From Comcast SportsNetPete Carroll and John Schneider were overjoyed during the April NFL draft when the Seattle Seahawks were able to grab Russell Wilson in the third round.Even they couldn't anticipate that Wilson would be the Seahawks' Week 1 starter.Carroll announced Sunday night that the undersized, but highly successful rookie quarterback from Wisconsin will be the starter when the Seahawks open the regular season on Sept. 9 at Arizona. Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson -- in the process of being traded to Buffalo -- for the starting gig."It's been a very exciting competition that has gone on and Russell has taken full advantage of his opportunities and has done everything that we have asked for on the field and more than what you guys could know off the field in meeting rooms and with our players and how he's represented. He's earned this job," Carroll said on a conference call Sunday night. "It was a legitimate competition as we said from the beginning and with the opportunity he's taken advantage of he deserves to start."Wilson has been a dynamic star during the preseason. For the first two weeks, his performance came against backups during the second halves of victories over Tennessee and Denver.But what Wilson displayed during those two halves were enough for Carroll to give him the start Friday night against Kansas City. Wilson's response: 13-of-19 passing for 185 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.8. And if he didn't show enough with his arm, Wilson added another 58 yards rushing.His total preseasons numbers thus far are eye-popping: 35 of 52 (67.3 percent) for 464 yards, five touchdowns and a league-leading 119.4 QB rating. Wilson's only preseason mistake was throwing a careless end zone interception against Tennessee.Otherwise, Wilson's been almost perfect."This isn't just based on the quarters we've seen him play. This is based on the practice and the challenges that he's undertaken here on the practice field," Carroll said. "We've combined everything and with the circumstances that have been presented he won this opening challenge here."Wilson's most recent performance had Seattle fans buzzing, with Twitter overrun with "Russellmania" comments Friday night as he picked apart the Chiefs. As the game progressed, most began accepting the idea that Wilson would be the starter.Carroll said Wilson took the news in stride."He expects to be good and he expects to be successful and he expects to make plays," Carroll said.Wilson has been able to pick up the Seahawks offense quicker because of his experience playing in a West Coast offensive system in college. He spent his first three seasons at North Carolina State before transferring for his final year to Wisconsin. In Madison, Wilson led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and was named the first-team, all-Big Ten quarterback."He is so prepared. He doesn't seem like a first-year player," Carroll said. "He seems like he's been around. He gets it, he understands and he is a tremendous leader in that way. He doesn't do anything but the right thing in all of his work and his preparation and his competitiveness has been demonstrated again."Wilson being named the starter leaves Flynn on the sidelines and according to Carroll understandably disappointed. Flynn was Seattle's big free-agent splash in the offseason and the most highly sought after quarterback not named Manning after spending the last few seasons as Aaron Rodgers backup in Green Bay. But Flynn failed to show the same flashes as Wilson during his two preseason opportunities and sat out the game in Kansas City with a sore elbow.Flynn's injury isn't considered to be severe, but sitting out against the Chiefs didn't help his case for the job."Matt's done a great job for us in every way, just the opportunities didn't seem to come in as big a way as it did for Russell," Carroll said. "He made the most of his."
In the moments after the last-second loss in Detroit, some Redskins defensive linemen voiced complaints that their defense was not aggressive enough rushing quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions QB picked apart the Redskins defense and scored with under 10 seconds left to win the game.
On Monday, Washington coach Jay Gruden was asked about the comments, and the 'Skins head man sounded understanding.
"I think if you’re a pass rusher, if you’re a defensive lineman, you don’t want to drop into coverage," Gruden said. "I respect their problem with dropping into a hook instead of rushing the quarterback because they really get paid to rush the quarterback. They don’t get paid to backpedal."
While "they don't get paid to backpedal" is a tremendous line, Gruden explained in further detail the mindset of only rushing three on Stafford.
"At that time we were playing against the clock, obviously. We didn’t want to stop a check down, so we decided to drop eight – we still had a three-man rush."
Gruden made clear that regardless of the call on the field, players must execute. That also doesn't stop Gruden from second guessing calls, both in the moment and following the game.
"If you second-guess every call that didn’t go our way, I’d go crazy. I pretty much do that on the sideline all the time. Our coaches hate me for it. But it’s just something where we have to play the call, we have to do our best to execute. After the game we’ll address why we call it and if it’s not good enough, we won’t call it again. It’s easy to second-guess, but we have to execute the call, no matter what it is."
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There is plenty of talk about the possibility of Redskins running backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson getting more carries as Matt Jones sorts out his ball handling issues. But there may be some real obstacles to giving either alternative to Jones a lot more game action than they have been getting.
Thompson is the third-down back. During training camp, when there could have been competition for the starting job, Thompson seemed to be reluctant to throw his hat in the ring.
“You know every guy always dreams of being the starter but for me, since I’ve been here, I’ve understood what my role is,” he said in August. “Even though I’m labeled as a third-down back my role still can continue to expand. I could possibly be that No. 2 to Matt if he gets tired I can be the one that’s spelling him here and there.”
That’s not a guy telling the coaches “give me the damn ball”. He is a tough guy but the laws of physics say that a player who is 5-8, 195 won’t last forever getting 25 touches a game, week in and week out.
Not that Jay Gruden is particularly anxious to have him handle the ball more than he did against the Lions (12 carries, 7 receptions).
“I think that’s a great number for him,” said Gruden. “We don’t want to overdo it with him—he’s still not a very big guy.”
As for Kelley, Gruden said, “Rob is doing a nice job with the limited time that he gets. Maybe it’s just expand Rob’s role a little bit.”
Kelley has done a pretty good job running the ball, although his average of 6.1 yards per carry is inflated by his 45-yard run against the Eagles. Outside of that run he has averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry.
But it’s not really that; it seems that he will be productive if he gets the carries. The problem with Kelley may be that a running back is expected to do more than just run the ball and the rookie may not be ready to take on the expanded duties that being a running back who takes forty snaps in a game has to handle.
Per Pro Football Focus Kelley has 31 snaps, 17 rushing attempts and he has gone out on passes seven times. He has been asked to pass block just three times. Blitz pickups are a critical part of the position and it seems that the coaches don’t yet trust Kelley to execute those.
The running back situation is a complex puzzle and the pieces are moving. What seems almost certain is that all three back, including Jones, will get a crack at the Bengals’ rushing defense, which is ranked 24th in the league in terms of yards allowed and 25th in yards per attempt.