Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Russell Wilson and changing perceptions
By Mike Sando
Russell Wilson frequently faced questions about his relative lack of height last season. He changed the subject during a successful rookie season as the Seattle Seahawks' starting quarterback, posting an 11-5 record while matching Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes.
Up next for Wilson: changing perceptions about his role within the offense.
ESPN's Jeff Chadiha hit upon this one in his latest column, contending that Wilson was not carrying his team the way Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III carried their teams as rookies, and that life for Wilson could become more difficult as expectations increase.
"The question Wilson will face this season is how he'll cope when defenses force him to win more games on his own talents," Chadiha wrote.
I thought Wilson did that last season. He had 43 drop-backs during an overtime victory at Chicago featuring 97- and 80-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. The performance was so impressive that Bears receiver Brandon Marshall called Wilson a "born leader" and someone he could "watch and learn from" even as a veteran player.
There are still skeptics.
"I like the kid, but he also was playing with a top-five defense and a top-five running game," an opposing team's quarterbacks coach told Chadiha for the column. "It helps a lot when you don't have to throw the football 35 times a game."
Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns, a 109.1 NFL passer rating and 86.4 Total QBR score during a playoff game in the Georgia Dome last season. He dropped back to pass a season-high 44 times in that game and set another season high by averaging 9.7 yards per drop-back.
Other teams asked their quarterbacks to carry more of the load from a passing standpoint. That was certainly the case with Luck, who had as many drop-backs as Wilson and Griffin combined. The chart at right illustrates some of what Chadiha is saying. Wilson ranked 33rd out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks in drop-backs per start. Griffin ranked 31st in that category. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick was 30th.
Sometimes, a team will limit its quarterback's drop-backs for fear of the quarterback's inability to carry the offense. That has been the case with Mark Sanchez over the years, for example. I think Seattle had those thoughts in mind early last season, before Wilson gained some experience. That type of thinking wasn't a consideration when the season ended. It's not a consideration now.
Analysts might be disappointed if they think the Seahawks are suddenly going to adopt a pass-oriented offense. Coach Pete Carroll wants to feature the ground game prominently in his offense. That was the case for Griffin's Redskins and Kaepernick's 49ers last season even though both teams had confidence in their quarterbacks.