O’Neil: Fair or not, Seahawks’ Russell Wilson doesn’t get more margin for error this year
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is being allowed to do more this season. He just doesn’t get more margin for error.
That’s not necessarily fair, but it is the reality that he and the Seahawks signed up for with the strategic shift in this year’s offense. The Seahawks are throwing more on early downs and earlier in games, and halfway through the season, the approach has resulted in more interceptions. It’s the second part that is proving to be a problem.
Wilson was picked off twice in this week’s loss in Buffalo, which came two weeks after he was intercepted three times in Arizona. Halfway through this season, he has already surpassed his interception total of a year ago. He has never been picked off more than 11 times in any of his first eight seasons.
That’s not to say Wilson is playing poorly. He’s not. He’s the primary reason that Seattle has been able to win six games so far this season, and he’s still one of the frontrunners if not the outright favorite to be named the league’s MVP. The turnovers aren’t even Seattle’s biggest problem. That would be a defense that’s on pace to allow the most yards of any team in NFL history, and the fact that Wilson has had to be nothing short of outstanding in those games that Seattle won is certainly grounds to wonder how realistic a deep playoff run is.
This is not a criticism of Seattle’s offensive shift. In fact, the first eight games should provide a thorough endorsement of the Seahawks’ decision to give Wilson more of an opportunity to build early leads. It is what has saved the Seahawks several times this season.
But with great power comes great responsibility. Or at least better ball security. And one of the things that has been most remarkable about Wilson’s career is that while throwing fewer passes than most other elite quarterbacks, he has consistently ranked among the league’s leaders in scoring passes while throwing a minimal number of interceptions. His efficiency has been nothing short of ruthless.
And now all he’s being asked to do is more of that without making any more mistakes, which is a big ask. But being a franchise quarterback is a big job. Maybe the biggest in professional sports, and Seattle can’t win games in which Wilson commits four turnovers like he did on Sunday against the Bills. The Seahawks probably won’t win games in which he turns it over three times like he did against Arizona, and this points to one of the risks that Seattle signed up for when it decided to shift its offensive strategy.
So this could take a little getting used to. Wilson is going to have to find that sweet spot where he’s accelerating the scoring earlier in games without sliding around the track. And really, it’s the first time in a while that we’ll get to see if Wilson can work through a kink in his game. It has been a while since anyone has asked whether he can improve on something. Not since the second half of 2015 – when Wilson went on a historically prolific tear as a passer – has anyone wondered whether he’ll be able to do something.
Only now, it’s not anything Wilson needs to start doing, but something he needs to stop. The Seahawks need every bit of offensive horsepower he’s providing, but some of those turnovers have got to go.