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Rookies earn shot at starting spots in Seattle

The SportsXchange

Russell Wilson made the most of his initial rookie camp with the Seahawks. By the end of the three days of workouts, head coach Pete Carroll deemed Wilson ready to enter the competition for the starting quarterback job with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson.

"He's in the competition. That is going to tax us, as we know," Carroll said Sunday. "It was already going to be taxing with two, but he's shown us enough that we need to see where he fits in with these guys."

Carroll and general manager John Schneider said following the draft, when Wilson was the 75th overall pick, that the 5-foot-11 four-year starter was coveted and that his height shouldn't be considered a detriment. Schneider was also involved in the initial evaluation of Flynn, who signed as a free agent in March after four seasons with the Packers.

"He can do everything," Schneider said of Wilson, dubbing him one of the three best players he scouted last fall. "There's nothing he can't do. He's just short, but that's it."

Wilson was groomed for three years at North Carolina State and last season at Wisconsin in a West Coast-style offense. Carroll said his preparation for the weekend camp was excellent, and estimated Wilson ran 500 plays over the three days and botched just one play call. Wilson was so impressive that neither of his rookie camp competitors took a single snap.

Realistic or not, Wilson is in the running to start if he continues to impress the Seattle brass.

Incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson played through injuries and remains a strong option, in Carroll's opinion, because he's played his entire pro career in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense. Flynn will be 27 when training camp begins but should be well indoctrinated in the offense.

He was brought up in the system with the Packers and former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who left Green Bay to become head coach of the Dolphins and hoped to sign Flynn before he joined Seattle, said his preparation, intelligence and work ethic put him in position to become an NFL starter.

But he's started only two games in the NFL and as impressive as his Week 17 whopper against the Lions -- 31 of 44, 480 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions -- might be on a resume, the reality is it happened against a beleaguered defense with its sights set on the playoff opener a week later.

The Seahawks might not be ready to roll the dice with a rookie quarterback given the three-year, $26 million payout Flynn earned, but Carroll's no-nonsense mantra from the time he was hired in Seattle has been competition wins.

That certainly applies at middle linebacker, where rookie Bobby Wagner, a super-productive big fish in the small pond that is Utah State football, brings the requisite speed and hustle the Seahawks prefer in the middle of their defense. He ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine with a vertical jump of 39.5 inches and Seattle drafted him 47th overall.

Seattle signed free agent Barrett Ruud and Matt McCoy, who played well before a knee injury last season, but Carroll sounds as if he's eager to get Wagner's play-making skills on the field.

"We'd love to get that speed on the field if we could," he said. "It's rare to find a linebacker that runs that fast."
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