FLOWERY BRANCH — First, in order to give the Falcons’ defense a really good scouting look, quarterback Dominique Davis has to shrink four inches.
The Falcons’ third-string quarterback is 6-foot-3, but he will impersonate the 5-11 Russell Wilson this week in preparation for the divisional playoff game against Seattle at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
“Dominique has gotten a lot of work for us this season,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We’ve played some running quarterbacks, and he’ll be the guy trying to simulate (Wilson).”
Davis was inactive for all 16 regular-season games, but he has earned his keep in practice. He has imitated Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick.
Wilson, a third-round pick from Wisconsin who started his career at N.C. State, has been one of the surprises of the 2012 season.
“Offensively, it starts with what their quarterback is doing,” Smith said. “He does a very good job of running their offense. You have to account for him as a running back.”
Wilson rushed for 489 yards on 94 carries and scored four touchdowns during the regular season. In the 24-14 win over Washington on Sunday in the wild-card round, he rushed for 67 yards on eight carries.
But Wilson is not a run-first quarterback.
“You have to concern yourself with that,” Smith said. “But I think he tied Peyton Manning’s rookie touchdown (pass) record with 26. He’s doing a nice job of throwing the ball as well.”
The Seahawks have used the West Coast offense and even signed former Green Bay backup Matt Flynn in the offseason to fit their system. But after Wilson beat out Flynn, the Seahawks had to tailor their offense to his skills.
The Seahawks still lean heavily on running back Marshawn Lynch, but have installed some read-option plays for Wilson. The Falcons have had mixed results against read-option quarterbacks this season.
Newton abused the Falcons. He led the Panthers to 199 and 195 yards rushing in the two meetings during the regular season. Against Griffin, the Falcons held him to 7 yards on one carry. Vick had 42 yards rushing on seven carries.
“Cam is a beast as far as size goes,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “As far as punishment, he’s delivering the punishment rather than taking it. He can run anywhere he wants. I think it’s safe to say he’s going to get up off the ground and be fine.”
Griffin, who ended the season with a knee injury and was knocked out of the Falcons’ game with a concussion, was a little bit reckless during his rookie season.
“RGIII is an outstanding player, but as it has been shown during the year, he’s been prone to getting banged up a little bit,” Nolan said. “For whatever reason, that has happened to him. That has taken him off the field, which is what you don’t want (if you’re the Redskins).”
Nolan believes that Wilson is a cross between Newton and Griffin.
“Whereas Russell is not as big, but he is thick though,” Nolan said. “He’s got a lot of good girth about his body. That helps him with his durability.”
Both Smith and Nolan compared Wilson with former Georgia Bulldogs standout Fran Tarkenton, who had a stellar NFL career as an elusive quarterback from 1961-78 for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants.
“(Wilson) does a great job of keeping his eyes down the field,” Nolan said. “He scrambles to throw. He doesn’t scramble to run, but if it’s there he takes it.”
Early in the season, the Seahawks treated Wilson as a game manager. But as the season progressed, they opened the playbook for him.
The plan paid off as the Seahawks went on a late-season offensive onslaught in three games, outscoring the opposition 150-30 in victories over Arizona (58-0), Buffalo (50-17) and San Francisco (42-13).
“The system that they’ve put in place is really fitting to their personnel,” Nolan said. “As always, you start in one spot, and you finish in another. The package has grown throughout the year. They are explosive.”
Defensive backs must stay with Seahawks receivers for longer periods of time.
“When he goes back to pass, he’s a guy that turns a four- or five-second play into a 12- or 13-second play; and that can cause issues for guys that are in coverage,” Smith said.
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