Two surprising players for the Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. -- What do Seattle defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse have in common?

They are my most surprising players of the season for the Seahawks at the bye week after 11 games.

McDonald (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) played the previous two seasons as a backup for the Seahawks, but he was briefly released this year at the end of training camp. He was re-signed by Seattle two weeks later in what has proved to one of the team's best moves.

He has 22 tackles, 3½ sacks, seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one interception, which came last weekend in the 41-20 victory over Minnesota.

McDonald did not have a sack in his previous three NFL seasons, including 29 games with the Seahawks. But now the Seahawks like to use McDonald as an inside rusher on passing downs.

"Clinton has done a really good job," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "He's been a real surprise for us. He's come back as one of the four [pass] rushers and mixing in with the other guys at times."

He's the big surprise on defense, but Kearse is the team's big surprise on offense. The second-year player from Washington has made the most of his opportunities this season with four touchdowns catches in only 13 receptions. He also has contributed on special teams, including kickoff returns and a block on a punt at Indianapolis that became a safety.

Kearse suffered a concussion on a first-quarter kickoff return against Minnesota, but he should be fine for the New Orleans game Dec. 2.

The question now is how much Kearse will play with Percy Harvin back. Carroll said all the receivers still will be part of the rotation, but he also said Harvin is the kick returner now after his 58-yard return against the Vikings.

Harvin usually plays in the slot and Kearse plays outside, but slot receiver Doug Baldwin has played more on the outside in recent weeks and may get some of Kearse's snaps when Harvin is on the field. However, Kearse has shown enough that he deserves to get his share of plays.