08-22-2012, 09:34 PM
RENTON, Wash. -- While the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins provided clarity to their preseason plans by naming Jake Locker and Ryan Tannehill as their respective long-term starters, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll did nothing but upset the applecart by naming rookie quarterback Russell Wilson his starter for Seattle's Week 3 preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs this Friday. Wilson, drafted in the third round, was seen to be the definitive backup to former Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn, who was signed to a three-year contract in the offseason. Flynn performed reasonably well as the starter through the first two preseason games, especially in last Saturday's 30-10 win over the Denver Broncos -- his 6-of-13 for 31-yard performance was much better than the numbers indicate, because Terrell Owens was 0-for-5 on his targeted passes, and Flynn unleashed a couple of nice deep throws. Wilson, however, has forced the issue in the second half of wins over the Broncos and Tennessee Titans. Playing against second-team defenses but with reserve teammates as well, he's put up some impressive numbers -- 22 of 33 for 279 yrds, three touchdowns, and one interception to Flynn's 17 of 26 for 107 yards for no touchdowns and one interception. Wilson has an 8.5 yards per attempt average; Flynn's is 3.9. As Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Wednesday on SIRIUS NFL Radio, the decision isn't as much about Flynn as it is about Wilson's compelling play with and against non-starters, and the now imperative need to see where he is against the ones. "He's been going with the twos, he's had eight drives, and scored six times -- five touchdowns, and one field goal," Schneider told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon. "He's been pretty dynamic. Matt's done a nice job and has a good feel for the system ... Russell's done so much in the second half of these two games. Pete preaches competition all the time, he'd be remiss if he didn't put this guy with the ones and see what he could do with that group." Wilson has received as many reps as any backup would through Seattle's training camp -- more than most, actually -- and as time went on, it seemed that Wilson's coaches wanted to test him more and more to see how he would react. I asked Carroll on Tuesday just what he'd seen out of the rookie. "First off, his poise and the ability to just feel comfortable and communicate really well and he has done a great job at that especially for a being a first-time guy at that," Carroll said. "When you look at Russell's numbers passing, running, and putting points on the board it has been obvious that's the stuff that we have seen, he a great arm and a great vision. It's just exciting to watch this kid play and everyone that's grown up and watched him back at NC State and Wisconsin and we're seeing the same thing they saw. He's carried the style of play from college level to our level in these first couple pre-season games and we are going to see what that means in game three." In fact, as I posed to Wilson, it seems that his college experience makes him an unusually good fit for Seattle's offense. He played in a West Coast offense at NC State, and added a liberal dose of two-back, power zone, old-school football in the one year he spent at Wisconsin after giving Major League Baseball a shot. Perhaps the most impressive attribute Wilson showed in his two NFL games was the ability to effectively and intelligently improvise even after the pocket, and the original play, breaks down. It's something that many athletic quarterbacks struggle with for years, but Wilson and Carroll said that they saw Wilson's ability to make something out of nothing as a key tool important to his future. "He's been doing that for a long time -- we have not taught him that," Carroll said. "That's something that he brings with him. He has extraordinary instincts for when to move and when to get out, and he's very effective at making the right choice, and knowing how to handle the situation. He can escape, he knows how to get out of bounds or on the ground, and he knows where the sticks are to make the first down -- he's shown that three or four times already. He has tremendous awareness, and that's from all of his playing days."