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And then there were three
How impressive was Russell Wilson during the Seahawks’ three-day minicamp?
The rookie quarterback from Wisconsin has thrown himself into the competition with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and free-agent addition Matt Flynn to be the starter this season.
That was the word from coach Pete Carroll on Sunday afternoon as the club wrapped up its minicamp with a 100-minute practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. While this might come as a surprise to those who bought into all the negative expectations about the 5-foot-11 Wilson being too short, and the Seahawks “reaching” to take him in the third round, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has heard Carroll and general manager John Schneider gush about Wilson’s potential.
Carroll did not step to the podium after practice and declare that Wilson was going to compete with Jackson and Flynn. In fact, his comments came in response to a question about whether Wilson was a developmental player.
“Here’s what I’m going to say about it, he’s going to be in the competition,” Carroll offered before the question had even been completed. “He’s showed us enough, he’s in the competition.”
And that is saying a lot. Wilson played one season at Wisconsin after transferring from North Carolina State. Jackson has been in the league for six seasons and started 34 games, including 14 for the Seahawks last season after he was signed in free agency. Flynn was the most sought after QB in this year’s free-agent class, despite having started only two games for the Green Bay Packers the past four seasons.
But Wilson showed enough in three minicamp practices that “we need to see where he fits in with these guys,” as Carroll put it.
And this minicamp was all about seeing just what Wilson had to offer. He took every snap in team drills on Friday and most of them on Saturday and Sunday – when tryout QBs Chris Hart and Josh McGregor finally saw some action.
For the weekend, Wilson took 500-plus snaps and threw close to 400 passes. Because the coaches wanted to see – and needed to see – just what the kid could bring to the competition.
“It won’t be because he doesn’t understand or that can’t learn it,” Carroll said, pointing out that Wilson stumbled with the verbiage on only one call during the three-day minicamp.
“That’s an amazing load that we threw on him. But he handled it like he’s been here. So that was a great first sign, just about his willingness to prepare and his ability to hold onto the information.”
But it’s not just learning what to do; it’s then going out and doing it. Wilson drew rave reviews there as well, including hooking up with rookie running back Robert Turbin for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the scrimmage-like drill that ended Sunday’s final practice.
“It isn’t going to be because he can’t throw the football, because he can,” Carroll said. “He’s got a terrific arm. So we’ll just have to see where he fits as time goes on.”
And Carroll will take his time with this process to determine who plays the most pivotal position on the team in his third season as coach. The next step comes Monday, when Wilson and the team’s other nine draft choices will join the veterans in the offseason program – the final week of Phase 2. Then, it’s one to Phase 3, which will include 10 OTA sessions and a full-squad minicamp in mid-June.
Wilson already is ahead of Jackson and Flynn in one regard. He practiced the past three days against a defense – something the veterans have yet to do because of the new guidelines in the CBA that ended last year’s 136-day holdout.
“It’s going to take us a long time to do this,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be frustrating for you guys (reporters), because you’re going to keep asking and wanting to know. I’m just going to be more patient than you can imagine as we go through this process, and we’ll just figure it out when we do.”
Step one for the coaches is figuring out how to divvy up the snaps with a third arm now in the competition. Carroll already has said that the first reps will go to Jackson, something he earned through his performance last season – when he played the final 10 games with a torn pectoral in his throwing shoulder. But they also want to make sure Flynn gets enough work as he makes the transition from the Packers’ scheme to the different variation of the West Coast offense used by the Seahawks. Now, Wilson will need his reps, as well.
“That is going to tax us,” Carroll said. “It was already going to be taxing with two.”
Did Carroll envision Wilson throwing himself into the competition when the Seahawks drafted him?
“I hoped that,” Carroll said. “And we confirmed it in these three days. He left really no question about that he needs to be involved in this competition.”