Wilson has de­fenses scram­bling

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

Sys­tem quar­ter­backs are a dime a dozen in the repet­i­tive one-game-at-a-time, don’t-beat-your­self NFL.

Deep thinkers like Rus­sell Wilson — price­less.

Wilson clearly un­der­stands the im­por­tance of now. He gets ur­gency. What sep­a­rates him from much of the quar­ter­back field is the abil­ity to see the big pic­ture while he man­ages mo­ments play-by-play in game sit­u­a­tions. Fourth-and-one, for ex­am­ple, isn’t merely about get­ting that yard. It’s about the yard, the next play and where you go from there.

To il­lus­trate how the process works, con­sider Wilson’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the green light to scram­ble, freely given him in his rookie sea­son by Seat­tle Sea­hawks head coach Pete Car­roll.

Each time Wilson per­forms his patented back shoul­der spinout, each time he busts out of the pocket break­ing an­kles of de­fend­ers and ex­tend­ing plays, it’s with the un­der­stand­ing that the mo­ment rarely is big­ger than the re-

spon­si­bil­ity he has to his coach and his team­mates. Stay well, Rus­sell.

“I give you as much as I can in get­ting the first down and get­ting out of bounds, and get­ting down,” is how Wilson ex­plained it on a con­fer­ence call. “It’s just play­ing the game the right way. I think that’s re­ally smart. I think that’s the smart thing to do. That’s kind of my phi­los­o­phy. Just try to play the game the smart way, get as much as you can, sal­vage the play and move on to the next play.”

In an in­dus­try where you’re noth­ing if you don’t have a quar­ter­back, Wilson hasn’t missed a start since the Sea­hawks took him off the board in the third round of the 21012 draft. He’s 55-20-1 in his tour with the Sea­hawks, hav­ing thrown 116 touch­down passes and 37 in­ter­cep­tions. His ca­reer passer rat­ing — again, ca­reer — is 101.4.

What makes Wilson so ef­fec­tive? Listed at 5-11, he plays like he’s 6-5 in the film bro­ken down by Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz, who has the chal­lenge of de­fend­ing Wilson this Sunday at Cen­tu­ryLink Field.

“They drop him a lit­tle bit deeper,” Schwartz said of the Seat­tle pocket. “It’s not rare to see him 10, 12 yards be­hind the line of scrim­mage when he throws, and the far­ther back you get, it evens out the height of the im­age. They open up win­dows. We’ve got to do a good job of clos­ing win­dows in our pass rush. And then they get him on the edge with the boot game. All those things make him 6-foot-5, you know?”

The Sea­hawks are 6-2-1 this sea­son largely be­cause Wilson has man­aged them so ef­fi­ciently. The fifthyear prod­uct of Wis­con­sin by way of North Carolina State has thrown 10 touch­downs and just two in­ter­cep­tions.

Only the Bills, of all teams, have fewer give­aways than the Sea­hawks, with six. Wilson has done so play­ing through knee and shoul­der in­juries.

“Well ob­vi­ously with the in­juries I haven’t been able to do quite as much as far as some of the ex­tended plays or what­ever,” said Wilson, who’s com­pleted 68.6 per­cent of his pass at­tempts. “But it’s be­ing able to get the ball out on time, get the ball in our play­mak­ers hands and let them make plays. So we’re do­ing a good job of that right now.

“I think that also in terms of go­ing about ex­tend­ing the play, I think it’s just try­ing to make the smart play, and not force it in. Just try to be smart with the foot­ball.”

The Sea­hawks can live with the 19 sacks of Wilson as he’s per­fected the craft of slid­ing. The Ea­gles fig­ure their best chance to beat him this week­end is to force him into sit­u­a­tions he doesn’t feel com­fort­able. There aren’t a lot of those.

“Any time you get a mo­bile quar­ter­back, it changes the en­tire ap­proach to the game plan,” safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “You al­ways have to ac­count for that 11th man. You have to ac­count for his abil­ity to scram­ble, you have to ac­count for his abil­ity to ex­tend plays, which puts a stress on your se­condary. So your rush has to be dis­ci­plined but it can’t be too re­served be­cause their re­ceivers are good enough to get open in one-on-one cov­er­age. That’s what makes Rus­sell Wilson spe­cial. Even if you cover every­body up, he does a good job of step­ping out of sacks, ex­tend­ing plays and that’s where all of his plays come is off of those ex­tended plays where he’s just cre­at­ing things. His abil­ity to kind of ad lib is ob­vi­ously one of his strong suits.”

The Sea­hawks en­joy watch­ing Wilson op­er­ate in that mode. No one more than Car­roll, who hasn’t been stressed watch­ing Wilson run all over cre­ation since Day 1.

“He un­der­stands what the quar­ter­back po­si­tion means to us and knows that you can’t throw your body in there with­out get­ting banged up, so he’s been re­ally, re­ally good at not get­ting hit,” Car­roll said. “He’ll take plays as far as he can, then he makes the choice that we would want him to make. I to­tally trust him in that. That’s a very valu­able qual­ity that not all the young quar­ter­backs have as we’ve seen. But he def­i­nitely un­der­stands.”

Schwartz, 50, was raised in Bal­ti­more in the age of high top sneak­ers and Johnny Uni­tas, one of the best quar­ter­backs ever.

That said, Schwartz en­joyed the Min­nesota Vik­ings mainly be­cause of Fran Tarken­ton’s scram­bling. Tarken­ton is the al­ltime au­thor­ity on ex­tend­ing plays.

“I grew up as a kid watch­ing Fran Tarken­ton and Chuck Fore­man and those guys,” Schwartz said. “I grew up in Bal­ti­more but I loved the Vik­ings be­cause I liked those two guys. (Wilson) did a lot of the same things. That scram­bling back­wards puts a lot of pres­sure on the de­fense.”

Uni­tas and Tarken­ton are in the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame. An­other Su­per Bowl ti­tle and Wilson even­tu­ally will get there, tak­ing, of course, a small trailer of team­mates with him.


Along with his un­canny abil­ity to pass or run with the ball, Sea­hawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wilson al­ways seems to be think­ing one play ahead of every­one else.

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