Six weeks into the Russell Wilson playing for a team other than the Seattle Seahawks experiment that is the 2022 NFL season, and Wilson’s career long trend of taking a lot of hits and being sacked at a high rate are continuing. It appears as though, yet again, Mr. Unlimited has found himself playing behind a porous offensive line that allows him to be hit, sacked and otherwise not given the time to make plays from the pocket.
Or is the opposite the case, and Wilson is primarily responsible for the hits and sacks he is taking as a member of the Denver Broncos? Looking back at how much pressure Wilson faced during his time with the Hawks, here is the rate at which he was pressured by year during his time in Seattle and rate at which he was sacked.
- 2012: Pressure Rate: 38.3%, Sack Rate: 7.7%
- 2013: Pressure Rate: 43.4%, Sack Rate: 9.8%
- 2014: Pressure Rate: 44.3%, Sack Rate: 8.5%
- 2015: Pressure Rate: 42.3%, Sack Rate: 8.5%
- 2016: Pressure Rate: 41.5%, Sack Rate: 7.0%
- 2017: Pressure Rate: 41.4%, Sack Rate: 7.2%
- 2018: Pressure Rate: 39.4%, Sack Rate: 10.7%
- 2019: Pressure Rate: 41.0%, Sack Rate: 8.5%
- 2020: Pressure Rate: 38.9%, Sack Rate: 7.8%
- 2021: Pressure Rate: 37.0%, Sack Rate: 7.6%
Ugly numbers certainly, and it’s easily understandable why the Seattle offensive line had a reputation as being unable to protect Wilson. Certainly interesting and intriguing, though, that players who had difficulty protecting Wilson in Seattle went on to have long productive careers elsewhere, including Breno Giacomini, James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Russell Okung, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt, George Fant, Oday Aboushi and others.
So, bringing the discussion back to how poorly Wilson is being protected in Denver this season, where his sack rate sits at an ugly 9.2% through the first six weeks of the season, it would seem obvious he is not getting the protection from his offensive line he thought he would be getting. That, however, would be incorrect, as through the first six weeks in Denver, Wilson has been pressured at the lowest rate of his career.
That bears repeating. Through the first six weeks of the season in Denver, Wilson has been pressured at the lowest rate of his career, facing pressure on just 31.3% of his dropbacks. And that’s not just a little bit lower, it’s almost six full percentage points. He’s facing pressure on nearly fifteen percent less of his dropbacks, but still being sacked at nearly the highest rate of his career and in the bottom four in the league in sack rate. Across the entire league, only Marcus Mariota, Daniel Jones and Justin Fields have been sacked at a higher rate so far this season.
Where does a 31.3% pressure rate fall relative to the rest of the league? It comes in just above the median (14th of 32 quarterbacks who have been pressured at least 33 times), and yet Wilson is still near the bottom of the league when it comes to sack rate. Meanwhile, Geno Smith is seeing pressure on 32.1% of his dropbacks, while sporting a sack rate of 6.9%. For those curious, here is a chart of Wilson’s sack rate and the rate at which he has faced pressure throughout his career by season.
And then just to illustrate how much lower Wilson is facing pressure this season as a member of the Broncos, here is a fun little scatter plot of his sack rate and pressure rate by season. The dot way over on the left side of the chart is 2022.
For those curious, the trendline was added in order to be able to show the near zero correlation between sack rate and pressure rate, even considering the small sample caveats and all that.
In short, as many have argued over the years, the first six weeks of Wilson’s tenure in Denver appear to be demonstrating that, just as ESPN noted in 2018 when it introduced its Pass Block Win Rate metric for offensive linemen, the struggles of the Seahawks offensive line to protect Wilson throughout the years were more the fault of Wilson than the line.