The Incredible Development of Russell Wilson


Yesterday, I sat down to watch some game tape with the purpose to re-watching every preseason snap taken by Russell Wilson. I fully expected the Seahawks to name him starting QB today, and I thought it would be fun to put together a full scouting report on him for when that happened.

It turns out the Pete Carroll decided that he didn’t agree with my schedule, and announced Wilson the starter yesterday afternoon instead. So much for my timing, right? But it also gave me a chance to spend more time on each of Wilson’s snaps and really look at all the details; the footwork, the arm angles, the ball placement. Everything.

The results of this exercise were completely unexpected. Any scouting report on Wilson from any one of the games would be completely invalid for the other 2. Wilson simply hasn’t been the same QB in any 2 games. And it’s not just that he’s changed, he’s simply gotten better each week.

I’ve been scouting QBs a long time now, and I’ve never seen a player develop as fast as Wilson has. His evolution in 2 weeks time is what you ideally expect to see out of a rookie over an 8-10 week period, maybe longer. Its why most rookie benefit greatly by just practicing for at least part of their rookie season.

If you look back at the Titans game, Wilson seemed to be scared of the pocket. There were a number of designed rollouts, and a few plays in which pressure forced him to scramble to extend the play, but there were also a number of plays in which he should have stayed put.

2 plays in particular stood out. In the first he decide to run to his right outside the pocket when the correct move was to simply take a half step to his left and then step forward. Doing what he did cut the field in half, and Braylon Edwards was open on the far side of the field. The other play was an odd one in which Wilson dropped back, then suddenly bailed out of the pocket to his right despite the fact that there was no pressure at all.

It was telling that, despite playing in a West Coast Offense that is built on timing and precision, Wilson threw just one pass from the pocket in rhythm, and that was his interception.

I think this is why Wilson didn’t get the start vs. Denver the following week as he was supposed to. I wrote after that game that perhaps Wilson was never really going to be given a chance to start. Having looked back at the tape, I think it was more that Wilson simply wasn’t ready, and needed to show he could actually run the offense before being given the chance.

Please don’t think that I’m just being negative about Wilson here. He made plenty of plays, and definitely flashed his tremendous potential. I’ve just chosen to highlight those plays because they contrast so completely with how he’s played more recently.

Looking at the tape from the Denver game, Wilson seemed much more comfortable in the pocket. He stood tall and delivered a number of balls on time. He also was willing to scramble to his left, something he refused to do against the Titans.

Watching the the Denver tape immediately after the Titans tape really showed me the big change in Wilson. He no longer had to rely on his athleticism like he did in the first game. He was able to actually run the offense at times and look like a West Coast Offense QB.

Not that Wilson didn’t use his athleticism to make plays against Denver. He did, and plenty of them, but they seemed to come only when the defense took away almost everything else. His stat line wasn’t that different between the first 2 games, but his play from a scouting perspective was so different it was barely comparable.

Its one thing to so that against players whom most wont be in the league anymore once rosters are cut to 53. Its something entirely different to do so against NFL starters. And yet, against the Chiefs, Wilson had his best game of the three, by far.

Against the Chiefs, the Seahawks offense looked inefficient early with Wilson at the helm, but that wasn’t a product of Wilson’s play. The run blocking was substandard on the first 2 drives, and there were some dropped balls. The only play in which Wilson “missed” on was his pass down the sideline to a well covered Zach Miller when there was an open player on the far side of the field.

On that play, the pre-snap read suggested cover-2, making Miller the primary target. The Chiefs instead had man coverage on Miller. While it wasn’t the correct pass on Wilson’s part, it is still encouraging that he recognized the cover-2 look, so I’ll give him a pass on that play. He’ll learn to check off of Miller after he sees man coverage, once he has a little experience.

During those first 3 drives, the only reason the Seahawks managed those 9 points was because of the plays Wilson made with his legs. When the rest of the offense bogged down, he picked them up. It was impressive, especially against NFL starters on defense, but it wasn’t what I was hoping to see from the offense.

After the first 3 possessions, the rest of the offense began to get things going. The running game got going and the receivers started getting open more regularly. At this point Wilson looked fully in control of the offense. He stayed in the pocket and flung the ball around like a seasoned pro.

Then came the 2-minute drill run by Wilson right before halftime. Mostly no-huddle, against a dime package defense when the Chiefs knew Wilson was going to throw on every play, and Wilson diced them like he was making a salad. He was calm. He made the right adjustments at the line. He made the right throws. He ran the offense.

The difference between that two-minute drill drive and the way he played vs the Titans is staggering considering it had only been 13 days. Thats the type of development that normally takes months to happen.

Wilson’s development is far from complete. I think he still has a long ways to go before he reaches his potential, but thanks to a couple of incredible weeks, he’s far enough along in his development to be the starting QB from day 1.