The Cost of Poor Pass Protection


Oct 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not exactly a profound statement to say that Russell Wilson has been under pressure this year a great deal. Losing a Pro Bowl left tackle will do that for you. Even losing Breno Giacomini has been problematic as Michael Bowie has failed to step in and demonstrate competency in terms of pass protection. The mental image that Seahawks fans have of Russell Wilson this year is one that often involved him running for his life and having to use his legs to make a play, whether that play is on the ground or through the air. What those same fans may not realize is that while things are demonstrably worse in pass protection this year they aren’t as much worse as one might think. Here are a couple of the pressure stats kept by Pro Football Focus on Russell Wilson last year and this year. I’ve provided his league rank among quarterbacks as it would be both illegal and tedious for me to provide the full rankings table:



Dropbacks under Pressure

Pressure %

Balls Thrown Away




477 (25th)

187 (12th)

39.2% (2nd)

25 (2nd)

33 (11th)

17.6% (12th)


236  (23rd)

110 (5th)

46.6% (1st)

11 (3rd)

20 (6th)

18.2% (13th)

Although a return to health from the offensive line can be expected to help things some, this problem runs deeper than injuries. With the exception of Max Unger and Russell Okung  there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism for this unit in terms of pass protection. James Carpenter and J.R. Sweezy both have a great deal of potential but Carpenter needs to show that now and pass protection is unlikely to ever be his forte. The effect of this shoddy pass protection is seen in how Wilson passes under pressure. Bear in mind that his rankings are compared to other quarterbacks also under pressure:








120 (22nd)

54 (20th)

45% (16th)

5 (11th)

3 (20th most)


71 (13th)

32 (19th)

45.1% (19th)

6 (2nd)

4 (4th most)

While Russell Wilson has shown the ability to make a few things happen with the pressure on (a touchdown to interception ratio of 11/7 is pretty good for example) he still isn’t the elite playmaker under heat, consistently, that some believe him to be. Like any other quarterback he likes to have time and space to make his reads, this should not come as a surprise.

Sometimes it feels like the Seahawks are too reliant on Wilson’s elusiveness to get them out of trouble. This team has employed a line that is much better at run blocking than pass blocking (Giacomini and Carpenter spring to mine) and while that makes sense for a team with a run heavy offense there are very tangible costs. It is really too late to change course for 2013, and the return of Russell Okung will be a big boost to this unit, but Tom Cable’s boys are in a for a serious reevaluation come the off-season.