Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 15, QB Russell Wilson
Each day until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is talking with an NFL analyst and counting down the 25 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. “Two-a-days” continued with ESPN’s Jon Gruden as the guest and Russell Wilson as the 15th-most intriguing Seahawk. The segment on Wilson is embedded above. My thoughts are below.
• Position: QB
• Height/Weight: 5-11, 215
• Experience: Fifth season
• Acquired: Third-round pick, 2012
Overview: With how well Wilson finished the 2015 regular season, it’s easy to forget how he started it. Wilson threw 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions over the first nine games, a stretch that ended with a performance against Arizona in Week 10 that was so shaky it led to a question of whether he may have reached his ceiling. A big reason for Wilson’s early struggles was the constant pressure he was facing. At one point in the first half, Wilson was on pace to approach the record for most times sacked in a single season. It felt at times like his scrambling ability was the only thing keeping Seattle’s offense afloat. It all turned around at midseason. The Seahawks drastically cut down the rate at which Wilson was being sacked, thanks largely to an emphasis on getting the ball out much quicker. Wilson and Seattle’s offense took off from there. The numbers over the final seven games were staggering. Wilson threw 24 touchdowns to one interception and, according to ESPN Stats & Information, had a quarterback rating of 132.8. Seattle won six of those seven games. Wilson finished the season with 34 touchdown passes (to eight interceptions) and 4,024 passing yards, which established career highs also broke the previous franchise records. He also set career highs in completion percentage at 68.1 and passer rating at 110.1, which led the league. Coach Pete Carroll has been putting Wilson through something of a football Master’s program this offseason, which is one reason he thinks his quarterback still has room to grow. “Russell had a great season, and he’ll play better. I think he’ll continue to get better,” Carroll told “Brock and Salk” at the end of the regular season. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t. There’s too many areas, and he knows and he’s going to keep pushing to figure it out. This is just a stage of his career.”
The intrigue: Throughout his career, Wilson has answered every knock on his game. Too short for an NFL quarterback. Wilson has won one Super Bowl, led Seattle back to another and set the record for most regular-season wins in a quarterback’s first three seasons. Just a caretaker for an offense that centers around an elite running back. Wilson’s second-half tear came with Marhsawn Lynch on the sideline. Yeah, but he’s got an elite defense, too. He does, but he’s also put the Seahawks on his back when their defense has faltered, last year against Pittsburgh being one instance. Not as good in the pocket as he is on the move. Wilson’s 118.6 passer rating on throws from inside the pocket last year was the best mark for any quarterback over the last three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. So what’s the next question for Wilson to answer? I’ll ask one: Can he be the league’s MVP? The Seahawks will remain committed to being a run-first team no matter who’s in their backfield, so it may be tough for Wilson to have enough opportunities to match some of the game’s most prolific passers. But it’s hard to count him out after his remarkable second-half stretch last season.
2016 outlook: Anyone who watched Seattle’s offseason practices will tell you that Wilson looked as sharp as ever. “He’s made a clear step ahead,” Carroll said. “His command is, like, all-time. His ability to move defenders with his eyes and his set-ups and things, he’s consistently doing that, and almost unconsciously he’s so clued in. We saw him throw the ball all over the field throughout the offseason and he’s been strong and accurate and really precise about stuff. He’s had a great offseason.” There are two unknown factors that figure to impact Wilson significantly in 2016. One is Seattle’s offensive line, which could have three new starters and not one player at the same position as last year. Will it come together quickly enough to avoid a repeat of what happened in the first half of last season? The other is tight end Jimmy Graham, who is coming off a serious knee injury. Will he be completely healthy? And if so, how much more effective can he be with a year of experience in Seattle’s offense?
Most Intriguing Seahawks: 25, DL Quinton Jefferson; 24, WR Kasen Williams; 23, WR Paul Richardson; 22, G Mark Glowinski; 21, TE Nick Vannett; 20, CB Jeremy Lane; 19, DT Jordan Hill; 18, RB Alex Collins; 17, S Tyvis Powell; 16, G Germain Ifedi.