Russell Wilson is playing coy.
Either that, or he really is in the dark.
The Seahawks’ franchise quarterback says he’s not certain if he’s going to play one quarter, two quarters or into the third period Saturday night in Seattle’s third preseason game, at the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson.
“Yeah, I’m not sure how much Coach has me playing,” Wilson said before the team flew to California Friday afternoon. “But you know I’m always ready.”
Maybe Wilson really doesn’t know.
Carroll has deviated from his norm for preseason games this month.
For the first time in Wilson’s eight-year career he did not start the Seahawks’ first preseason game. He watched Paxton Lynch out-play starter Geno Smith in the competition to be his backup on Aug. 8 against Denver.
Carroll admitted last week he revealed too much publicly before that game, about having Wilson and fellow starters such as left tackle Duane Brown, right guard D.J. Fluker, running back Chris Carson, wide receiver Tyler Lockett and safety Bradley McDougald sit out that first exhibition. So before the second preseason game, the coach said next to nothing about playing time.
Wilson and the other veterans played two and, on defense, three series last weekend at Minnesota, into the second quarter.
The starting offense looked sharp on details such as blitz pickup in its two drives. But penalties and Wilson missing wide-open Carson outside with a pass on third down kept Seattle to only one field goal by Jason Myers in those two possessions by the starters against the Vikings.
Tonight against the Chargers?
Well, someone asked Carroll on Friday if he’d like to get All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright playing together at least once this preseason.
“Yeah, that would be a good idea. If we could just get somebody and make up their mind on that.” Carroll said with a wry smile. “I don’t know. That would be a really good idea.”
Neither starting linebacker has played this month; Wagner because he had knee therapy a few weeks ago, and Wright because he’s 30 years old coming off a season in which knee surgery limited him to playing only five of 16 regular-season games.
So we are left to go with precedence with what what Carroll has done for most of his first nine preseasons as Seattle’s coach. Heck, with what Seahawks coaches back through Mike Holmgren 15 years ago did with the third of the the four preseason games.
Starters typically play into the third quarter in a final rehearsal before the games get real 13 days from now. Carroll likes to have Wilson and fellow veterans play the first half in the third exhibition and come into the locker room to cool down and talk strategy with coaches during the 15-minute halftime. Then they have crank it back up for at least one drive in the third quarter, to get used to doing that again for the first time since January.
Expect that against the Chargers.
Wilson sees value to playing into the third quarter of a game that doesn’t count.
“I think the value of just playing in general is great just because you get that feel, you get that sense of energy, your mind has to think,” Wilson said. “You’re always thinking through practice and but when you’re running against another team you’re processing as much information as you can. Then to be able to go in at halftime and come back out or whatever—depending on how that is—when you come back out, that 15 minutes of halftime, you get to kind of practice how you’re getting ready again, you know? Get ready for the next 30 minutes of football. ...
“You’re processing, putting the jersey on, you’re thinking about, what would I do here? How would I do this? Having your little habits that you do that make sure that you’re ready. Those little techniques that you do to make sure you prepare.”
Wilson pointed out he doesn’t get time to do much at halftime of games.
“The 15 minutes is really about 12 minutes,” he said, “because you come back out at 3 minutes to go. It’s pretty fast. You go to your locker, put your helmet down...
“For me, it’s really a good 12 minutes of processing everything that happened and getting ready for what’s about to happen in the next half, and telling guys and talking to guys and thinking about what could we do this half. You try and analyze what you did and try and get ready for what you’re about to do.”
Carroll did say Smith “needs to play a lot” behind Wilson. That’s a hint Wilson may not play into the third quarter against the Chargers. Smith missed last weekend’s exhibition because he had a cyst removed from his knee the day after the preseason opener. The former starter for the New York Jets and Giants completed just three of nine throws two weeks ago against Broncos starters.
