One of the greatest attributes Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson brings to the table is his elusiveness and the ability to avoid the rush. Through his six year career he’s made several highlight reel plays including turning a bad snap in a 2015 playoff game into a big gain by Tyler Lockett and his ridiculous looping scramble before tossing the ball to Doug Baldwin against the Arizona Cardinals.
However, Pro Football Focus has put out their 2018 QB Annual, filled with all kinds of phenomenal data and many of their signature stats on the quarterbacks across the league, yet Wilson’s name is missing from the list of the best quarterbacks under pressure.
Tom Brady takes being cool under pressure to the extreme. What's cooler than being cool? pic.twitter.com/EBAQPvvFiW— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 7, 2018
Now, I know the immediate reaction of many is going to be to point out that Wilson was at a disadvantage because of how often he was under pressure and how often he was under instant pressure. However, there’s a strange disconnect in Wilson’s splits. Through Week 8, when Rees Odhiambo was at left tackle Wilson was under pressure more often and had a quarterback rating that would have been high enough to make that top five list.
Once Duane Brown took over at left tackle, however, Wilson found himself under pressure less often, but his passer rating when pressured from Week 9 through Week 17 wasn’t just bad, it was abysmal. How abysmal? Bottom quarter of the league abysmal. Combining the two halves of the season, Wilson came in right in line with league average under pressure, the worst showing of his career in that category.
Now, before anyone accuses me of leading the “Trade Wilson” train or something along those lines, that’s not where I’m going with this at all. All I’d like to point out is that in his six seasons at the helm of the Seahawks offense Wilson has never had a passer rating above 90 when pressured. In fact, in most seasons his rating when pressured is below 80. Not because Wilson is bad in any way, simply because all quarterbacks are worse under pressure.
The reason that is important is because of how highly correlated time to throw is with pressure rates and sacks. Wilson was among the slowest to get the ball out of his hands in 2017, after having put up a time to throw that was in the middle of the pack in 2016 according to the NFL’s Next Gen stats. Specifically, Wilson delivered nearly 20% fewer passes in 2.5 seconds or less in 2017 compared to 2016, and I’d expect he’ll be spending a lot of his time in 2018 working with new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer on what Wilson needs to do to improve these areas of his game.
Thus, while Wilson’s escapability and elusiveness are out of this world, one thing the team has show for certain this offseason is that it is going to prioritize pass protection for Russell. And by pass protection, I’m not just speaking about the five members of the offensive line. I’m referring to the tight ends and running backs as well. Over the next couple of days we are going to be taking a look at the collapse of the pass protection in recent seasons and work to shed some light on why the offensive line may be far more likely to pass the eye test for a lot of fans in 2018.