I love watching Russell Wilson play quarterback. He is the best in the game at escaping trouble and making plays. It’s not hyperbole to say that he might be the best we’ve ever seen in this area. This is largely because he scrambles to throw instead of scrambling to run, making him twice as dangerous on 2nd-reaction plays. But this aspect of Wilson’s game is one that gets him into trouble at times. Recently, he’s been a little too quick to look for reasons to flee the pocket to make something happen with his legs, often in response to pressure, instead of staying within the framework of the passing game. This has led to mistakes (10 turnovers in 4 games) and inconsistency in his performance. On Sunday against the Rams, this troubling trend continued.
On Wilson’s first interception, he missed opportunities for a big play twice. Here, the Seahawks ran a post-wheel concept to the 2-tight end side. The design of the play worked just like Seattle drew it up, with Greg Olsen’s route eating up the cornerback and Will Dissly’s wheel breaking wide open on the outside.
Wilson didn’t hit Dissly, though. As you can see above, he had a little pressure to his right. Instead of climbing the pocket and resetting his feet before hitting Dissly for a touchdown, he overreacted to the pressure. Wilson saw daylight in front of him at the top of his drop and immediately took off.
Missing the touchdown is one thing. But as soon as Wilson made that decision to take off instead of resetting his feet, he should have taken advantage of all the green grass in front of him. You’d have a hard time convincing me that he wouldn’t have scored or at least gotten the ball down near the goal line there. Wilson could have atoned for his initial mistake. But he didn’t end up scrambling for a big play. Instead, he decided to throw back across the field to Dissly, who was no longer open. The results were disastrous.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Wilson had plenty of space to move up and reset without completely losing his throwing base like he did.
Wilson got into play-maker mode too early on this snap and then doubled down with the throw back across his body, a sign of someone trying a little too hard to make things happen.
Below is another example of Wilson failing to stay within the framework of the passing game. The Seahawks were running a hi-lo concept in the middle of the field with Greg Olsen and Tyler Lockett.
From the end zone angle, focus on safety John Johnson (#43). As soon as he broke inside on Lockett’s shallow crossing route, this opened up a huge throwing lane for Olsen behind him. Below, you can see what Wilson was looking at right at the top of his drop.
Olsen was open. Again, the design of the play worked. The Rams brought a bit of pressure, but it was picked up. Wilson had time and space to plant and throw, which he should have started doing right at the moment illustrated above. However, the sight of pressure made Wilson turn to his trusty legs.
Again, Wilson went into play-maker mode instead of sticking with the design of the play, and he missed an opportunity as a result.
The below example was yet another instance of Wilson leaving plays on the field. This was a 1st-and-10. Pre-snap, you can see that the only potential 2nd-level pass rusher was linebacker Micah Kiser, coming from Wilson’s right side. Kiser had a safety stacked behind him (a blitz indicator).
You can certainly make the argument that Wilson should have slid the protection to the right side. Be that as it may, the Seahawks slid left. So when Kiser blitzed through the B gap to Wilson’s right, it left Seattle with 2 blockers to protect 3 pass rushers to that side.
That meant the extra pass rusher was unaccounted for, so it was Wilson’s responsibility to throw hot. You can see that Wilson was not prepared to do that. In fact, he looked in the opposite direction initially. When he did look right, he had the time to get rid of the ball to Greg Olsen (#88 on the right side of the screen).
Instead of planting his foot and throwing hot to Olsen, he never set his feet and instantly went into scramble mode.
This was a case of Wilson not recognizing the pressure and not being ready to get the ball out of his hands quickly within the timing of the play. The result was a 10-yard loss on 1st down that killed the drive.
Wilson’s play-making ability is the part of his game that makes him special. But it can’t be forced. The Seahawks can’t operate by just asking Wilson to work his magic. They don’t have a play called “Trips right, run around and make something happen.” Offenses can’t function like well-oiled machines that way. Over their last few games, Wilson’s inconsistency playing within the framework of the passing game has unsurprisingly led to some inconsistent results for the offense.
That said, it isn’t panic time in Seattle just yet. Russell Wilson is dead last on any list of problems the Seahawks have as a team. His inconsistent play during Seattle’s recent slide is easily fixable and something I anticipate him being able to address ASAP. And he needs to, because without the best version of Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have no chance at competing for a Super Bowl.
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