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Monday, January 7, 2013
Falcons should watch Tarkenton tape

By Pat Yasinskas

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson gets mentioned a lot with fellow rookies Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

That’s natural because they’re Wilson’s contemporaries. But I think Atlanta coach Mike Smith made a far more accurate comparison Monday when he was asked for a scouting report on Wilson.

“Well, when you watch him scramble around there, he looks like Fran Tarkenton,’’ Smith said.

That’s precisely what I thought as I watched Wilson against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Smith’s comparison might be lost on his players (elder statesman Tony Gonzalez was born in 1976 and Tarkenton finished his career in 1978). But plenty of people around Atlanta remember Tarkenton because he went to high school in Georgia and played at the University of Georgia before going on to the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

I was young when Tarkenton still was playing. But the thing I remember best about him was his ability to scramble and make things happen. Smith sees a lot of the same things from Wilson.

“I mean, he can extend some plays,’’ Smith said. “He’s got a very strong arm. He can throw the ball 55, 60 yards down the field. That’s the thing that impressed me. He’s very hard to get your hands on, especially when he’s running around on passing plays. He extends those plays and that causes a lot of issues for defenders.’’

Wilson also can make things happen on the read option that the Seahawks sometimes use. Atlanta’s seen the read option from Griffin and Carolina’s Cam Newton. But Smith might want to dig up some tape of Tarkenton and show it to his defense.

He also might want to show that tape to rookie quarterback Dominique Davis, who is going to run the scout team and try to do the things Wilson does. Davis was born 11 years after Tarkenton’s career ended.

But Wilson might be a lot more like Tarkenton than any other quarterback.