Russell Wilson looked in mid-season form during the Seahawks' mock game Monday.
Russell Wilson may have an unquestioned standing as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
But that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t need practice to be perfect (or, as close to perfect as he almost was on Monday during the team’s mock game, anyway).
A few days ago, after a couple of practices when Wilson had looked a little un-Wilson-like, the Seahawks decided that maybe the problem was that Wilson hadn’t been getting enough snaps in practice.
So Wilson began taking more plays and the result has been his best few days of training camp, capped by a sterling performance in the team’s mock game on Monday.
“He’s changing his reps a little bit,” said coach Pete Carroll. “We want to get him a more reps to make sure he’s getting enough turns. Since we’ve done that he’s really picked up.”
Wilson, who led six drives with the No. 1 offense, completed 15 of 18 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns and led the offense to three scores in five full possessions.
One of the incompletions was a pass just a little off target that Jermaine Kearse got his hands on but couldn’t handle. Another was an intentional throwaway under pressure and the other a high pass that was also basically a throwaway when Wilson got rid of the ball quickly when he was immediately under duress when Cassius Marsh burst quickly into the backfield.
“He’s really on it,’’ Carroll said.
And while there were some other highlights — mostly, from the team’s veteran receiving corps and defense —- and while Wilson is a known commodity and the temptation can be to focus more on younger players, it was hard to ignore how well the quarterback played in what was the team’s most serious tuneup before beginning preseason play Sunday against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Wilson didn’t do much running by design. But an offensive line that was without two likely starters who were held out largely for precautionary reasons — tackle Germain Ifedi and guard/tackle Luke Joeckel — meant there were no shortage of times Wilson had to use his legs to get away from pressure.
And when called upon to get out of trouble Wilson appeared back to his pre-2016-injury form, several times keeping plays alive for completions.
“He’s doing great, he’s in good shape, and he’s working the ball around really well,’’ Carroll said.
One caveat is that Wilson was mostly working against the No. 2 defense as the No. 1 defense mostly worked against the No. 2 offense. And with the Seahawks not allowing full to-the-ground tackling, the running game largely took a back seat — Wilson threw on 18 of the 27 plays in his time on the field.
But when the receivers were open, Wilson hit them.
He floated a long pass perfectly down the sidelines to a wide open C.J. Prosise for a 44-yard gain to set up a field goal, hit Kearse over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown (the ball was a little behind Kearse who made a nice adjustment as he fell into the end dzone) and then threw to J.D. McKissic for 18 yards for another score, throughout making full use of a receiving corps some think could be the best he has had during his NFL career.
“Fun group,’’ Carroll said of the receivers.
It’s one that has been buoyed by the full return to health of tight end Jimmy Graham, who was also a standout Monday with two catches for 30 yards.
“Jimmy is the best he has looked,’’ Carroll said. “He’s really in great shape. Very confident, feels good, can work every day.’’
Doug Baldwin caught three passes for 53 yards, Kearse two for 25, Prosise two for 48, Luke Willson two for 20 and Paul Richardson one for 19, all from Wilson.
The No. 1 defense was also dominant allowing only four first downs on three possessions it played as a complete unit in the first half against the No. 2 offense, not allowing the offense to get past its own 40 (and with sacks called solely by referee’s discretion and some plays undoubtedly kept alive longer than they’d normally be).
Maybe the most notable play was a diving interception of a tipped pass in the second half by free safety Earl Thomas, who by all appearances looks on the way back to being the player he was before the broken tibia last Dec. 4 against Carolina (on the play, cornerback Pierre Desire batted a Trevone Boykin pass away and Thomas slid and just got his arms underneath).
“It’s awesome,’’ teammate Richard Sherman said of seeing Thomas look like his old self. “It means we’re back, complete. He’s obviously a huge part of what we’re doing and what we want to do. We knew he’d be back, we know his personality, we know his work ethic. We had no question he’d be back in time. And we’re happy to see that we were right.”
The dominance of the number one defense helped lead to uneven performances by the backup quaterbacks — Boykin and Austin Davis.
The two shared time with the backups, each getting three possessions. Davis, who was 8-13 for 68 yards, led one field goal drive with another finishing in a punt and another in an interception — a pass caught by Desir, one of the stars of the day, that had been tipped by cornerback DeAndre Elliott).
Boykin, 6-11 for 41 yards, led drives that ended in two punts and an interception.
That led Carroll to say later that the backup QB competition is too close to call.
But there’s no question about the starter, who on this day looked ready for the regular season.