DANNY ONEIL

Nearly healed from injuries, Russell Wilson is showing just how valuable he is to the Seahawks

Nov 20, 2016, 7:54 PM
Russell Wilson proved he's close to 100 percent with his improvised TD pass to Jimmy Graham. (AP)...
Russell Wilson proved he's close to 100 percent with his improvised TD pass to Jimmy Graham. (AP)
(AP)

Russell Wilson is the most valuable player in the NFL.

That doesn’t mean he’ll win the award.

In fact, the very thing that has so clearly demonstrated how vitally important he is to Seattle’s championship hopes is the very reason that he probably won’t win it.

His health. Or more accurate, his lack thereof earlier this season, which hobbled Seattle’s offense and crimped his stats. He suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of his first game and then two weeks later suffered a sprained knee ligament that generally requires a recovery of four to six weeks.

Wilson didn’t miss a game, which was a testament to his toughness. His team was missing its biggest playmaker, though.

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We see that clearly now that Wilson is again improvising and ad-libbing his way through any difficulties, running away from pressure and throwing Seattle’s offense into a higher gear. That was the difference in Sunday’s 26-15 victory over the Eagles. That has been the difference this month as Seattle has won three in a row, scoring more than 25 points in all three games, and the Seahawks have finally resembled that November team that we remember.

“You’ve seen us make shifts in the past,” coach Pete Carroll said. “This is one of those big shifts for us. It’s really exciting to see.”

Matt Ryan and Drew Brees have thrown for more yards than Wilson. Dallas rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott play on a team with more wins, and while Tom Brady has been a common MVP candidate, the Patriots have suffered as many losses with him playing as they did without him.

Meanwhile, we are seeing this month exactly what Wilson means to this offense. A healthy Wilson, that is. After Seattle failed to score a touchdown in two of the first six games, it’s clear that Russell Wilson has his groove back.

That was evident in the second quarter when the Seahawks were in scoring position but facing third-and-11 from the Philadelphia 35. With pressure coming around the edge, Wilson first stepped up in the pocket and then ran to his left, and just as he neared the line of scrimmage, he flicked a pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.

“You could see that Russell was at a moment where he could have gotten rid of the football,” Carroll said, “and it would have been the right thing to do, and he waited it out and hit Jimmy perfectly.”

It was vintage Wilson, and it epitomized the reason that he is so very difficult to defend. The Eagles did everything right on that play. They pressured Wilson from the edge without allowing him to break containment. They covered up his receiving options. And still they wound up giving up a go-ahead touchdown because Wilson essentially gives the Seahawks two cracks at the defense on every passing play.

First, there is the scripted and rehearsed element that transpires in the 3 to 4 seconds after the snap. Then, there’s the sandlot component where Wilson sees what he can find.

That is the component in Seattle’s offense that is often the most dangerous. It is also the component that was missing for most of the first two months because of Wilson’s injuries.

And now?

“He looks like he’s back,” Carroll said.

Well, mostly back. He still doesn’t have a carry longer than 9 yards this season, though he did have a 15-yard touchdown catch on Sunday, which may have been even better as he caught a third-quarter pass from Doug Baldwin and dove into the end zone.

Consider that the exclamation point on a game that showed how versatile and how valuable Wilson is once again.

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Nearly healed from injuries, Russell Wilson is showing just how valuable he is to the Seahawks