Breaking Down Russell Wilson's Form at the NFL's Midseason Mark

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Breaking Down Russell Wilson's Form at the NFL's Midseason Mark
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks are sitting on a respectable 4-3 record as the team approaches the midseason mark. Some analysts predicted a more rocky start to the season, particularly with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson taking over the offense.

It is hard to give Wilson much credit for the wins or the losses so far, though. Seattle is building a team that expects to win by playing great defense and capitalizing on a strong ground game. Both have been up to task in 2012.

Wilson has certainly played a role, though, particularly in the Week 6 win.

Here is how Wilson is measuring up in several key areas thus far in his rookie season.

 

Pocket Presence

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Since this review isn't going to talk about Wilson's height, it only seems fair to begin with the second-biggest concern with Seattle's quarterback.

Wilson has looked antsy in the pocket. On some plays he starts to hop and move when the pocket is still clean, while on others he waits too long to throw the ball or evade pressure.

This is an area where he's shown improvement.

One thing Seattle's offense needs to do is develop its quick passing game. Implementing some quick slants and other quick-release throws will help with Wilson's confidence and keep opposing defenses off balance.

 

Mobility

There are many ways to look at mobility among quarterbacks. Some are great scramblers and can pick up yards with their feet, while others can fend off pressure and still release the ball to an open receiver.

A few can even manage both, but running quarterbacks don't tend to last long in the NFL.

One of Wilson's more impressive qualities is his ability to roll away from pressure and continue to look for open targets. He makes accurate throws on the run and seems quite comfortable doing so.

Fans were given an early indication of these abilities in preseason action against the Denver Broncos.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Wilson was trying to evade pressure, but was about to be sacked. He threw the ball from his side just before hitting the ground. It appeared to be a quarterback just trying to throw the ball away.

The television producer thought as much, staying with the camera shot of Wilson being tackled.

To everyone's surprise except perhaps Wilson, Lavasier Tuinei was there to convert the third down play. 

Wilson continues to show an ability to keep his eyes looking down-field while moving away from pressure. This is important for the 5'11" signal-caller, as moving into open space is one of the tactics the Seahawks can use to help him see the field and release the ball over defenders.

 

Deep Throws

Wilson leads the NFL in scoring passes that travel at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

His game-winning pass to Sidney Rice against the New England Patriots was caught in-stride at the goal line, 46 yards from the snap. This was his fifth deep touchdown pass in six games.

Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate each caught a ball that traveled almost 50 yards down-field in that game and Baldwin also added a 24-yard touchdown strike.

On passes thrown more than 40 yards, Wilson is three of five for 147 yards. That doesn't include the deep pass completion to Golden Tate in St. Louis that was called back due to a holding penalty.

Wilson's ability to hit receivers in stride with deep balls has been as good as any this season. As the Seahawks continue to expand their offense, the deep threat will open up underneath routes and the ground game.

Deep passes could become Wilson's premier threat.

 

Decision Making

Then there is the other side of Wilson. Early in the season he struggled finding open receivers and has shown issues progressing through his reads.

Wilson missed a wide-open Zach Miller on this play. Instead of converting on third down, and likely scoring, Wilson threw the ball out of the end zone.

He’s missed opportunities to hit open receivers, becoming at least complicit in two of the team's three losses. The loss to San Francisco was a combination of great defense and failure of receivers to catch passes in the open. 

Wilson needs to improve with recognizing defensive fronts and stunt and blitz packages. Then he needs to develop a rapport with the offense that allows them to increase audibles and other adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

Until Wilson is truly able to run the offense and has the freedom to change plays at will, the unit will struggle.

 

Red Zone

The biggest concern with the Seattle offense is converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The inability of Wilson and his receivers to get in sync in these situations has proven costly.

Wilson has no completions in five attempts inside the opponent 10-yard line and is just 12-of-26 in red zone opportunities. He's also ran four times in the red zone, compiling just five yards.

If the Seahawks are to become a legitimate playoff threat, the offense needs to develop cohesion and finish drives. They've left too many points off the board and shortcomings in this area cost them wins in Arizona and St. Louis.

 

Leadership

This is the one area of Wilson's game that has never been in question. He earned the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches and fans at both of his colleges. 

The North Carolina State athletic department thought so highly of Wilson that they released him following his junior season. Wilson wanted to test the waters of professional baseball.

His former school was moving on at the position, but the University of Wisconsin wanted him to take over the offense for his senior season. 

Wilson arrived in Madison and within a month had the playbook down and his new teammates won over. He did the same after being drafted by the Seahawks.

The Sporting News shared coach Carroll's take on Wilson winning the starting job.

I’ve watched our team respond to him and they've taken to his leadership style.

(His height) is not even a factor. What is a factor is that he is so elusive and shows great sense. This is an extraordinary kid. He just kept knocking us out with what he brought. He’s earned this job.

 

Tilting the Field

There are many monikers for this aspect of a player's game. Some call it the "it" factor, while others look at how one responds in the clutch.

The Seahawks, and general manager John Schneider in particular, call it "tilting the field." He has used that term to describe Wilson in countless interviews and press conferences over the last three months.

Seahawk receiver Golden Tate agrees with his GM.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's just something that he stands for and how he handles himself. The things that leave his mouth. You get a feeling that he's just very, very special. You don't know what it is, but you get that feeling. You get excited to see him get on the field, because you never know if he's going to throw a perfect touchdown pass or juke a safety to extend the drive.

It's hard to put into words, but it's just good to have a guy who seems comfortable sitting back there. He's just a very, very special player, and I'm excited to see him grow.

Thus far in 2012 the Seahawks have seen glimpses of a quarterback that can be a difference maker on the gridiron. They've also seen a rookie that has made some poor decisions and struggled to find open targets.

There is reason for optimism, but Wilson needs time before he'll be comfortable with the speed of the NFL and ready to make the game come to him.

 

The Bottom Line

How many games will the Seahawks win in 2012?

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So far, so good for Wilson. He won the starting job, but there are reasons to wonder if Matt Flynn's health drove that decision.

Pete Carroll has stated there is still an ongoing battle for the starting quarterback position. Wilson's performance against the New England Patriots halted most of the dissension among the fanbase regarding the quarterback position.

Perhaps it's just a temporary stay.

If Wilson isn't able to lead the team to a road-win in Detroit, those that want to see if Flynn can produce will again urge the coaching staff to alter their stance on the position battle.

To be clear, Carroll won't be persuaded by fan dissent. Neither will he change his mind on his starting quarterback based on the perception of the media or critics. He wasn't deterred in drafting Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick of the first round or taking Wilson early in Round 3.

All that matters to Carroll is winning and having fun while doing it. So far he believes Wilson gives the team the best opportunity to do so.

As long as Wilson continues to progress, there will be little reason for Carroll and the Seahawks to change their course.

 

Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.

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