Has Russell Wilson hit a ceiling?
Notice the punctuation on the previous sentence: a question mark. It wasn’t a statement, but it is a legitimate question after Seattle’s offense – a problem for the first half of this season – was an absolute albatross in Sunday’s 39-32 loss to Arizona.
There will be no shortage of explanations for those offensive struggles – from a line that remains an open wound, hemorrhaging pressure and penalties, to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s play selection, to the question of why Jimmy Graham hasn’t been a better asset for this team.
But Wilson is part of this conversation, too, and not because of any stupid insinuations about what he did on the bye week. The man took a vacation like every player who wasn’t injured was encouraged to do, and the fact that he did it on a beach with a beautiful woman has nothing to do with anything that happened in Sunday’s game, good or bad.
The questions come because of the performance. Wilson was 14-for-32 passing against the Cardinals, his lowest completion percentage in two seasons. He was picked off by Tyrann Mathieu in the third quarter on what could have been a huge play had he led Baldwin toward the middle of the field. He should have been picked off by Mathieu in the fourth quarter on another misfire.
It was an uninspiring end to a game that had a downright atrocious beginning, and while there are plenty of reasons that went into why Seattle lost this game, the fact stands that Wilson wasn’t good enough to win it for Seattle.
Has he hit a ceiling?
In his first three seasons, Wilson played better than anyone could have hoped, let alone expected. This season he has not been able to create any sort of consistency in the passing game nor counterbalance the losses along Seattle’s offensive line.
And now is the point where it has become customary to mention the contract extension Wilson signed before training camp began and talk about heightened expectations, but that’s missing the point.
The concern isn’t that Wilson is suddenly inadequate now that he’s being paid like a franchise quarterback. The worry is that for the first time in his NFL career, he’s not showing clear progress over the course of the season.
Is this a plateau or is this his ceiling? There was some thought when Wilson entered the NFL that he was so focused that he would be ready to play sooner than anyone thought, but that he might also reach the maximum of his potential sooner rather than later. In fact, that was pretty much the scouting report from Philadelphia, the team that was planning to take Wilson in the third round only to wince when the Seahawks grabbed him first. The Eagles believed Wilson was so diligent he’d reach his peak sooner than anyone expected. They just wondered how high that peak would be.
How much more will Wilson improve? Because this season has shown he’s not yet capable of overcoming poor pass protection with a quick release. Not only that, but there are times that his propensity to scramble means the offense goes off script so frequently that it’s difficult to execute consistently, and Sunday’s loss continues a trend in which Wilson has yet to lead Seattle to a victory in a game in which the opponent scores 25 or more points.
There were plenty of reasons why Seattle lost this game – from the 14 penalties that it was assessed, to the fact that this Seahawks defense that prides itself on not allowing big plays was twice beaten over the top for touchdowns in the second quarter.
But the biggest reason that Seattle didn’t win this game was its offense. The Seahawks literally would have been better off punting on first down for each of their first four possessions, which produced 23 yards of total offense, lost 50 yards in penalties and cost the team two points on the safety when Wilson lost a fumble after colliding with teammate Russell Okung.
And while the Seahawks offense came back to score its first fourth-quarter touchdown since Week 1, that was only after the defense set Seattle up at the opponent’s 3-yard line in the first minute of the period. And when the game ended with Seattle at its lowest point this late in a season since Wilson arrived, the question is how much higher this team – and its quarterback – can climb.