If there’s one thing Russell Wilson has absolutely wowed NFL fans with these past two seasons, it’s his escape-abilty. This generally seems to accentuate his unbelievable talents when a play breaks down to either run for some yardage down the field or scramble around for a lot of yardage behind the line of scrimmage and throw it downfield accurately.
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But NFL purists still believe he’s got a ways to go as far as improvement within the pocket, before they will even consider calling him an “elite” quarterback. That’s not why Wilson’s been working on his craft this offseason, but it’s a good starting point to taking the next step in his game. Wilson addressed his focuses this offseason on the field when talking to the media Saturday after day two of training camp.
"The things I’ve been working on more than anything is just my patience, my foundation, in terms of my balance in the pocket. Just staying strong in there. Just working on my protection calls and trying to be really solid there… and delivering a great ball every time."
Some fans may not like to hear it but one of Wilson’s pitfalls at times is not trusting his protections and bailing out of a solid pocket. The result is sometimes more catastrophic than what we remember after a big play is made. The Seahawks were no better than tied for 20th after allowing 44 sacks in 2013. The Hawks were even worse when it came to quarterback hits, allowing a league 22nd-worst 94 allowed.
“it’s not that I can’t miss, it’s that I won’t miss. That’s got to be my mentality, all the time. Keep believing in every throw, every situation.” – Russell Wilson
What’s it all mean? As much as we want to believe that our Russell Wilson avoids all those ‘big hits’, he actually takes more than 2/3 of the NFL’s quarterbacks. Not only that, but many times he is exposed after a throw outside of the pocket. To his credit, he got better at that as last season progressed and seemed more confident in there whenever Percy Harvin was on the field. Also to his credit he knows how to avoid the kill-shots when he scrambles for yardage, sliding or ducking out of bounds most of the time and living for another play.
And no, it’s not because he’s a mobile quarterback that he gets hit so much, because while Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton were sacked 39 and 43 times respectively, they were 4th and 6th in QB-hits taken. Wilson just holds the ball extra-long in a heroic attempt to make a play at the last second.
There are several reasons, including a smaller receiving corps that take longer at times to get open, some missed throws down the field and perhaps a lack of a true home-run-hitter for the majority of the season. While the receiving corps isn’t any bigger than they were last season, the dynamics have changed significantly over the offseason, as has Wilson’s perception towards his throws to them.
"My motto, I told my receivers while I was throwing to them this offseason, it’s not that I can’t miss, it’s that I won’t miss. That’s got to be my mentality, all the time. Keep believing in every throw, every situation.I want to win another Super Bowl, obviously. So in order to do that we’ll do whatever it takes. So I’m excited about it. We’re definitely more explosive this year, I believe, in terms of the talent we have out on the flank. All of those guys are really picking it up. We have to have some of the fastest receivers, I mean watching the guys catch the ball and get going, it’s really impressive."
With all that explosiveness on the outside, including a fully-healthy Percy Harvin and the inclusion of Paul Richardson who most have tabbed among the fastest receivers in the league, standing strong in the pocket and delivering the ball should be much easier for Wilson to accomplish.
Just because you know how to take a hit doesn’t make it any smarter when you take unnecessary ones by darting out of a pocket too quickly. Sure when he has to, it only adds to DangeRuss’s game to be able to avoid oncoming traffic by any means necessary, but reducing his punishment would be a great idea. It would also keep the hearts of the 12s in their chest, instead of all the way up in their collective throat.