Russell Wilson: is he improving?


Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls. There is no doubt that he is one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Interestingly though, he’s shown very little statistical improvement since his rookie season. Take a look:

Pass Att393407452
comp %

From a statistical standpoint, Wilson regressed slightly as a passer last season. He was threw for less yards per pass and converted fewer drives into touchdowns.

That shouldn’t be much of a surprise though. The offensive line certainly wasn’t better, and the wide receiver position was a mess. Any team that started Jermaine Kearse all year is probably realizing they made a mistake letting Golden Tate go.

That isn’t meant as an excuse for Wilson. He also didn’t pul the trigger at time when he had open receivers at times last season. That is something he must fix and cannot be blamed on the receivers.

Interestingly, the drop in passing efficiency was paired with an increase in efficiency as a runner.


Wilson did a better job in 2014 of making the most of his rushing attempts, with more touchdowns and more yards per attempt. He also did so despite having more attempts.

Any thought that the NFL would adapt to Wilson’s running ability was clearly incorrect. Unlike Robert Griffin and Colin Kaepernick, the NFL hasn’t figured how how to stop Wilson from having success on the ground.

The problem on that chart is the large number of fumbles. 13 fumbles in 16 games is completely unacceptable. Wilson must do a better job of protecting the football next season, and not just avoiding interceptions.

In fact, Wilson’s increase in fumbles more than removed his improvement in avoiding interceptions since his rookie season.

Interceptions and Fumbles162120
Total Touchdowns302726

Wilson’s increase in fumbles was also paired with a decrease in total touchdowns. That’s not a good trend. While it can be explained away by examine the team around him, it also certainly doesn’t point to improvement by Wilson as a quarterback.

What does all of this mean? While it isn’t definitive, it does imply that Wilson isn’t developing as a quarterback. Statistically, he’s the same player he was as a rookie.

Practically though it isn’t that simply. The NFL now has more tape on Wilson and knows better his tendencies and how to stop him. There has also been considerable erosion of the offensive talent on the Seahawks since 2012. These factors are likely masking any improvement Wilson has made.

Overall though, the lack of statistical improvement over a quarterback’s first three seasons is concerning. If Seattle’s roster takes another major hit in their effort to pay Wilson, the Seahawks will need him to take a major step forward in his development if they are going to continue to contend.

*All stats provided from Pro Football Reference

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