It’s still pretty hard to imagine Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, taken No. 75 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and criticized for his lack of size, had so much success his rookie season.
Even his staunchest supporters from even before the draft (myself included) had no idea he was capable of so much so early.
Now the discussion turns toward 2013 and what Wilson can do to increase his productivity. A pretty arduous task if you consider his 100.0 regular season passer rating a season ago was the highest by a Seahawks quarterback ever, eclipsing even Matt Hasselbeck’s 2005 passer rating of 98.2.
A lot of people wonder how Wilson will react to defenses spending the entire offseason scouting the read option. It seems to always get neglected in these conversations that Wilson has an entire offseason as well to scout the different defenses in the league (and we all know how much a video rat Wilson is), but I suppose it’s a fair point to some extent.
But this is pure conjecture because there’s no way to quantify in statistics or provide serious analysis of exactly what types of challenges Wilson will face now that there’s a “book” on him. The reason there’s the term “sophomore slump” is precisely because it’s pretty much always more difficult for a player who finds success his first year to be able to match that in his second, but I’m going to give Wilson the benefit of the doubt (I think he’s more than earned it!) and say defenses probably won’t be able to figure anything out about how to stop him any more than last year. He has the exact same players he had around him last year in the most important areas, and even some surprise additions with wide receiver Percy Harvin, defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and cornerback Antoine Winfield. The entire team around him has improved, he has another offensive weapon to play with and an entire offseason to sit in the film room. He should be able to negate whatever advantages opposing teams have with their increased efforts in studying him.
One thing Seahawks fans like to talk about when it comes to analyzing Wilson’s efforts in 2012 and projecting for 2013 is how he was decisively better the second half of the season. The statistics are mind-numbing.
Wilson in Seahawks’ first nine games: 145 of 234 (62.0 percent), 1,639 yards (7.00 yards per attempt), 13 touchdowns (5.56 TD%), 8 interceptions (3.42 INT%), 87.2 passer rating.
Wilson in Seahawks’ last nine games: 146 of 221 (66.1 percent), 2,051 yards (9.28 yards per attempt), 16 touchdowns (7.24 TD%), 3 interceptions (1.36 INT%), 114.3 passer rating.
Just as a point of reference, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers had the highest passer rating in 2012 of 108.0.
And lest one think the defenses were worse the last nine games, they were actually tougher.
Seahawks’ first nine opponents: 3,079 of 4,995 (61.6 percent), 32,581 yards (6.52 yards per attempt), 204 touchdowns (4.08 TD%), 130 interceptions (2.60 INT%), 83.4 passer rating.
Seahawks’ last nine opponents: 2,974 of 5,020 (59.2 percent), 32,313 yards (6.44 yards per attempt), 182 touchdowns (3.63 TD%), 151 interceptions (3.01 INT%), 77.8 passer rating.
Numbers can sometimes be made to say whatever you want them to, but these are pretty straightforward. Against stiffer competition, Wilson didn’t just improve. He completely destroyed it.
So what of the competition in 2013? Is it better or worse than a year ago?
Seahawks’ 2012 opponents (including playoffs with divisional opponents counted twice): 6,053 of 10,015 (60.4 percent), 64,894 yards (6.48 yards per attempt), 386 touchdowns (3.85 TD%), 281 interceptions (2.81 INT%), 80.6 passer rating.
2012 statistics of Seahawks’ 2013 opponents (divisional opponents counted twice): 5,515 of 8,918 (61.8 percent), 60,093 yards (6.74 yards per attempt), 365 touchdowns (4.09 TD%), 259 interceptions (2.90 INT%), 83.2 passer rating.
If numbers are any indication, it seems pretty obvious things should be easier for Wilson in 2013. And compared to the last nine games of last year where Wilson clearly dominated the competition, a lot easier.
Granted, there are some factors that need to be touched on. Most importantly, not all the teams Wilson will face in 2013 that were horrendous last year will be as bad. Tampa Bay added cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, New Orleans will have its head coach back after a year-long suspension along with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Tennessee brought in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Jacksonville hired Gus Bradley, Seattle’s defensive coordinator last year, as head coach. Seattle set a franchise record for points allowed per game in 2012 under Bradley. But of course there will be defenses that take a step back as well. San Francisco stands out most noticeably with the loss of Goldson as well as Justin Smith being a year older. We saw what happened to the 49ers’ defense in Seattle without Smith, and if he goes down again, it’s easy to see a situation where San Francisco (already without No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree) doesn’t even make the playoffs. Note: San Francisco allowed 29.7 points per game in its final six games last year (including the playoffs). Atlanta also sticks out with the losses of John Abraham, Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, although the Falcons did add veteran Osi Umenyiora and draft almost exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, using their first two picks on cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (Washington) and Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana). Still, without a lot of depth in the front seven, it’s not unreasonable to assume Atlanta’s defense will be worse in 2013.
All numbers aside, what production almost invariably always comes down to is health. If Seattle loses Marshawn Lynch or someone on the defensive side of the ball like Bobby Wagner or Richard Sherman due to injury, all bets are off. If Wilson twists a knee and misses four games, it’s hard to say how that would affect him after he returned. Seahawks fans well remember Hasselbeck never quite being the same in 2006 after missing four games with a strained knee ligament. It destroyed a repeat Super Bowl run.
But based on everything we currently know, without any major injuries (Chris Clemons aside), there’s no legitimate reason to think Wilson can’t firmly entrench himself as one of the NFL’s truly elite quarterbacks in 2013. I wouldn’t bet on 5,000 yards because Seattle will never be that kind of team as long as Lynch is healthy, but 3,500 yards, 35 touchdowns and a passer rating over 105? I’d take that bet in a heartbeat.