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FootballOutsiders: Breaking the narratives on Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Once again, FootballOutsiders has lended itself to SB Nation, answering five questions from each blog about their team. These questions and answers should slant towards the advanced analytics that FO focuses on, specifically in regards to DVOA. To find out more about the great work at FootballOutsiders, you should definitely be keen on their annual almanac, which is available now in the FO Store.

On Monday, we talked about Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, and the 2017 RB problem

On Tuesday, it was all about Brian Schottenheimer

On Wednesday: What is the future of OL evaluation?

Today, a look at breaking the narrative.

Q: From our writer Ollie Connolly: “I’d be interested to know which Seahawks have a DVOA makeup that shows them to be much different than the narrative surrounding them. For instance, a guy considered a red-zone, play-in-the-post threat, but who is net-negative down-to-down inside the 20.”

Bryan Knowles: You always hear Russell Wilson being described as brilliant outside the pocket, making plays when everything breaks down and sandlot football takes over. That isn’t wrong, per se, but it does mean that commentators often dismiss his abilities when he’s actually operating out of a clean pocket and everything is working as intended. He was eighth in passing DVOA with no pressure last season, and he led the league in 2015 with an 86.4% DVOA out of clean pockets in 2015. Wilson has never had even an average pass-blocking line to work behind; if he did, the casual fan might start seeing that Wilson’s a great passer in general, not just when asking to make something out of nothing.

Doug Baldwin is often described as one of the best route runners in the league. While that’s true, people sometimes read that as ‘he does everything equally well’, when he actually has pretty stark splits. It feels like, at times, Seattle wasn’t using Baldwin to the best of his ability in 2017. Baldwin’s most common pass routes last season were outs and curls; he had 18 targets on each route. Yet he only put up DVOAs of -14.3% and 3.4% on those routes, which are very middling outcomes. By comparison, they threw him 10 digs, and he had an 86.9% DVOA on those routes. Baldwin’s best five routes last season – the seam, the deep cross, the go/fly, the post and the dig – were also the five deepest routes he was asked to run. That’s unusual; while deeper routes often produce better DVOAs, most receivers will have at least a few shorter routes they run as well, if not better, than their longer ones. A few fewer short outs and a few more deep seam routes would seem to be the best way to use Baldwin’s talents in 2018.