Key stat shows why Seahawks’ Russell Wilson is an elite QB

Jun 21, 2020, 11:36 AM
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was the best QB when passing beyond his first read per PFF. (Getty)

By now, everyone knows that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a great 2019 season, arguably his best since entering the league in 2012.

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Wilson was an MVP candidate for most of the campaign as he threw for 4,110 yards and 31 touchdowns to just five interceptions while completing 66.1% of his passes. He also had 342 rushing yards and three scores.

And while those numbers are obviously impressive, as was his play when just casually watching him perform in games, Wilson was also elite in a lesser-known part of his game.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson was the best quarterback in the NFL in 2019 when throwing beyond his first read. That stat really stood out to former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps, co-host of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy.

“So that means when you’re going through (a play) and you have your progressions (of receiving options), one to two to three to four, your No. 1 receiver in your progression is not open. What is your grade after that?” Heaps said.

Wilson graded out at 88.8 on Pro Football Focus’ 0-100 scale. The lowest-graded quarterback in that same category was fellow NFC West quarterback Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, who earned just a 39.4 grade.

One of the traits that Wilson has been known for throughout his career is his ability to adapt. He’s rarely played with a strong offensive line, so it’s not uncommon to see him scramble around, avoid defenders, and find a receiver downfield.

One of the most famous moments in Wilson’s career came on such a play against the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 (watch here), which was essentially blown up by the defense from the start and on which receiver Doug Baldwin was actually assigned to block. Wilson danced around, spun to avoid defenders and then found Baldwin near the sideline for a huge gain.

Not all plays where Wilson connects with his secondary reads are quite as electric as the one above, but Heaps says plays where Wilson works through his progressions and ultimately finds an open man show how far he has come from his early years, when he wasn’t seen as an elite quarterback largely because of the Seahawks’ strong running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a historically good defense with the Legion of Boom secondary.

“The reason why that stat is such a strong one for Russell Wilson is because it has shown his growth and development over time, over his career,” he said. “This is not a game manager. This is not a guy who can’t function at a high level. Russell Wilson is showing you he is in the prime of his career, functioning at a high, high level, and it doesn’t matter if No. 1 in progressions doesn’t show up. Russell Wilson is going to continue to work through his progression, find a way, extend time, make things happen, and I think that’s an exciting stat to see.”

You can listen to Heaps’ full comments in the podcast of the second hour of Wednesday’s edition of Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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