for regulars.
Carroll said he would wait until the morning of the game to make the final decision on Unger and Miller, hoping for an 11th-hour recovery.
Rookie Luke Willson and newly acquired Kellen Davis will be asked to fill in for Miller. “Both of those guys have been playing in games and been a part of the game plan,” Carroll said. “So it’s no big deal they’re going to have to play more and be more involved if Zach can’t go.”
Carroll said that Willson has “done a good job; he’s measured up. I’m anxious to see him play and take over this role and get a lot of responsibility.”
Behind a line of Paul McQuistan, James Carpenter, Lemuel Jeanpierre, J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie, quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked five times in Seattle’s overtime win over Houston on Sunday.
This week, they face pass rusher Robert Mathis, who leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks.
Carroll said the extra week of practice for the backups has been beneficial.
“You can see the difference,” Carroll said of the improvement up front. “Michael Bowie feels much more comfortable. We’ve had no troubles with Lem. They’re more ready than they’ve been. We expect them to play clean and sharp football. That’s what I’m counting on.
Wilson has been sacked 13 times, five ahead of last year’s pace at this point. Carroll reminds that Wilson ended up rushing for 77 yards against Houston, many on scrambles under pressure.
“He knows that when people pressure you, there’s opportunity for big plays,” Carroll said. “I don’t know anybody I’d like to have back there more when the heat is on. He’s got a variety of solutions to the problems.”
On the defensive side, the Seahawks are actually adding to the player assets, as suspended linebacker Bruce Irvin returns to the lineup.
“He’s done really well,” Carroll said of Irvin. “He’s rough around the edges on some stuff but he’s in great shape and he’s ready to go and he’s really charged up and he’s done a lot of studying over the time he was out of here. (He) has come back ready to take advantage of this.”
— Friday was the first time Carroll had a chance to address the signing of third-string quarterback B.J. Daniels off waivers from San Francisco.
“We evaluated B.J. at length (prior to the draft) and really liked him and wanted to see if we could get him on the club, but he got chosen earlier than we had an opportunity to pick him,” Carroll said of the seventh-round pick. “We had an eye on him the whole time and kept him in our minds in case he got loose we would grab him. He’s a guy who brings a lot of versatility , he’s played a lot of football in college and can throw it and run it. We really liked everything about him and when we got a chance to grab him, we did. He’s obviously an all-around athlete, but we like him as a quarterback.”
–Carroll said the game could come down to special teams, and he’s happy with their performance thus far.
“The cover teams have been great and on it,” Carroll said. “This is a classic example that you need that again and put together a game when you give them nothing, and special teams is a big part of that.”
The Seahawks lead the league in defense against punt returns. On Jon Ryan’s first punt of the season, Carolina returned it 10 yards. Since then, on 18 punts, four teams have combined for a total of minus-2 yards.
“(Ryan) does a great job placing the football,” Carroll said. “He’s an incredible kicker … when we’re kicking around the 50-yard line, we pin guys consistently; it’s a weapon we count on.”