Lynch completed 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards against Denver, with a 115.7 passer rating and a touchdown pass to rookie Jazz Ferguson. Seattle’s only touchdowns, 208 of its 301 yards of offense and 13 of its 18 first downs in that game came from Lynch leading the offense.
But Lynch struggled against the Vikings last weekend. He completed just six of 15 throws. He continued his trend this month of throwing particularly inaccurate balls when having to move his feet. And he sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter while getting hit in the side of the helmet on a wicked hit from Minnesota’s Holton Hill, as the quarterback was sliding to the ground on a scramble. Lynch will not play against the Chargers because of his concussion.
The door is open for Smith to win the number-two quarterback job tonight, plus in Seattle’s two practices next week and in the preseason finale Thursday at home against Oakland.
Smith returned to fully practicing this week.
“He’s fine. Took all the snaps this week. He’s ready to go,” Carroll said.
“He needs to play a good amount. It’s his turn now. With Paxton getting all the reps last week, this is really Geno’s shot this week.”
RUNNING BACKS: Expect a lot of carries by rookie Travis Homer and recently signed Xavier Turner after Carson and Rashaad Penny exit against the Chargers.
And this could be C.J. Prosise’s last chance to stay on the Seahawks.
Coaches would like to get Penny some more chances to run behind top blockers instead of the deep reserves he went nowhere behind last week. The first-round draft choice from 2018 totaled minus-2 yards on six carries against the Vikings. Injuries to tackle Jamarco Jones, guard Jordan Simmons, tackle George Fant and starting left guard Mike Iupati have weakened Seattle’s reserve offensive line to the point of ineptitude.
None of those injured linemen will play tonight.
Homer is returning from missing much of this month to injury. Coaches want to see his pass blocking that’s been good in practices transfer into games to become a possible option on third downs at running back.
With Bo Scarbrough dealing with hand and leg injuries from the preseason opener, Turner and Prosise could get most of the action after halftime.
Turner signed the day before the first preseason game; Carroll didn’t introduce him to his new teammates until after that game, while guys were taking off their gear in the locker room at CenturyLink Field. The coaches like Turner’s adaptability and performance this month. He may be a candidate for the practice squad after final preseason cuts Aug. 31, if he can clear NFL waivers.
Prosise has yet to play this preseason. He had abdominal surgery in the offseason. He was sick and did not practice on the first day of training camp last month. Then he injured his hip.
The pass-catching running back has had 10 injuries or health issues since Seattle drafted him in the third round in 2016. This is the final year of his rookie contract. With the more versatile J.D. McKissic, who also returns kicks and was a wide receiver with Atlanta, back from being hurt this month Prosise must show in this game and Thursday’s against Oakland he can, one, be productive and, two, stay on the field past one night.
NO SHAQUEM GRIFFIN: Carroll said Shaquem Griffin will not play against the Chargers.
“He’s working at it, but we’ll see. We’ll check him out,” Carroll said. “He’s really a day-to-day guy.”
The second-year linebacker with much to prove this year has bruised knee from the preseason opener.
AMADI ON KICK RETURNS: Rookie fourth-round draft choice Ugo Amadi has been a safety and a nickel defensive back this month. Saturday he’s going to be a kick returner.
“I thought Ugo did a really nice job showing a good burst. He’s going to get some work this week,” Carroll said. “...And McKissic is back now, too. J.D. was a backup to Tyler in times past, so we’re in pretty good shape, depth wise.
“I’m kind of anxious to see Amadi back there, see what he can do. He’ll get some turns this week.”
The Seahawks would like to reduce Lockett’s kickoff- and punt-return duties this season now that he’s replaced retired Doug Baldwin as Seattle’s top wide receiver.
PAGING GARY JENNINGS: David Moore’s new shoulder injury that Carroll termed as serious on Friday provides rookie Gary Jennings with a larger opportunity at wide receiver.
The fourth-round draft choice has been mostly invisible this month after returning from a hamstring injury.
“The opportunities are knocking,” Carroll said, “so this is a good chance for him in the next couple weeks to make a statement.”