Seahawks training camp position preview: Quarterback
The Seahawks kick off training camp on July 25 and there’s plenty to sort out in the weeks leading up to the August 31 roster cutdown deadline. Today’s position preview focuses on the quarterback group, led by Russell Wilson and the bigger-than-ever expectations surrounding his season.
This one goes without saying, but Russell Wilson enters yet another year as the unchallenged franchise quarterback – something the Seahawks made clear with yet another contract extension, this time for a record-setting $140 million.
Wilson, 30, is coming off one of the most efficient years of his career. He set a new franchise record for touchdown passes in a single season (35) – breaking his own record (34) set in 2017 – and he had two or more touchdown passes in all but three games, which is also a record. He set new franchise records for passer rating in a single season (110.9) and passer rating in a single game (a perfect 158.3). His seven interceptions tied a career low set in 2014, but he managed to match that while also throwing 15 more touchdowns in 2018, giving him his highest touchdown percentage yet (8.2).
Wilson’s accomplishments didn’t just exceed those of past Seahawks quarterbacks – he also sat near the top of the NFL in passing touchdowns (tied with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan for third), passer rating (third behind New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes), adjusted yards per pass attempt (behind Brees and Mahomes), touchdown percentage (behind Mahomes), and game-winning drives (tied for fourth). He particularly excelled on deep throws, finishing with the second-highest passer rating on pass attempts of 20-plus yards, and in making plays while scrambling, according to Pro Football Focus.
Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith, both additions this offseason, will be battling for the backup quarterback spot. Lynch, 25, was a first-round selection by the Denver Broncos in 2016 but was released in September 2018. He signed a futures contract with Seattle in January. The Seahawks added Smith to the competition in May. Smith was drafted 39th overall by the Jets in 2013.
Throw Wilson in the category for breakout candidate as well, not because he doesn’t already face great expectations – something you’d expect from the league’s highest-paid player – but because he’ll enter 2019 with four of five returning starters on the offensive line, a huge weapon in 6-feet-4 rookie receiver DK Metcalf, a healthier-than-ever Tyler Lockett, and a 1,000-yard rushing threat in Chris Carson.
This year, though, will bring its share of challenges. For the first time in his career, Wilson will be without former top receiver Doug Baldwin, whom injury forced into a release this offseason. Wilson will be entering just his second year with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who himself received his share of criticism for what seemed to be an inflexible run-first game plan that sometimes struggled to utilize Wilson’s ability.
Naturally, these challenges lend themselves to questions about where Wilson can go from here, and now that the strength of this team lies in its offense, it’s that question that will stay at the forefront of this season. That, and how well Schottenheimer’s game plan can play to Wilson’s strengths.
This team will go as far as Russell Wilson takes them. That’s how 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard summed up the intrigue surrounding Wilson in 2019. While this is the case for any team with a franchise quarterback, this organization has hitched their wagon to Wilson not only with this spring’s mega deal, but also in their decisions about which personnel to let go. In seven seasons Wilson hasn’t given Seattle reason to doubt his performance on the field; at 30 years old he already holds several franchise records and hasn’t missed a single start in 125 games. But plenty of doubt surrounds this offense — so much so that ESPN’s Bill Barnwell had Seattle’s group of receivers, tight ends and running backs as the fourth-worst arsenal in the league. There’s more pressure on Wilson than ever before, but no feat could be so awe-inspiring if fans didn’t first have to wonder: “Can he really do it?”