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Wilson gets his chance to start
Conventional wisdom in the NFL dictates that the starters play into the third quarter in the third preseason game. It’s always been kind of a last – and longest – dress rehearsal before those same starters play sparingly, if at all, in the preseason finale.
Welcome to the unconventional world of Pete Carroll.
The Seahawks’ third-year coach is using Friday night’s preseason game against the Chiefs in Kansas City as an opportunity to give rookie quarterback Russell Wilson his first NFL start.
While Carroll might be bucking tradition, using this opportunity to see if Wilson can be as productive running the No. 1 offense – against the Chiefs’ No. 1 defense – as he has in the second halves of the first two games is not only a logical step in his progression, it’s a needed one.
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A closer look at the production in the first two preseason games of quarterbacks Matt Flynn, who has started and played the first halves; and Russell Wilson, who has taken over in the second halves:
“I know there’s a traditional thought – conventional wisdom – about Game 3 and all that,” Carroll said after practice Tuesday. “And I understand that and we need to always be in tune with conventional wisdom.
“However, neither John (Schneider, the GM) nor I feel like we have to operate under that kind of guidance. So we’re not. We haven’t been since we got here.”
In Carroll’s grand plan – the one he has joked that he keeps in a hermitically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall’s porch – Wilson was scheduled to start last week against the Broncos in Denver. But Carroll called an audible, because he wanted to get another look at free-agent addition Matt Flynn in the starting role.
Now, it’s time to see what the rookie can do.
In the first two games – victories over the Tennessee Titans and Broncos – Wilson has made the most of just about every opportunity that has presented itself. In the opener, he threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the 27-17 victory over the Titans. Against the Broncos, he directed touchdown drives of 80, 85 and 68 yards – throwing for two more scores – in the 30-10 romp.
But that was while directing the No. 2 and No. 3 offenses, and doing it against the No. 2 and No. 3 defensive units of the Titans and Broncos.
Now, Wilson will get the No. 1 reps against the Seahawks defense in practice this week and then face a Chiefs defense that features the Pro Bowl trio of safety Eric Berry and linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson.
“It definitely helps to go against our defense,” Wilson said. “Our defense is pretty spectacular. They fly around. We’ve got a great defensive line, great linebackers and, obviously, some great DBs, as well. So it’s a good experience for me throughout the week to go against our No. 1 defense.
“Kansas City has a great, great defense, and they’re going to be flying around. So I just have to be very, very precise with my decision-making and just make the right decision at the right time.”
Some of Wilson’s best plays have come on plays where things did not go as planned. He has repeatedly displayed an ability to turn the impromptu play.
“It’s just exciting to watch this kid play,” Carroll said. “His ability to make first downs, sometimes throwing the football and sometimes with his legs, has been obvious.”
Asked what he likes about Wilson, Carroll rattled through a list that included his poise, vision, mobility, arm strength as well as touch, accuracy, efficiency and, of course, the statistics he has compiled.
Whatever happens Friday night will not determine who the starter will be for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Cardinals in Arizona, Carroll said, but another strong showing by Wilson definitely won’t hurt his chances.
“Really we’re not going to change the banter here,” Carroll said. “We’re going to wait after the week and see what happened in the game, and see what it feels like and talk it all out. Everything you can possibly see and analyze it and then move ahead – with confidence.
“I’m real confident we’re doing the right thing.”
Conventional? Maybe not. But the Carroll way? Definitely.
“We’re really excited about what’s going on,” Carroll said. “We love the play that we’ve gotten out of the position so far. Let’s take another week in the evaluation and we’ll see what that means. … I told you we were going to need the preseason to figure this thing out and I think we’re moving along positively.
"This is about competition. That’s what we’ve always been about. If somebody doesn’t see it that way, then they just don’t understand us.”