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Looking at the Russell Wilson underthrow against the Chargers

NFL: International Series-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

In the Seattle Seahawks loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 9 there were several key plays that stood out. Some of the biggest plays were the fourth quarter pick-6 pick six, along with an inability to stop the Chargers on the ground several times that Matty Brown looked at on Saturday and another big one that has been making the rounds on social media was the missed pass from Russell Wilson to Jaron Brown on 3rd & 5 early in the second half.

At that point in the game the Seahawks trailed 19-10, and a completion to Brown likely results in a score, as he was behind every Chargers defender and is not lacking in footspeed. Unfortunately, Wilson underthrew the pass. As a refresher for what exactly the play looked like, here it is.

On a first look, it’s pretty crazy how wide open Brown is. In case you missed it in the video, here is the capture from the all-22 at the split second after Russ unloads the pass.

As is seen in the replay, this was a beautiful example of Russ sensing pressure and stepping up in the pocket to avoid. He keeps his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, just like he should, and slides forward. This represents a big change for Wilson, who in the past has traditionally squared his shoulders to the line of scrimmage when moving in the pocket or other wise under pressure.

Now, I’m likely to catch some complaints from fans that I’m unfairly bashing Wilson for not having proper pocket presence and mechanics, but it’s simply what he does. When he is pressured and throwing on the run, Wilson falls back on his baseball background as a baseball player and throws off his right foot. Throwing off the right foot is a trick used by by infielders to change the direction of their momentum after field a ball while moving away from first base. Wilson has, for the entirety of his career, thrown off his right foot when scrambling. This is something I’ve touched on multiple times before, but never covered in much detail. Thus, here are several examples of Russ throwing off his right foot.

The first is from the Week 9 2017 game against the Washington Redskins.

On this play Wilson threw off his right foot, and because he was unable to transfer his weight into the throw, he ended up underthrowing Doug Baldwin on a pass deep to the middle. If Wilson doesn’t underthrow the ball, there’s a decent chance Baldwin scores on this play.

My next example comes in Week 12 of the 2017 season, when the San Francisco 49ers picked off Russell Wilson on the first play of the game after he delivered a pass off his right foot.

On this play, Wilson is scrambling to the right and he delivers a pass that gets knocked down by the wind and is intercepted when former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham put about as much effort into breaking up an interceptable ball as he did catching passes over the middle during his time in Seattle.

Just so that fans don’t think I’m cherry picking plays where Wilson threw off his right foot, here are a couple of throws Wilson makes off his right foot that had far better outcomes for the team. The first came in the first quarter of the Week 13 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and is seen here, a play on which Davis picked up 23 yards.

And even when moving to his left Wilson often throws off his right foot as we saw in the second quarter of the Week 7 game against the Detroit Lions on a touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett.

In short, throwing off his right foot is simply what Wilson does.

So, what happened with the underthrow to Jaron Brown? Simply put, this is best seen by watching the video in the tweet Parker Lewis sent out. The first two seconds of the clip are Wilson sliding up in the pocket and delivering the pass. Here it is again so that you don’t have to scroll up to find it, and this time around focus on Wilson’s footwork as he slides up and his foot positioning as he throws the ball.

It’s easy to see that his throw on that play is uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem fluid, and almost comes across as hesitant. That’s the kind of thing that happens when a player is using form or technique that isn’t natural yet. It the same type of hesitancy that was seen from Germain Ifedi trying to use technique for the first time in his career in 2017. It’s the hesitancy that was seen from Eddie Lacy as he attempted to run in the zone blocking system exclusively for the first time in his career in 2017.

The technique is there, but it’s neither natural or fluid at this point. It’s still forced. Specifically, what happened in this case is that Wilson did a fantastic job sliding forward in the pocket, which is something we haven’t seen him do in 2017. He slid forward without squaring to the line, he kept his eyes downfield and spotted the open receiver.

However, when he went to deliver the pass, the fact that he’s still in learning mode becomes readily apparent. Ideally, in this situation his weight should be more towards his back foot as he slides forward. The difference that makes is that as he then slides forward and goes to deliver the pass to Brown, he can shift his weight to his front foot and deliver the pass with some zip. Instead, as he throws it, all of the strength is coming from his arm, rather than from shifting his weight and rotating properly. It’s the right idea, just a few details that aren’t perfect prevented this pass from going for a big gain or a touchdown. This simply means that Wilson and his mechanics are still a work in progress and that this is an area where fans can reasonably expect improvement from him going forward.

That said, this is another example of Wilson’s work with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and how the Hawks are asking him to change who he is seven years into his career. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but this is a perfect example of why Seattle made the changes they did to the offensive coaching staff this offseason, and what they want to see from Wilson before signing off on a contract that could make him the highest paid player in the NFL at some point over the next sixteen months.