Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson’s next evolution: Think like a defensive player

Russell Wilson elevated his game in his fourth season in Seattle, setting team records for passing yards (4,024) and touchdown passes (34).
Russell Wilson elevated his game in his fourth season in Seattle, setting team records for passing yards (4,024) and touchdown passes (34). The Associated Press

Last offseason Russell Wilson went to the bank.

This offseason he’s going back to school.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants his franchise quarterback — who got an $87.6 million contract last summer then set team records for passing yards (4,024) and touchdown passes (34) this past season —to look at offense from a completely opposite perspective.

It’s the Evolution of Russell Wilson: Year 4 to Year 5.

“This is really the right time to really turn his focus and broaden his awareness of what is going on in the game overall,” said Carroll, a safety in college at Pacific and a defensive-backs coach and defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach. “And so he and I will spend a lot of time this offseason introducing him to the perspective of what it’s like to look at the defense from the defensive side of the ball. I want him to learn and understand what is going on schematically, rotation-wise, fits-wise even more.”

Carroll hatched his plan for Wilson in the coming months during the team’s flight home from last Sunday’s season-ending playoff loss at Carolina. Wilson threw a career-high 48 times for 366 yards in rallying Seattle from 31-0 down to a 31-24 defeat.

Carroll said he is going to do the same deep dive, but from the perspective of the offense, with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas this spring. That makes sense (and dollars): The Seahawks have invested $127.6 million in Wilson and Thomas since April 2014 to be their franchise cornerstones through at least 2018.

We are going to school and it will be a tremendous off-season for those guys. And they are ready.

Pete Carroll, about offseason plans to immerse Russell Wilson in defense and Earl Thomas in offense

“Earl needs to go on the other side of the ball and do the same thing. Earl also wants to go and learn more about what is going on up front,” Carroll said.

“These guys have been around long enough now that it’s time to take them to all of the avenues that they can to understand the game and it will just broaden their horizons. It will allow them to understand more so and they will make declarations and decisions more quickly because they will understand schematically even more so.

“So we are going to school and it will be a tremendous off-season for those guys. And they are ready.”

Better Wilson down the stretch

Wilson was given an mandate during November’s bye week to to throw the ball quickly and on time from the pocket more. The offensive line was struggling and his scrambling, improvisational throws put more pressure on them and led to sacks.

Wilson responded with one of the best half-seasons by a quarterback the league’s ever seen. He became the first player to throw for 4,000 yards, rush for 500 and throw 30 touchdown passes in a season. With his career high-tying five TD passes Dec. 13 at Baltimore, he became the first NFL QB to have four consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes, no interceptions and a completion rate of at least 70 percent.

Wilson led the NFL with a passer rating of 110.1 this past regular season, by far the career high for Seattle’s third-round draft choice in 2012.

Whatever Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are teaching Wilson is working.

Russell Wilson became the first player to throw for 4,000 yards, rush for 500 and throw 30 touchdown passes in a season.

Yet Carroll wants Wilson to continue growing. He often remarked this past season how Wilson was a fourth-year player performing like an eight- or nine-year veteran – but without the knowledge and experience.

“There’s a difference in looking at it for what the offense needs to know and from what the defense is doing,” Carroll said. “I want them to understand the other side in even greater depth … those guys in particular (Wilson and Thomas) are guys who love to study the game. They want to know more and want to know everything.”

Carroll said Seahawks coaches didn’t want to “water down” the growing process by soaking Wilson with too much in his first four years.

“It’s time now,” Carroll said. “We are going year five, year six with these guys, or year seven with Earl. It’s time to really dig in. And they are kind of in like settings, being the quarterback and being the free safety.”

Wilson, of course, is all for it.

“The first step is the knowledge. You want to continue to grow intellectually, in the game, and continue to master that part of it,” he said Monday. “Continue to work on that craft. I think that when you really mentally grasp the game of football, the game really, really slows down. I think that’s what was able to happen this year, especially.

“In terms of growth, I think (it’s) that intellectual part of understanding where you need to grow and understanding defense — and what we’re trying to do on offense.”

Changing of the offensive guard

Like Wilson, the Seahawks are evolving. Marshawn Lynch’s seemingly imminent exit means Thomas Rawls is poised to become the new lead runner after his smashing 2015 debut. Wilson’s eventual trust in his shaky line and quick throws on time over the second half of the just-completed season revolutionized the offense.

Wilson’s pocket passing, not Lynch’s power running, will lead Seattle going forward. Rawls will be the running component needed to keep the offense balanced and defenses from focusing solely on Wilson.

We’re still young. We’re really, really young That’s a scary thing.

Russell Wilson

“We’re excited about it,” Carroll said. “We can go down the field if we have to, we can throw the ball really quick and do all kinds of stuff.

“Russell showed all of the things that we would hope to see in really consistent fashion this year. Had a huge day (last weekend) to get us back in the game. You always wanted to ask us ‘what if he had to throw the ball a lot?’ Well, we had to throw it almost 50 times. And he did a great job. The more we got into it the better he was.”

And this offense is still all-ears for the teaching. Wilson, 27, is the same age as top wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Tight end Jimmy Graham will return from knee surgery in 2016 at age 29. Tyler Lockett, the wowing rookie receiver and kick returner, is 23. Rawls is 22.

“We’re still young. We’re really, really young,” Wilson said.

“That’s a scary thing.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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