Wilson has defenses scrambling
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.