By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll couldn’t contain his excitement when talking about how far his quarterback has come in the last 12 months.
“We’re just a million miles ahead of where we were,” Carroll said of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense.
So, you’ll have to excuse Carroll if he was prone to exaggerating a bit when describing Russell Wilson’s progress heading into the quarterback’s second season. .
“We jumped offsides today — he’s working on hard counts — on the third play of team (drills),” Carroll said after Monday’s OTA workout. “He didn’t know what hard count was last year at this time.”
Whoa there, Pete. We get that you’re excited about Wilson heading into his second season, but I’m pretty sure a quarterback who played for two major Division I programs came into the NFL fully cognizant of the concept of a hard count.
But hyperbole aside, Carroll has every reason to feel good about his offense heading into the 2013 season. Sure there are always reasons why a team projected to succeed can flop. Injuries can take a toll or those big offseason acquisitions could fail to live up to expectations, but the least of Seattle’s worries should be the possibility of Wilson suffering through a sophomore slump.
The NFL, and sports in general, are full of athletes who burst on the scene as rookie phenoms, then failed to build off of that success. Seahawks fans, however, can rest easy knowing Wilson won’t be a flash in the pan.
For starters, there’s the now-famous work ethic that has Wilson’s teammates questioning whether or not their quarterback is a robot. But beyond the desire to outwork everyone, the biggest reason why Wilson should only get better is the simple fact that he’ll head into this season much better prepared than he was as a rookie.
If you’ll recall, at this time last year Carroll had just declared that Wilson would be part of a three-way quarterback competition. He went on to split reps evenly with Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn through OTAs, minicamps and training camp before eventually winning the job in August.
Despite going into his rookie season less prepared, in terms of practice reps, than nearly every other NFL quarterback, Wilson matched Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdown passes while posting a quarterback rating of 100.0 that also would have been a rookie record if not for Robert Griffin III’s 102.4 rating.
Now, Wilson is firmly entrenched as the starter. He’s getting all the reps with the No. 1 offense and he’s leading offseason workouts in L.A. with Seahawks receivers to build the chemistry that had to be developed on the fly last season.
“It will be drastically different,” Wilson said of his preparation leading into year two. “The leadership role is already established, and also just the reps. Last year, I was splitting a third of the reps all the way through August pretty much, so I think that will give me a bit of a boost and get me ready for the season.”
Wilson was a leader even as a rookie. That much was clear early on in Seattle’s locker room. Now that he’s running the show through an entire offseason, and now that’s he proven himself as a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, his voice will carry even more weight this season.
That’s why, a year after he was a third-round pick battling for a starting job, Wilson can speak for his team on serious topics such as the Seahawks unfortunate run of player suspensions for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
“We’ve got to make the right decision as players,” Wilson said. “It’s up to us to make the right decision at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what the coaches say positively or negatively or whatever, we have to make the decision as players.”
A year after being thrown into a quarterback competition and learning about the concept of a hard count (not really), Wilson is speaking for an entire locker room. It’s just one example of how far he has come in 12 months, and just one reason why a sophomore slump should be the least of the Seahawks’ worries.
When Percy Harvin was first introduced as a Seahawks, he mentioned Wilson over and over again as a reason why he liked the idea of playing in Seattle. What we’ve seen in the last year isn’t just the emergence of Wilson as an NFL quarterback, it’s the ability of Wilson to help turn Seattle into a desirable destination for players around the league.
And when you combine Wilson’s work ethic with the fact that he’ll be much better prepared for this season than his last, then throw in the addition of a weapon like Harvin, it’s almost impossible to see the Seahawks quarterback and offense doing anything but improving.
“The biggest thing that stands out to me is just his leadership,” Harvin said. “When we’re out there it’s not just Pete Carroll and the coaches leading practice, it’s him. He’s getting us in the huddle; he’s getting us out of the huddle. He’s making sure we’re out of the huddle within a couple seconds. It’s his show so he’s running it.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.