Saturday Ben Baldwin showed us every sack Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took during 2017, and today we’ll take a quick look at all eleven interceptions he threw over the course of the season.
In this post I will provide a screenshot of the moment Russ is delivering the pass on each play on which he tossed an interception, along with a description of anything in particular that may have contributed to the play. In addition, I’ll give a rough estimate on the amount of time between snap and throw, or in cases where Wilson was under pressure, the amount of time before he came under pressure. The easiest way to progress through these seems to simply be to go chronologically through the season, so that’s what I’ll be doing.
Interception 1: Week 4 versus the Indianapolis Colts - 1st & 10 with 3:59 in the 2nd quarter. (Snap to pass: 3 seconds)
As we see, Russ has a bit of pressure coming at him in the pocket as he sets to deliver a catchable pass to Jimmy Graham. However, Matthias Farley makes a phenomenal play on the ball while Graham fails to fight for the pass, and Farley makes the interception. Some may want to blame Russ for underthrowing the pass, but the pass was catchable and Farley simply went for the ball more than Graham did.
Some may want to blame the line for the pressure from the Colts player who is bearing down on Russ, but that player was double teamed by Nick Vannett and Luke Willson. Unfortunately, Willson lunged and missed badly while attempting his block, allowing the defender to pass nearly unimpeded past both Vannett and Willson.
Interception 2: Week 4 versus the Indianapolis Colts - 3rd & 7 with 6:24 in the 3rd quarter. (Snap to throw: 2 seconds)
On this play Russ has a clean pocket from which to pass and he delivers a near perfect pass to Jimmy Graham. Unfortunately, the ball hits Graham in the hands and caroms directly towards Colts safety Malik Hooker, who makes the interception. No blame on this one for either Russ or the line. Graham was the highest paid tight end in the NFL in 2017, and for a $10M salary he needs to catch passes like this that hit him in the hands.
Just for the sake of those who might ask if the defender to Russ’ right is in danger of getting to Russ, here is a second angle showing that the rusher is well taken care of by Germain Ifedi and not a threat to hit Wilson.
Interception 3: Week 5 versus the Los Angeles Rams - 1st & 10 with 10:45 in the 2nd quarter. (Snap to pressure: 2 seconds)
On this play 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald puts near immediate pressure on Wilson by driving right guard Oday Aboushi six yards into the backfield. J.D. McKissic does a great job watching Donald to see if Aboushi needs help, and when he decides he does not, McKissic releases as a safety valve. Unfortunately, it appears as thought because of the pressure Wilson is not able to see John Johnson sneaking up on the intended target, Luke Willson.
Wilson does not put much zip on the pass and Johnson is able to break on it making a great play and nearly returning the interception for a touchdown. On this play the pressure obviously affected both Wilson’s line of sight and the throw, and the line certainly shares in taking blame for this pick.
Interception 4: Week 7 versus the Houston Texans - 1st & 10 with 2:55 in the 4th quarter. (Snap to throw: 2 seconds)
On this play Wilson has a near perfect pocket from which to throw, and he delivers a bullet as he attempts to throw Paul Richardson open. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Marcus Williams is watching Russ the entire play and makes a great break on the ball to intercept the pass.
Interception 5: Week 9 versus the Washington Redskins - 3rd & 4 with 0:56 in the 1st quarter. (Snap to throw: 2 seconds)
On this play Washington blitzes six against the Seahawks’ five linemen, and Eddie Lacy does a fantastic job picking up the free rusher. Doug Baldwin runs a hot route and Russell delivers a fantastic pass, but Kendal Fuller makes an absolutely mind blowing break on the ball to snag the interception.
Interception 6: Week 9 versus the Washington Redskins - 2nd & 7 with 6:18 in the 3rd quarter. (Snap to pressure: 2 seconds)
On this play a blitzing Redskins linebackers gets inside Ifedi and forces Wilson off his spot. Wilson scrambles as Ifedi pushes the defender away in a loop, and as Russ steps up he delivers a horrible pass that linebacker Will Compton easily intercepts.
Ifedi obviously takes some of the blame for allowing the pressure, but one thing that jumps out at me is Wilson’s form on this throw. Fans noted Wilson underthrowing his receivers at times during 2017, particularly while scrambling, and if you notice Wilson is throwing off his right foot in this picture. Proper throwing motion when delivering a pass involves the quarterback shifting his weight to his forward, non-throwing-hand foot, and that helps as an energy transfer to put zip on the ball and deliver the ball to the intended target.
Several times this season Russ delivered passes off his right foot, and while his freelancing style is one of the things that makes him great, it is also a double edged sword. When quarterbacks such as Brady, Brees, either of the Mannings move around in the pocket, they shuffle, keeping their throwing foot back, allowing their motion to be natural and to deliver a pass with zip when they find their open target.
This is simply a part of Russ’ game that Russ may never develop, and he may never need to develop. However, when critics such as Andy Benoit discuss a lack of pocket presence with Wilson, this is often the exact type of matter they are discussing. It’s not that Wilson is bad under pressure by any stretch, it’s simply that he doesn’t look like other elite quarterbacks when he is moving around in the pocket or avoid pressure. Does that mean that Russ is not elite? Absolutely not. He’s the best quarterback in franchise history, and is certainly elite. However, it’s like when watching someone do something you are an expert in do things differently than you do them yourself, and you feel it’s wrong. They’re getting the results, but it looks different. And people don’t like different because humans like familiarity.
