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Wilson leading impressive rookie class
“Russell, he’s not like a regular rookie.”
It was Tarvaris Jackson who first said what has become obvious: Russell Wilson plays, talks and carries himself beyond his status as the Seahawks’ third-round draft choice and stature as a “too-short” quarterback.
Jackson, the incumbent starter at the position Wilson is competing to win, made his observation not long after the Seahawks’ supposedly reached to select the 5-foot-11 Wilson with the 75th pick in April’s NFL Draft. The rest of the football world is now catching up to Jackson’s first read of the rookie.
Take Friday night’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Wilson not only directed six consecutive scoring drives in his first NFL start, he went out of his way to share the credit with his offensive line, receivers, running backs, coaches and even the defense and special teams after a 44-14 rout at Arrowhead Stadium that ran the Seahawks’ preseason record to 3-0.
It had to make John Schneider smile. The Seahawks’ third-year general manager was on to Wilson’s unique character – and characteristics – early because of his ties to the University of Wisconsin football program. Pete Carroll then became almost as enamored once he began dissecting Wilson.
As the Seahawks’ coach said after the game, “He’s done everything we’ve asked him. When John was excited about drafting him and we got the momentum going to make that pick, this is guy we hoped that he would be.”
Wilson also has become something else in his short tenure with the team: The leader of this year’s Rookie Club.
“The Seahawks did a great job of drafting the right guys for our team,” Wilson said after his latest impressive preseason performance. “Coach Carroll and Mr. John Schneider, they really went after the right guys, the right talent. They have so much talent. They work hard, too. That work ethic is definitely there in all those guys. And that’s huge, especially coming in as a rookie.
“And we tag-team together. We watch film together. We sit in the film room extra hours and just try to figure out, ‘Hey, how can we get better here and there?’ That’s vital to us being successful in the future.”
Robert Turbin, the running back from Utah State who was drafted in the fourth round, is Wilson’s roommate on road trips. Bobby Wagner, who already has won the starting middle linebacker job, also went to Utah State, so Wilson has gotten to know the team’s second-round pick through the obvious association. J.R. Sweezy, a seventh-round pick and the surprise of this summer with the way he has made the conversion from college defensive tackle to NFL guard, played at North Carolina State – where Wilson played his first three seasons before transferring to Wisconsin.
There are others, of course: rush-end Bruce Irvin (first round); defensive tackle Jaye Howard (fourth); linebacker Korey Toomer (fifth); defensive backs Jeremy Lane and Winston Guy (sixth); and defensive lineman Greg Scruggs, the last of the team’s 10 draft choices who has produced a sack in each of the preseason games.
Carroll has conceded that it will be increasingly difficult for rookies to make the squad, let along crack the starting lineup, because of the increased talent level on the roster in his third year as coach. But several of these rookies could make it difficult for incumbents to retain their roster spots.
Turbin was drafted to provide another power back when leading rusher Marshawn Lynch needs a down or series off, or can’t play – as was the case Friday night. Turbin responded with 93 yards on 14 carries, including a 25-yard touchdown run. He now leads the team in rushing with 151 yards (one more than Wilson), as well as receiving (six).
“I get to sit down and talk to Turbin all the time,” Wilson said of his roommate. “We talk back and forth about where we want to go and where we are at this current moment and just trying to grow.
“Turbin has so much talent. He can catch the football extremely well. Obviously he can run the football with some force, makes some moves, make people miss – as you saw (tonight). So I think the thing about him is just his work ethic is relentless. That’s the key for him.”
The coaches knew Wagner had the physical skills to fit in the middle of a defense that plays fast, physical and aggressively, but figured it would take him some time to grasp the mental nuances that come with the position. That happened so quickly that veteran Barrett Ruud, who was signed in free agency to compete with Wagner, was traded to the New Orleans Saints last week.
“The two kids from Utah State have done very well,” Carroll said.
Then there’s Sweezy, who has started the past two games at right guard because John Moffitt is sidelined after having a surgical procedure on his left elbow. Like Wilson, Sweezy is not playing like a rookie. After the game, Carroll labeled Sweezy’s ridiculously rapid transition “a remarkable story.”
Said Wilson: “Him playing defense and then coming to offense, that’s a hard thing to do. And his talent level is unbelievable already. So he’s just got to keep working.”
As for Wilson’s lack of prototypical height, Carroll had this to say: “All the talk about how tall he is and all that kind of stuff, I don’t see it being a factor. And I’ve watched more carefully than anybody could ever have watched. And I don’t see it even being an issue. It isn’t to me.
“He’s just out there competing. It’s not like, ‘Well, he’s competing, but he’s only this tall.’ We don’t care about that. It has nothing to do with anything.”
That’s because Wilson has been too busy being a factor in so many other ways.