Seattle special teams face challenges

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks open the regular season with only 13 linebackers and defensive backs, two fewer than any team in the league and more than three fewer than the NFL average.

The depth issue reflects the absence of linebacker Will Herring, who remains on the non-football illness list, and defensive back Jordan Babineaux, who is serving a one-game suspension.

Seattle's starters are talented enough to compensate, but the special teams could be affected. That is a bit ironic because Seattle is carrying more specialists -- four -- than all but a few teams. The problem is that two of those specialists are kickers and only one, Olindo Mare, figures to be active for the game in Buffalo today.

The suspensions of Babineaux and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, coupled with injuries to receivers Bobby Engram and Deion Branch, have produced a misshapen roster. Carrying an extra kicker only compounds the problem.

As a result, the Seahawks might feel pressure to use backup quarterback Seneca Wallace as a return specialist. I also won't be surprised if the Bills make a big play or two on special teams. One key for Seattle is making sure Mare produces touchbacks with his kickoffs.