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Russell Wilson passing charts, from Bevell to Waldron

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Russell Wilson is a Hall of Fame Quarterback. He is also the best signal caller that the Seahawks have ever had, and it isn’t even close. But even the best players rarely do everything with the same level of perfection that they do some things. As John P. Gilbert Tyler Alsin pointed out this week, Russ has been atrocious on third down this season.

You could point to a number of culprits here, ranging from Carroll to Waldron to Wilson to Metcalf, and so on. One common refrain that I have read recently is some variation of “Wilson doesn’t/can’t throw to the middle of the field.” But rather than draw conclusions, I just simply want to lay out the data in this one and let the results speak for themselves. More specifically, does Russell Wilson struggle throwing to certain areas of the field? Below are a series of passing charts — starting in 2016 and ending after 2020 — showing Wilson’s rating relative to league average when targeting different areas. Please note where things like Line of Scrimmage and the Hash Marks falls on these charts..

2016

2017-2018

2019-2020

As you can see in these charts, Wilson has only once been “league average” in passing to the short middle over the last five full seasons (2016), and has been better than league average two out of five seasons when throwing intermediate middle. Looking at his heroic 2019 season, he was better than league average everywhere except intermediate left and short right.

Now, these charts obviously don’t tell the full story, as they indicate passer rating but not frequency or other analytics that may paint a more complete picture. However, they at least lend some credibility to the notion that Russell Wilson is actually a pretty stellar passer over the entire field, and he seemingly improved during the tenure of Brian Schottenheimer. Moving on from this, we can take a more detailed look at where Wilson has been throwing the ball under Waldron this season.

2021 through Week 4

If we were to compile all of this into a less colorful but still informative chart, it would look very much like this:

Russell Wilson Passing Chart 2021

_ Deep Left . Med Left . Short Left . Short Middle . Med Middle . Deep Middle . Short Right . Med RIght . Deep Right . Total TDs
_ Deep Left . Med Left . Short Left . Short Middle . Med Middle . Deep Middle . Short Right . Med RIght . Deep Right . Total TDs
_ Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Comp Att Att/Comp _
week 1 1 2 0 0 4 6 2 2 1 1 2 2 7 7 1 1 0 2 18/23 4
week 2 2 4 0 2 7 8 6 6 0 0 1 1 4 6 2 3 0 1 22/31 2
week 3 1 4 0 1 4 6 8 9 4 5 0 0 6 6 0 0 0 1 23/32 1
week 4 0 0 2 2 4 7 3 3 0 1 0 0 5 6 1 2 1 2 16/23 2
_ Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % Comp/Att % _ _
Total 4/10 40.0% 2/5 40.0% 19/27 70.4% 19/20 95.0% 5/7 71.4% 3/3 100.0% 22/25 88.0% 4/6 66.7% 1/6 16.7% 79/109 9

For a comparison, here is what Russell Wilson’s passing graphic looked like from Seattle’s Week 5 victory over Minnesota in 2020:

Looking at everything above, this data tells me a few things:

  • Russell Wilson’s passing over the middle is phenomenal, as 6 of his 9 touchdowns have come on passes that were either ‘short’ or ‘deep’ middle. So this nonsense that he isn’t efficient or struggles over the middle is bunk.
  • Not only this, but he is doing so without heavy involvement from the Tight Ends up to this point. Getting the ball to the talented duo of Will Dissly and Gerald Everett (when he returns) needs to happen more frequently.
  • DK Metcalf is growing into the offense, and I expect some progression towards the average on some of these deep shots... He is going to land at least a couple of these deep routes outside the numbers.
  • Per Pro Football Reference, Russell Wilson has 6 throwaways so far this season. Given that this represents 5.5% of his throws this season, it is fair to assume that there is some variance with his deep passing (I believe the charts adjust for throwaways, but my table does not).
  • Speaking of deep shots — as mentioned above — Wilson’s average Depth of Target (aDOT) has actually increased by a tenth of a yard this season over last. To be fair, though, his aDOT last season was the lowest of the Schottenheimer-era and coincided with the emphasis on a pass heavy offense that saw Russ attempt the most passes of his career...
  • ...whereas this season, he is currently on track to throw his fewest passes per game since Schotty’s first year in Seattle. His current rate of 27.25 passes per game would only eclipse 2012, 2013, and the aforementioned 2018. This speaks somewhat to Waldron’s balanced playcalling, but also to the team’s inconsistency, with the offense being on the field for far too little time during their weekly disappearing act. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this number rise during the season if the offense can get their act together for an entire 60 minutes.

But these are just my thoughts. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from the above info and comment below. Following the Thursday Night Football matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, I intend to check back with some film to confirm/challenge what I am seeing, so stay tuned for more.