Grading Russell Wilson's Rookie Season After Playoff Loss to Falcons
The rookie quarterback continued to exceed expectations in his first year in the NFL after being selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. Not only did he put up some great statistics, but he also led his team to an 11-5 record after the squad went 7-9 a year ago.
However, even the best players are not immune to evaluation. Here is a breakdown of Wilson after his first full season in the league.
Passing Ability: B-
The biggest knock on Wilson coming out of college was his height. Scouts did not think he had the ability to throw over the middle because he would not be able to see over the line.
Wilson proved this season that he can be a successful passer and finished fourth in the NFL with a quarterback rating of exactly 100. This was mainly due to his great accuracy with a completion percentage of 64.1 percent.
Of course, the quarterback was helped greatly by the dominant rushing attack led by Marshawn Lynch. Seattle led the NFL in rushing attempts and it forced defenses to put more men in the box to defend the run.
This allowed Wilson to find more players in single coverage, which made for easier passes.
The coaching staff did everything possible for the quarterback to succeed in his first year. While Wilson lived up to his responsibility, he needs to prove he can do more on his own to put him in a higher category of passers.
Only Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton finished with more rushing yards from the quarterback position than Russell Wilson.
Amazingly, he did not really start running until late in the year.
For the first nine weeks of his career, Wilson never topped 28 rushing yards in a game. Over the next nine games (including playoffs), he only failed to top that mark once.
The rookie started to move consistently out of the pocket when he was under pressure, and it gave the offense another dimension to help move the ball.
In addition, his mobility allowed him to avoid sacks and create more space to throw the ball downfield.
Unfortunately, in other times it led to holding the ball too long and taking a sack. He was taken down in the backfield 33 times this season, a relatively high mark considering there were two Pro Bowl linemen blocking for him up front.
Next season, Wilson has to avoid sacks, and he needs to continue to do what he did toward the end of the season and move out of the pocket for positive gains.
In the beginning of the year, Wilson struggled like a rookie should be expected to struggle.
The team started with a 4-4 record, and the quarterback had a number of games to forget. While he got much better as the year went on, he still needs to prove this was a sign of improvement and not just a hot streak.
Wilson also showed a habit for throwing costly interceptions. Seattle was 3-5 in games where he threw a pick, compared to 9-1 when he took better care of the ball.
If the young player can perform like he did for most of the second half of the year, he would be among the top quarterbacks in the entire NFL. However, he still needs to prove he can play at that level for an entire season.
Total Production: A
In this great class of quarterbacks that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and a few other first-round picks, Wilson was the one that tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown by a rookie in NFL history.
His mark of 26 touchdowns was quite impressive considering his lack of attempts, plus the fact that it was almost double the amount thrown by Tarvaris Jackson last season with pretty much the same roster.
While he was not among the top players in the league in yards, he proved his efficiency by being rated No. 8 in the league in Total QBR. This was ahead of established players like Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
A great defense and a strong running game usually leads critics to label a quarterback as a "game manager," but Wilson proved otherwise this season.
Every quarterback needs a certain amount of leadership in order to win a championship. It is not always easy to see from afar, but you can tell it is there with Wilson.
Seattle expected to start the season with free-agent Matt Flynn as the quarterback, but the rookie earned the job in Week 1 after a great job in training camp. At the time, Coach Pete Carroll told the media (via ESPN):
He seems like he's been around. He gets it, he understands and he is a tremendous leader in that way. He doesn't do anything but the right thing in all of his work and his preparation and his competitiveness has been demonstrated again.
This leadership has never been more apparent than in the Divisional Round loss to the Falcons. While down 27-7 in the fourth quarter and the season about to end, Wilson led three touchdown drives to take the lead with only 31 seconds left.
What grade would you give Russell Wilson for this season?
The Seahawks were unable to hold on for the win, but he showed that he has what it takes to lead this team to a championship. As long as the players believe in him, he can go a long way.
Even the biggest Russell Wilson fans could not have expected this kind of season after he was drafted out of Wisconsin. However, he put together an impressive year both on and off the field, and he showed that he can be a franchise quarterback in this league.
The battle for Offensive Rookie of the Year will be close, but he should have showed enough throughout the season to earn the award.
Now, he must make sure he can do it all again next year.
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