SEATTLE — It took all of two plays for Russell Wilson to remind everyone what they were missing in 2016.
Wilson played well last season, and along the way he demonstrated some serious toughness, playing through significant knee and ankle injuries, but for almost all of last season, Wilson wasn't himself because of those injuries.
But on Seattle's second play from scrimmage in Friday night's 26-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the now fully-healthy Wilson reminded Seahawks fans, not to mention hopeless defenders, what he can do when he's playing at 100 percent. After faking a handoff to rookie Chris Carson, Wilson first stepped up in the pocket to avoid an initial pass rush, then when he sensed more trouble, he abruptly changed course, sprinting left to buy time before firing a strike, while rolling left, to Carson 37 yards down field. On Seattle's next possession, Wilson again showed off his ability to throw across his body while on the move, dropping a perfect pass to Jermaine Kearse, who made an even better catch for a 39-yard gain.
"It feels great to be out there healthy and moving around, making plays and just having a lot of fun playing football like I always do," said Wilson, who played one series into the third quarter along with the rest of Seattle's starters. "… It definitely was tough last year, but that was last year, you know? It's part of the journey. We were able to win a lot of football games last year once again, but now, no matter how good or how unfortunate last year was, we're focused on this year."
And thanks in part to how Wilson has looked over the past few weeks, both in practice and in preseason games, the Seahawks' outlook for this year looks bright. Yes, Wilson made some magic happen with his legs, but he also carved up the Chiefs defense from the pocket—which, to the offensive line's credit, held up very well in this game. Wilson had completions of 20 and 25 yards to Doug Baldwin and 30 yards to Jimmy Graham while comfortably sitting in the pocket, and he finished the game completing 13 of 19 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown. In his three preseason appearances, Wilson has completed 29 of 41 attempts for 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a 130.8 passer rating.
"I think he has carried over everything he has done in camp, and really the offseason, everything he has done looks like it's culminating in really good solid decision making, really clear thinking," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's very decisive, very quick with the football—our tempo on offense is like we'd like, and we hope we can get better, but he's in command of that."
Wilson's deep group of targets has also come through for him this preseason, with everyone from Baldwin to Kearse to Paul Richardson to Graham to Kasen Williams to McEvoy to multiple running backs coming up with big catches over the past few weeks.
"The talent we have at the receiver position is super exciting," Wilson said. "We have so many guys that have played a lot of football. You think about, obviously, Doug Baldwin, you think about Jermaine Kearse, you think about Paul Richardson. Tyler Lockett wasn't even out there today. You think about Kasen Williams, Tanner McEvoy—there are just so many guys."
At its best, Seattle's offense is one of the most explosive in the NFL, and Wilson is a big part of that not just in his ability to make big throws, but also in what he can do with his legs, be it extending plays to find an open receiver or scrambling for long yards, or simply presenting a threat to a defense that makes things a little easier on Seattle's running backs. All of those elements of his game were on display Friday, and have been throughout the preseason.
"It's huge," Wilson said. "We had a lot of explosive plays in the run game too, I believe. Then we obviously had a lot of explosive plays in the passing game… There are a lot of guys that have been doing a lot of special things. It's not by surprise; it's by the hard work they put in."
Of course, as he's wont to do, Wilson deflected when asked about his play, instead opting to talk about the entire team: "Our whole football team is ready to roll and in regular season mode. We've been practicing at a super-high level, the maturity and the leadership we have across the board on offense, defense, special teams, the energy we're playing with, the execution, it looks very good. It has been an exciting time this training camp, and we just take it one day at a time and keep building."
And Wilson's right, the Seahawks have been good across the board this preseason, but the nature of his position—the importance it has in any given game—means Wilson's play will have a big impact on Seattle's success in 2017, and while it's only August, the early returns are very encouraging.
"I know he's excited, he's having fun playing football," Carroll said. "He really can feel his guys and who he's working with, I think you can see the different style of throws he'll make with different guys, and that's because he's really tuned in. Hopefully we'll get through one more week and be ready for the regular season, and he will have had a fantastic preparation."