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The Russell Wilson to Luke Willson connection

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The Seahawks are anxiously awaiting the return of top tight end Zach Miller. But in the meantime rookie Luke Willson from Rice is the talk of camp. Wilson is 6-feet-4 and has 4.5-second 40 speed -- and he's getting valuable time with the starting unit. When Miller returns, so does the 12 personnel package.

- Pat Kirwin, after watching hours of practice tape with Pete Carroll and staff...

Rookie tight end Luke Willson's first game was pretty innocuous. Four targets, two catches, 16 yards in only 16 snaps. Willson talked with KJR this week about how he started out his first professional game a bit nervous and stiff, but then settled in and felt more comfortable as he went along. This is normal, I would guess, even for guys that have played Division I college football. I remember my first varsity basketball game my junior year of high school - it was against our rivals at the time and the gym was packed (by Bellingham standards) with 2,000+ crazy fans. We won the tip and I ran out to the wing, looking back to our point guard. He called a play with a signal of his hand and as I went to run it, I completely forgot what I was supposed to do, just in sheer nervousness, so I kind of just ran around like a moron until the play broke down. I got yanked after about 20 seconds and I remember my coach looking at me with the most hilarious expression like 'what the shit are you doing out there?' (not hilarious at the time though).

I mean, he put me back in shortly thereafter and I remembered how to play basketball and all that and my nerves went away and the plays came back to my brain, but I will never forget that weird feeling of total mind-blanking at the shock of being in my first 'big game' in front of all those people. JV to Varsity is a big jump in terms of people paying attention, I thought at the time. I would guess the jump from Rice to the NFL is bigger, even in the preseason.

Anyway. Willson's first target came on the Seahawks' first drive and the high-and-away pass skipped off his hands. I wouldn't call it a drop, at all, but at the same time, that's a pass you would love to see him come down with in the future. When Hugh Millen asked him about that play, Willson said pretty much the same thing.


The first third down opportunity, you had a route over the middle; the Chargers were playing two-man - two safeties back, man underneath - and that allows the guys to play really tight man-to-man underneath. You had a little route there that kind of went high. Walk us through that play, and maybe what Russell or your coach said after that.


"Like you said, it was kind of a two-man look. I had a 12-yard, - I don't really want to call it a spot route, I have a little more freedom than just to end up in one spot - I tried to push the safety vertical, kind of tried to get him to turn his hips, and came out of the break, and it was kind of a bang-bang play. I should've - I'd like to come down with those; I think I will, in the near future. It was one of those things that going back on film, I was a little short on my route depth, I think if I would have pushed it a couple more yards, I would have had the safety running a little bit more and [would have] given me more separation. So, that's just a timing thing, a bit of a rookie mistake with the depth, but I'll correct that pretty quickly."

Here's what it looked like.


I'm not sure how this play is drawn up, but Willson's footwork looks a little sloppy coming out of his route. Too many hesitation steps at the stem, not physical enough, and the trailing safety blankets him well. I would guess that Willson would look at this route and think he should have drifted to his left (Russell's right) and maybe drift downfield - rather than taking a false step back toward the LOS and then drifting.

I would think the timing was off too - Willson shouldn't be waiting that long for the ball to get there, and probably should have been a yard or two deeper (again, affecting the timing). Russ talked about how he tried to put the ball in a place where only Willson could come down with it, so you can't fault him too much for something we like to talk about as one of Wilson's biggest strengths (willingness to throw it up to where only the receiver can get it).

Here's Wilson's breakdown.

The reason I bring up this play -- I think it just really illustrates well how important timing and location can be for receiver routes. You have to be open and ready to catch the ball right at the exact moment when the quarterback is ready to throw the ball (this is something Greg Cosell said that Sterling Sharpe had explained to him, recently). You can draw up a play on a blackboard, but when 22 players are all moving, the chaos of the situation sometimes falls to players improvising slightly.

As Willson noted, he did have some freedom on his 'spot' route, and in watching tape, he'll probably learn some ways in which he could have had more success here.