Russell Wilson thriving under pressure, despite O-line issues

Jim Seki explains why the Seahawks' quarterback is performing exceptionally well under pressure in 2015.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Russell Wilson thriving under pressure, despite O-line issues

After their Week 5 loss at Cincinnati, many are writing off the Seattle Seahawks. While they are 2-3, their record is not the end of the world, and their situation would be far worse without the play of quarterback Russell Wilson.

Wilson has vastly upped his game, but is being overshadowed by issues such as offensive line play, Jimmy Graham news, and cornerback health. Through five weeks, Wilson owns the seventh-best overall QB grade, which is quite respectable given that the six QBs ahead of him have a combined 24-2 record (four are undefeated). Let’s look at some signature stats in the Wilson-era.

Year Completion rate % yards in air (before catch) Offensive line’s pass blocking efficiency Pressure rate Accuracy rate under pressure Plays under pressure (PFF grade)
2012 64.1 61.6 80.7 39.2 66.0 +3.7
2013 63.1 56.9 77.0 43.8 61.9 -0.1
2014 63.1 46.1 77.7 46.0 68.6 -3.6
2015 70.7 59.0 73.4 45.6 77.3 +5.2

Starting simple, we see an increase in completion rate. His yards per attempt during his career has been consistent at around 7.9, but with the turnover they’ve had in the receiving core, Wilson has increased his efficiency while still dealing with chemistry and timing issues. It also helps when the receivers’ drop rate goes down from 6.0 to 2.0 percent.

On the surface, the percentage of yards in air (%YIA) might seem unchanged, but the spike from last year to this year is noticeable. Extrapolating this year’s deep passing attempts reveals no drastic change, so it’s the increase in intermediate targets that would explain things.

And now to the elephant in the room: the Seattle offensive line. A lot has been made of this, and it’s reflected in the drop in pass block efficiency rating and the correlated increase in pressure rate. What isn’t being talked about is how Wilson is simultaneously handling the pressure and still producing results.

His 77.3 accuracy rate while under pressure is only behind Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, both of whom are top-four in shortest average time to throw (2.18 and 2.27 seconds). Wilson, on the other hand, holds on to the ball the second-longest (3.01 sec), which makes his 77.3 rate even more absurd. In only one-third of a season, he’s already surpassed his 2012 season in terms of passing under pressure grading.

Finally, from 2012-2014, on passes not using play-action, he had an average of 7.4 yards per attempt—this year, that has jumped to 8.8. Both that and his 73.8 percent completion rate on non-play-action passes lead the league.

Not only is he getting the job done passing, he’s still also a threat on the ground. Wilson has averaged 51 runs (QB scrambles, not zone read plays) in the past three years ,and is on pace for more than 60 this year (he and Aaron Rodgers are tied for the most this year at 21).

No QB is infallible, and Wilson has certainly made his share of mistakes. That being said, the Seahawks are lucky to only be 2-3, and even luckier they have a top-tier franchise QB under contract for the next few years.

  • Caleb

    Maybe the Max Unger trade wasn’t a good idea. The Seahawks should be 1-4, but Wilson is still doing well, just not carrying the team

    • JohnPaul Sein

      cant carry anything with that oline.. i know that cable is an oline great coach but ya cant shine a turd..


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      • fix it

        Maybe if wilson didn’t hold the ball pretty much longer then every QB in the league he wouldn’t get sacked so much.

        • Backinmd

          You almost could eat a Big Mac as long as RG III held the ball ..Add to the fact that he couldn’t read defenses ….Been a big NFL fan for years and in my opinion Dan Marino had the quickest release ever..He kinda had slow feet in the pocket but usually got rid of the ball before being sacked..And those laser beam passes were spectacular .. Btw, if I hear one more time that he ” never won a Super Bowl ” I’ll scream ..Only NFL QB that I’ve seen that started and dominated his rookie year ..

  • AKjester

    Wilson is taking more sacks this year and appears to throw the ball away less often. This would result in worse play, but a higher completion percentage and more yards in the air (the more he runs around looking for an open WR, the farther the WRs can be downfield). Perhaps PFF has not given a high enough grade in the past to throwing the ball away. The boom or bust plays Russell creates are great in isolation, but not when he has to do it the whole game. The sacks he has taken have ruined the chance at getting a first down in too many instances.

    • Dan Gaschler

      And he could be next QB on sideline like Romo,Luck,RG3

    • Malachi

      interesting take

    • J_May

      This is smart but I don’t think that very many sacks were his fault. Definitely more were than previous years. Also getting the ball out on time is part QB making quick reads and part WR’s getting open. Far too often WR’s weren’t getting open.

    • David Stinnett

      All the plays Wilson makes after extending plays justify any extra sacks that were his fault. It’s part of why he excels despite OL issues.

  • Backinmd

    has Jim Graham done anything this year …Hope he didn’t peak in NO..A few years back he was one of the best TE in the NFL ..Hear a few comments saying he’s kinda gun shy now and didn’t show up for the championship game vs Seattle a couple of years ago …..

    • Tony L. Castleberry

      He got shut down by our superior defense that year. He did not just ‘Not show up’. As for his struggles this year it is very difficult to blame GRAHAM for this. He is not the offensive coordinator, nor is he the QB. He has done great things in his very few targets this year.

    • MosesZD

      Some QBs like TEs. Some QBs don’t. That alone can account for a lot of the issue which can be unfairly blamed on the OC.

      For example, in SF, when Smith was hurt and Kaepernick started, Davis’ targets dropped by a full-third and never recovered. So regardless of any of Davis’ issues, Kaepernick just doesn’t use him (or the #2 WR very much either) and prefers the safety blanket of Anquan Boldin.

      So I’d be hesitant to just jump on Graham and would only evaluate him on what he does when targeted.

      • Backinmd

        Watch plenty of Ravens and Redskins games …Anyway, know the Ravens miss Tory Smith this year AND Anquan Boldin from a couple of years ago ..Boldin had too much left in his tank to trade him ..Good TE’s are hard to find ..Had season tckts. for years to Redskins games @ RFK until The Danny” bought the team ..By the way, he ticked everybody off in the DC area within the 1st two weeks after he bought the team .Good teams start at the top -know what I mean,Vern ? ?.

    • fix it

      Or Wilson is no Brees. Brees new TE is doing fine.

      • Backinmd

        Why did The Big Easy trade Graham ? $ money , ..Always like hearing a success story like Graham’s …He was dirt poor growing up ..

  • MosesZD

    I use Wilson as a point of reference about how good QBs can deal with pressure when people start blaming o-lines. Wilson has never had a good pass-blocking o-line, has spent most of his career under pressure, yet excels.

    And there are other QBs who excel under pressure, so he’s not exactly unique in that regard.

    And, FWIW, I can’t stand the Seahawks and hope they finish at the bottom. But, with Wilson, it’s not going to happen.

  • fix it

    Stats don’t show all his 3 and outs or 1 first down and punt.
    Or the fact that if a QB takes 3sec to throw then he’s gonna get sacked more often, i don’t care what O line you have if your QB holds the ball that long he’s gonna rack up sacks.

  • fix it

    Stats don’t show all his 3 and outs or 1 first down and punt.
    Or the fact that if a QB takes 3sec to throw then he’s gonna get sacked more often, i don’t care what O line you have if your QB holds the ball that long he’s gonna rack up sacks.