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A look at Russell Wilson's pocket presence

Russell Wilson's mobility is one of his greatest strengths, but is he bailing on plays too early?

Otto Greule Jr

As the "Is Russell Wilson elite?" discussion intensifies, more focus is being put on Russell's pocket presence. Specifically, is he bailing on plays too early? Considering his style of play it's a pretty reasonable question to raise. So, in an effort to see how Wilson's scrambles are affecting the offense, I went back and took a look at several plays where Russell didn't get the ball to a receiver (sacks, scrambles, and throw aways) in Week 4.

1st and 10, 14:55 left in the first quarter

Here is the play:


And here is what Russell saw when he decided to scramble:


By this point, Russell had already eluded Demarcus Ware, and had reset outside the hashes. Wilson gave this play nearly 5 seconds before deciding to scramble. During that time, Miller was the only receiver to come open and it was only for a moment when Wilson was forced to move by Ware. Everything is pretty well covered up by the Broncos, so Wilson takes 2 yards with his legs.

3rd and 7, 2:04 left in the first quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Wilson tries slipping between two defensive linemen, but they peel off their blockers and sack him for a loss of two. As it's third and seven, Baldwin is the only real option here and it's a very risky throw. Wilson would have to anticipate this perfectly, and then hope that Baldwin can out muscle Talib for the ball. Baldwin does get some seperation, but there is a very good chance Talib breaks on the pass and tip it up.


There is really no reason to expect Wilson to try that throw.

2nd and 6, 12:50 left in the second quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


If you follow Pete Prisco on Twitter, you're pretty weird. Seriously, why do that to yourself? But if you do, or happen to follow some bozo that would retweet Pete Prisco, you may have seen this play already.

Prisco misses the mark here when he says he left the pocket with no pressure. In the second picture for this play, Russell is clearly getting pressure up the middle. The question Prisco should really be asking is why he looked off those open receivers, waiting for something to develop down field.

Was it the right call? Only the coaches can answer that for sure, but it certainly looks like Willson should have been able to pick up a first on this play. Instead, Wilson is forced left and, after keeping his eyes down field and waiting for someone to uncover, eventually scrambles for four.

1st and 10, 1:21 left in the second quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Prisco also took umbrage with Wilson's play here.

There is a fair question to ask here about why Wilson didn't get the ball to Percy, but Baldwin? Baldwin is running a curl with two defenders underneath him. If Wilson throws that, it's intercepted.

Again, Wilson is passing up shorter options to wait on deep routes. Personally, I'd like to see Wilson get the ball in Percy's hands here and see what he can do. I don't know that that's what Pete and crew want, however, and either way it seems unlikely Harvin would be able to pick up a first down here.

Wilson scrambles for 5 and gets out of bounds.

3rd and 6, 4:35 left in the third quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Wilson maybe has a shot at dropping one in the honey hole to Willson on the left side, but he never turns to look at him. There's certainly some big play potential there, but with Willson not being the first read the route doesn't have a chance. If Russ tries to get back over to it after reading the right side first, he'll likely run up against the safety lurking over the top.

Other than that, things are pretty well covered up. Lynch is just finishing his curl and is turning to face Wilson. He's open, but what he can do with the ball after he catches it is pretty questionable. Instead, Wilson keeps it and rips off nine yards for the first.

2nd and 10, 14:09 left in the fourth quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Denver has this covered up the entire way, but Wilson gambles and waits for his receivers to break off their routes (which you can see Kearse start to do). Instead of climbing the pocket to buy time, Wilson drifts backwards a bit, buying some space to roll to his left. This is nearly disastrous, as he both nearly fumbles and is nearly tackled in the end zone, and would lead to a safety on the very next play.

2nd and 9, 6:30 left in the fourth quarter

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Not much to say on this one, as Denver plays this pretty perfectly. Wilson drifts to his right, keeping his eyes down field, before throwing it away after no one uncovers.

3rd and 3, 13:49 left in overtime

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


This is really the first example of Russell bailing on a clean pocket in the plays that I looked at. Seattle was running a (incredibly blatant and illegal) pick play, and while Marshawn is certainly open Wilson see the MLB crashing hard and decides to tuck and run. It might not look like it in the picture above, but it was probably a smart decision by Wilson.


I wouldn't put it past Marshawn to pick up the first there, but Denver is certainly in place to stuff him short of the marker. Wilson takes advantage of Miller's block and picks up five yards and another Seahawks first down.

3rd and 4, 10:42 left in overtime

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


There isn't much here for Wilson, and Denver has a free rusher coming up the middle. It looks like he was tempted to try to get it to Turbo, but instead takes advantage of Denver running man coverage without a spy. Wilson is able to pick up five yards and the first.

1st and 10, 10:28 left in overtime

Here is the play:


And here is when Russell decided to leave the pocket:


Russell is climbing the pocket as much as he is leaving the pocket, but he's moving forward so quickly that he either doesn't see or can't stop and reset quick enough to take advantage of Percy's fallen defender. It's really too bad, because Percy had nothing but open land in front of him.


Percy needs to adjust his route here a bit, but if Wilson puts this on Percy's far shoulder somewhere between the E and the A in the end zone this is a very easy touchdown. In all of the plays I've gone over here, this is by far the biggest miss I've seen.

All in all, I came away pretty happy with Wilson's decision making on scrambles. Wilson passed on some short routes, and while it's a little frustrating to see him pass on getting the ball in Percy's hands, I think it's pretty likely that he's being coached to make his reads that way.

I don't think this is necessarily proof that Wilson isn't bailing on pockets too early, as I only looked at the plays where Wilson doesn't get the ball to receiver. There may still be times where he limits the routes available to him by rolling out to one side of the field too early. However, I'd find it pretty hard to believe that his pocket presence is severely hampering this offense.

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