Given the controversy surrounding Russell Wilson’s future this offseason, there may be no offensive coordinator whose every move will be more scrutinized this year than Shane Waldron.
But as Wilson revealed following the mock game Sunday at Lumen Field, the credit — or blame — for play calls this year might fall more than ever on Wilson himself.
Wilson, as is the case with all quarterbacks, always has had an ability to change play calls at the line of scrimmage.
But the offense being implemented by Waldron — in his first year as coordinator after replacing the fired Brian Schottenheimer – gives Wilson even greater flexibility to manage the game.
“I’ve always been able to change a play,’’ Wilson said. “… I think the emphasis of being able to do it all the time, all throughout the game, is the key. I think that’s a little bit different, in that sense. I have freedom for sure.”
That ability was on display on the first drive of the mock game as Wilson indicated later he basically called everything at the line of scrimmage on what was an eight-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Carson.
That turned out to be the only offensive touchdown of the day out of 10 possessions as the starters beat the backups 22-3 in front of 15,758.
It was the first time the Seahawks played in front of spectators at their own stadium since the final regular-season game of the 2019 season on Dec. 29 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Defensive tackle Poona Ford accounted for the only other touchdown, returning a fumbled pitch 15 yards for a score on the first play of the third quarter. Kicker Jason Myers scored the other points by hitting all four of his field-goal attempts on distances of 50, 25, 32 and 44 yards.
Wilson played five series and led the offense to one touchdown and three field goals and then a final drive that ended in two kneeldowns.
The kneeldowns led to some booing from the fans, who wanted to see a bit more action.
But coach Pete Carroll said the team needs to practice kneeldowns, too.
Carroll said he heard the boos and thought “that was great.’’ But he also decided he didn’t need to put too much of a damper on things and “fudged” the clock a little on the last play so there didn’t need to be another snap. “I didn’t want to hear them boo another time,’’ he said. “But it was all right.’’
Carroll was even more enthused about the rest of day, including that the Seahawks appeared to mostly get through it unscathed. The only injury of note, he said, was receiver Penny Hart turning his ankle.
The first-team defense looked good throughout, with Carlos Dunlap getting two sacks along with the Ford touchdown, which occurred when a Geno Smith pitch was fumbled by running back Josh Johnson, who appeared to be expecting a handoff — the Seahawks went all of last season without a score from their defense.
But what Carroll liked the most was what he saw out of the first-time offense, especially the style in which it played.
While the Seahawks want to keep a lot of specifics of the new offense under wraps, they have made no secret that playing at a speedier tempo — and also simply being more proficient at playing at different tempos — is a significant aspect of Waldron’s scheme.
“I liked the rhythm that we played with,’’ Carroll said. “I thought it was really obvious that we moved with rhythm and adjusted it as we went.’’
Wilson likes it, too.
“I think the tempo, for us as an offense, allows us to get to the ball, do all the plays that we want to do, really attack the defense based on their coverages and based on their looks,’’ Wilson said. “But also just to put pressure on them.’
Going no-huddle, or simply more up-tempo, puts even more of a responsibility on Wilson to call plays and manage the offense at the line.
And Wilson, now entering his 10th season in the NFL, made clear that’s a responsibility he accepts.
Wilson said he has the ability to call from the entire playbook at the line of scrimmage.
“The thing for us is just, for me, to be able to use what I know, my smarts and understand what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to get to it,” Wilson said. “Also, Shane and I being on the wavelength and being at the line of scrimmage and checking the play if we need to. Sometimes just trust the play and going with it as well. That really puts the defense on their heels.
“… The extension of me and Shane, as you guys probably saw some today early on, it’s just the ability for him to call something and then me to be at the line of scrimmage and go to something else if it’s not the right look and this and that and just be able to play super fast and get us to the best play, the best situation.”
And in that sense, it can also be said that Wilson is indeed getting greater input into team decisions.
During his winter of discontent, Wilson said he wanted more say in what the team does. That was easily translated at the time as simply meaning input into personnel moves. But giving Wilson even more autonomy at the line of scrimmage to run the offense might be a power Wilson desired just as much, as well.
Wilson, who finished 13 for 20 for 196 yards passing, went 3 for 4 for 64 yards on the first drive highlighted by a 45-yard pass down the sideline to DK Metcalf, who beat backup cornerback Gavin Heslop to get open, as well as a 9-yard pass to Tyler Lockett and a 10-yarder to Carson.
Lockett and Metcalf didn’t play much after the first couple of series, and the No. 1 offense bogged down some in the red zone in later series as a result (also, there was no live tackling, so the running game was hard to assess as runners were basically judged down at first significant contact).
Metcalf led all receivers with three catches for 64 yards.
Carson had 39 yards on five carries, most early on before giving way to backups (Alex Collins had nine carries for 25 yards).
Smith, who has had a solid camp, was 9 for 13 for 72 yards and might have deserved better than he got. He appeared at one point to complete a fourth-down pass to Colby Parkinson for a first down, but a sack was generously awarded and the drive ruled as stopped.
“This role that I play as the commissioner in these games – I catch a lot of flack from each side depending on the call,’’ Carroll said. “That one in particular I’ll have to take a look at, I’m not sure what happened on that one.”