Interception 7: Week 11 versus the Atlanta Falcons - 2nd & 1 with 11:36 in the 1st quarter. (Snap to throw: 2 seconds)
Here Wilson has a perfectly clean pocket, his wide receiver is has miles of green around him and no defender anywhere near him. Russ simply sails the pass high and it’s intercepted by the Falcons defensive back who is at the 18 yard line on the near hash mark. This one is 100% on Russ.
Interception 8: Week 12 versus the San Francisco 49ers - 1st & 10 with 15:00 in the 1st quarter. (Snap to throw: 4 seconds)
On this play Russ had plenty of time to survey the field, and while it can be argued that he is under pressure, that pressure came only after he had plenty of time to deliver a pass. The pass here was intended for Graham, but got caught up in the wind and was intercepted by Eric Reid.
Now, while the wind certainly played a role in this interception, as did Graham not fighting to break up the catch, but once again take a look Russ’ feet as he is throwing. It’s a back foot throw off his throwing-hand-side foot. This is the type of quarterback mechanics that would give Mike Holmgren an aneurysm, but on which Wilson has built a phenomenal career that will likely lead to Canton if he continues to produce at his current levels. That said, this is again an example of what critics like Benoit complain about because it doesn’t look like what they expect it to look like.
However, one thing Russ could learn from the likes of Tom Brady is taking the checkdown. Here’s a different angle of this play, one which shows the massive amounts of open space down the sideline for J.D. McKissic if Wilson hits him in the right flat. There is so much green in front of McKissic that he would have had the possibility to score on the play simply via the fact that there was so much open space between him and the end zone.
Tom Brady built a huge portion of his career by taking checkdowns that the defense gave him. On his “heroic” drive to lead the Pats down the field for the winning field goal against the then St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI Brady completed five passes passes, of which four were dump offs to a running back or tight end.
The entire final drive of Super Bowl XXXVI can be found on YouTube, so if you’d like to watch a legend be born by taking four checkdowns, it’s not the worst way one can spend five minutes.
Interception 9: Week 14 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars - 1st & 10 with 6:39 in the 2nd quarter. (Snap to throw: 4 seconds)
On this slow developing deep play Wilson has more than four seconds from the time he gets the ball until he delivers the pass, and only at the very end does Jaguars defensive end Dawaune Smoot put pressure on Wilson. While some may wish to place blame for this on the line, the offensive linemen on the play did a good job, with Germain Ifedi handling Marcell Dareus and Duane Brown, Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt and Ethan Pocic combining to quadruple team second year Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
As we’ve seen on previous plays, the pressure comes not from a defender blocked by one of the linemen, but by a defender being blocked by Luke Willson.
In any case, Russell delivers a quality pass regardless of the pressure in his face, unfortunately Doug Baldwin falls down as his feet get tangled up with those of Jalen Ramsey, and Ramsey makes an easy interception.
Interception 10: Week 14 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars - 1st & 10 with 14:46 in the 3rd quarter. (Snap to pressure: 2 seconds)
Russ gets forced from the pocket on this play after being squeezed. To understand what I mean by that, here is a second picture of the pocket when he was forced out due to pressure.
This second image is somewhat blurry, so I have circled the two relevant Jaguars defenders to make things easier to understand and to explain. The defender circled in red is once again Pro Bowl defensive end Ngakoue who Ifedi has pushed up the field past Wilson as he should. However, Ethan Pocic has been pushed seven yards into the backfield by defensive tackle Abry Jones, who is the defender circled in white. This doesn’t leave enough room for Wilson to operate, and he flees the pocket to his right.
That leads to the throw being made in the first picture, where we once again see Russ throwing off his right foot, resulting in an underthown pass to Jimmy Graham which is intercepted by A.J. Bouye.
Interception 11: Week 14 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars - 1st & 10 with 3:00 in the 3rd quarter. (Snap to throw: 4 seconds)
On this play Wilson has more than enough time to throw, he has a perfectly clean pocket from which to throw and he has both Willson and McKissic available on checkdowns for what could have been reasonable gains to set up a more manageable third down. However, Russ goes for the deep ball to Baldwin who is tightly covered by Bouye and the result of the play is an interception.
Thus, of the eleven interceptions Wilson tossed on the season, six were delivered from a clean pocket and only five came after Wilson found himself under duress. In addition, four of the interceptions came while he was targeting each of Baldwin and Graham, with one towards each of Willson, Richardson and Lockett.
Thus, we see there were several contributing factors to the interceptions Wilson tossed this year, including not only facing pressure, but also through receivers (looking at you Jimmy Graham) failing to make a play on the ball and Wilson himself simply delivering a bad pass.
As I get time over the course of the offseason my plan is to take a look at every dropback Wilson took to see how the protection performed and where the large amounts of pressure he faced over the course of the season came from.