DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks need Russell Wilson to save himself from pressure

Aug 19, 2016, 12:12 AM | Updated: 11:18 am
Wilson, Seahawks...
Russell Wilson has been sacked five or more times in eight games during his NFL career. The Rams are responsible for three of those games. (AP)
(AP)

The pressure is on Russell Wilson.

Just not in the way you think.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made that clear after Thursday’s preseason game when he talked about the four sacks Wilson suffered in the first half as something his quarterback needs to prevent.

“We have to get rid of the football so we don’t take the negative plays,” Carroll said. “Russ has to help us there.”

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Those four first-half sacks were the most meaningful thing to come out of Seattle’s loss to Minnesota, and if you looked no further than the stat sheet, those plays were confirmation of all the offseason concerns over the position group that was such a problem through the first half of last season. It was so obvious that Carroll brought it up without being asked.

“I know that you’re looking at the sack numbers and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, geez, what’s that mean?'” Carroll said.

That would be correct, Coach. Should Wilson be fitted for a body brace now or wait until a few more awkward tackles like the one by blitzing safety Andrew Sendejo at the end of the first half?

Yet as the entire city of Seattle began a collective wringing of hands over the state of the Seahawks’ offensive line, Carroll called upon Wilson to protect himself.

“We need to get the ball out,” Carroll said, “and stay quick with it like we want to and not let the rush get to us. When you don’t, then you suffer negative stuff that makes it hard to get going. So we have some real cleaning up here to do here.”

For four years, Wilson has been not only the most elusive quarterback in the league, but the best at throwing on the run. The result has been extraordinary plays that are ad-libbed. What Carroll is looking for now is to temper those play-making impulses with some veteran discretion.

The coach wants his quarterback to operate within the rhythm of the passing game instead of looking to extend every play in which he doesn’t have an open receiver. He wants Wilson to play the way he did the second half of last season as opposed to the first game.

This wasn’t an issue in Seattle’s preseason opener against Kansas City. Then again, that’s because Wilson played one series and the Chiefs never mounted much of a pass rush. It was different on Thursday. The Vikings have a great edge rusher in Everson Griffen. They have a disruptive tackle in Linval Joseph. They have a coach in Mike Zimmer who didn’t mind blitzing linebacker Anthony Barr or even a safety like Sendejo.

And after the Vikings sacked Wilson four times, Carroll stood behind a podium and resisted every question begging him to acknowledge the warts along Seattle’s offensive line.

“I thought it was fine,” Carroll said. “I really did. I thought it was fine. I know you think I’m nuts about that because you’re looking at sacks, but if you look at sacks and don’t know what you’re looking at, you can see it differently.”

Of the four sacks, two came on plays in which Minnesota rushed four defenders and Wilson had at least 3 seconds in the pocket. The next two resulted from blitzes, one of which Wilson recognized and pointed out.

The pressure is on Wilson this year. The pressure is on him to minimize the impact of the personnel fluctuation up front. This is the reality for a franchise quarterback in a salary-capped league.

When Seattle won the Super Bowl, it had one of the highest-paid lines in the league and a quarterback who was perhaps the biggest bargain. Three seasons later, Wilson is the highest-paid player on the Seahawks, who are paying their offensive linemen the least of any team in the league.

That means Wilson is going to have to protect himself this year, and that starts by getting the ball out quicker.

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