What sophomore slump? Russell Wilson has picked up right where he left off
Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the numbers are very good after three games for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seahawks went three-and-out on their first possession Sunday against Jacksonville, capped by an incomplete pass on third down from Russell Wilson.
And Twitter, the greatest device yet invented for publicly conveying by-the-second reaction, began to weigh in.
“Wilson has not been very good this year,’’ wrote one Seahawks fan.
Roughly three hours later, the fan had been proven correct.
Statistically, Wilson has not been very good this year — he’s been great.
After three games, Wilson has a passing efficiency rating of 109.6 that if carried out for the season would rank 11th all-time.
He’s also completed 64.4 percent of his passes, better than the 64.1 of last season, and has a 6-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio that is tied for fourth-best in the league. And he is hardly doing it simply dinking and dunking — his average of 9.1 yards per attempt is third in the NFL.
All the while, he has led the Seahawks to a 3-0 record and an 86-27 combined scoring differential that is the widest in the NFL.
OK, so maybe three games is a small sample size, and one of the opponents was Jacksonville, which might become the second NFL team to go 0-16.
The other two games, though, came against teams many considered at the beginning of the season to have solid defenses — San Francisco and Carolina.
While the 49ers have disappointed, you saw what they are still capable of in their muzzling of former No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford and the Rams on Thursday night. And the Panthers were last seen shutting out Eli Manning and the New York Giants, 38-0.
So, maybe it’s early. And surely there could be some rougher challenges ahead, especially if the offensive line struggles under the weight of its current injuries.
But because the numbers so closely resemble what Wilson did during his fabulous rookie season, it’s hard to ignore that he appears to simply be picking up where he left off.
And that he also appears well on his way to avoiding the dreaded “Sophomore Slump’’ that so many Seahawks fans worried about, and that so many observers spent so much time discussing.
One who agrees with that conclusion is NFL Networks analyst Bucky Brooks, who played five seasons in the NFL.
Brooks notes that the performance of a quarterback can’t be separated from that of the team around him. But he says that within that context, that Wilson continues to show an ability to adapt to whatever defenses throw at the Seahawks.
“There shouldn’t be a worry with the sophomore slump because the one thing Seattle has done is they run the football very, very well with Marshawn Lynch,’’ Brooks said. “And as long as you have that running game and the threat of Marshawn being a major factor in the game plan, it prevents the chance of seeing some of the exotic looks (from defenses) that some of the quarterbacks that don’t have a running game are forced to face.’’
In fact, the threat of Lynch and Seattle’s running game has allowed the Seahawks to make even more effective use of play-action passes than in the past — 38 percent of Wilson’s passes have come off play-action, the highest ratio in the NFL.
That has enabled Wilson to counter what Brooks says has been the one significant change he has seen in how defenses are attacking him this season — having defenders spy on Wilson in the zone read to limit his running.
“You are seeing teams ... making a concerted effort to go after the quarterback,’’ Brooks said.
Wilson, who ran 94 times for 489 yards last season (an average of 5.2 per carry) has just 54 yards on 17 attempts this year, an average of 3.2.
The fact Wilson has been effective anyway, Brooks said, helps further dispel the notion that the way to neutralize Wilson is to take away his ability to run.
“He has been able to continue to be successful despite teams playing him a little different,’’ Brooks said.
The mere threat of the run, though, is almost as good as the run itself, Brooks said.
“That forces (defenses) to play a certain way, and with Russell understanding where the weak points are in the defense, he has done a good job of making good decisions to take care of the football and put his team in the best position to win,’’ Brooks said.
In other words, he’s still what we thought he was.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta