Sports

Why Seahawks Russell Wilson may play more than usual Sunday, how Gary Jennings impressed him

Last week, coaches told Russell Wilson he wasn’t playing in a preseason opener for the first time in his career.

How did the Seahawks’ $140-million #NoTimeToSleep quarterback handle being told to cool it, sit this one out, watch his teammates play the Denver Broncos Thursday night from the sidelines in a ball cap?

Did Wilson like it?

“I don’t really think, either way, for me,” Wilson said Monday following the 13th practice of Seattle’s training camp. “Realistic situation is, I’m probably only going to play three or four plays, five plays, anyway, maybe, in a series. It’s always good getting out there.

“I didn’t know if I liked it or didn’t like it. More than anything else, I just prepared, getting ready to play.

“Now, it comes to regular season,” Wilson said, chuckling, “...ready to roll.”

No, coach Pete Carroll won’t be benching his franchise QB who has never missed a preseason, regular-season or postseason practice, let alone a real game, once the season begins next month.

Carroll said Sunday he liked having Wilson and other veteran starters such as running back Chris Carson, wide receiver Tyler Lockett, left tackle Duane Brown, right guard D.J. Fluker, linebacker K.J. Wright and safety Bradley McDougald skip the preseason opener. The coach says the change has left the veterans “dying to” play the second preseason game Sunday night at the Minnesota Vikings.

Usually, Carroll has Wilson and his fellow starters play about a quarter in the second exhibition game. That suggests Wilson taking last week’s game off could mean he’ll play longer Sunday.

So does the number-two quarterback, Geno Smith, being out right now. Wilson started last week’s game then had a cyst removed from his knee on Friday. The remaining passers behind Wilson are Paxton Lynch, who out-played Smith against Denver, and J.T. Barrett.

The former Ohio State star completed his second Seahawks practice Monday but again did not do any 11-on-11 scrimmaging.

“I really don’t make those (playing-time) decisions, honestly,” said Wilson, who has missed the fourth and final preseason game in each of the last two summers. “I always prepare like I am going to play the whole game.

“It’s the coach’s decision. And that’s always been the case in those preseason games, and any other team. I am just going to be ready. I’ll have my helmet on, ready to roll. That’s just kind of my mentality.

“I really prepared like I was going to play (the Broncos), the whole week, to be honest with you. My mind was (ready). When I went through warmups and all that, I was drenched in sweat, ready to roll.

“The biggest thing is just playing the game in your head when you are out there, watching.”

barrettQBs
J.T. Barrett (6), on his first day of practice with the Seahawks, joins Russell Wilson (3) and Paxton Lynch (2) for drills on Sunday. It was the 12th practice of training camp. Gregg Bell/The News Tribune

In practice Tuesday, Wilson and Lynch threw all over the field to Gary Jennings.

Remember Jennings? The rookie from West Virginia has been easy to forget since the Seahawks drafted him in the fourth round in April.

The DK Metcalf Hype Train has been running over Jennings in the 3 1/2 months both big wide receivers have been with Seattle.

Metcalf was a national star and renowned physical freak before the Seahawks traded up to draft him in the second round this spring. Wilson already has likened Metcalf to LeBron James (in appearance and trash-talking in competition, anyway). Tuesday, Wilson said of Metcalf: “He’s got great humility” and “he has all the athletic talent in the world.”

Nobody has likened Jennings to LeBron James—especially not when Jennings missed minicamp in June with a hamstring injury. It affected him into July when training camp began.

The injury pushed Jennings further behind Metcalf; he is steaming on a track to be the starting split end and number-two receiver behind Lockett for the opener against Cincinnati Sept. 8 (which, no, Wilson absolutely is not skipping). Seventh-round pick John Ursua in the slot also was ahead of Jennings when camp started.

Not Monday.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Jennings, whom West Virginia often used as a big slot receiver inside, leaped, ran and caught all over Seattle’s first- and second-team secondary in scrimmaging. He made at least a half-dozen catches, including on one of Lynch’s best throws of camp. During 11-on-11 from the middle of the field, Jennings zoomed from outside right diagonally across the field past cornerback Akeem King and rookie safety Marquise Blair, like Metcalf a second-round pick. Lynch’s perfect throw on a line led Jennings further away from the two defenders for about a 30-yard gain.

A few minutes earlier in a red-zone drill the offense performed far better than it did on Sunday, Jennings scored a touchdown on a curl route in front of cornerback Simeon Thomas. Jennings caught Lynch’s throw in his stomach then bulled through Thomas across the goal line.

“I think Gary had a great day today. It was his best day yet,” Wilson said. “He really needed it, to be honest with you, just to make some plays and get the ball in his hands, one, to show himself he can be great in this league, hopefully, and two, to the team.

“The ball hasn’t gone his way much, for whatever reasons. But he made a lot of great plays today. I don’t know how many catches he had. Probably eight or so, but he made some great ones.”T

The 30-year-old Wilson has known Jennings, 22, for more than a decade.

Wilson was Jennings’ YMCA youth basketball coach while both were at the K-through-12 Collegiate School in Richmond, Va. Jennings was a grade-schooler teammate on that YMCA hoops team of Wilson’s younger sister Anna Wilson, who is now a guard on Stanford’s women’s basketball team.

“Growing up in that school, I used to see him play quarterback. He was an amazing quarterback back in the day, too,” Jennings said. “I saw him run back and forth across the field, and someone was always wide open. They won state basically every year he was there.”

How was Wilson as a coach?

“He was a scrapper,” Jennings said of the guy who assuredly won’t be sitting again Sunday night in Minnesota

“He was a great basketball coach.”

Wilson said Jennings “was always a really focused kid.”

The QB says the rookie is going to need that focus to build from Monday’s first big day trying to break into Seattle’s crowded wide-receiver group.

“Out here, he’s very professional,” Wilson said.

“The key though to this game, right, is it’s not just today. It’s tomorrow, right? ...

“If you can put back to back days together and learn how to do that every day, you may have something great there.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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