You may be aware that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a pretty good rookie campaign and would have been the Offensive Rookie of the Year in any season that didn't include both Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
What you might not know is that despite a slow start, Wilson had one of the best years of any quarterback last season. And barring the biggest sophomore slump in NFL history, Wilson will be lethal once more in 2013.
Then again, he had the benefit of good coaching, an excellent run game and, most importantly, the best defense in the NFL. The only way Wilson doesn't follow up his instant success is if that defense takes a big step back.
No, Really, Wilson Had an Incredible Year
Let's drop the rookie thing for a second. Wilson completed 64 percent of his passes, threw 26 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions, netted 7.01 adjusted yards per attempt, gained 12.6 yards per average completion, compiled a 100.0 NFL passer efficiency rating and a 69.59 total QBR.
Wilson was in the top 10 in the NFL in all of those categories.
He was second only to Aaron Rodgers in touchdown percentage (6.6 percent). He was tied for third in the NFL in both fourth-quarter comebacks (four) and game-winning drives (five), as defined by Pro Football Reference.
The biggest black mark against Wilson was his lack of throws. With only 393 pass attempts (25th), his eye-popping rate stats couldn't pile up equally impressive totals.
The second-biggest black mark against Wilson is the number of sacks he took (his 7.7 percent sack rate was 29th in the NFL). His tendency to hang on to the ball and rely on his athleticism to escape the rush occasionally haunted him.
Overall, though, Wilson was shockingly efficient and effective. He took care of the ball like a nervous dink-and-dunker, but he was throwing downfield and making big plays.
Oh, he also added 489 yards and four touchdowns on 94 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt.
Swiss Touchdown Knife
Russell Wilson has nearly every possible weapon at his disposal: arm strength, accuracy, mobility, vision and instincts. He knows where the ball needs to go and how to put it there. This combination is especially lethal in the red zone, as defenses have to account for Wilson as a scoring threat on the ground too.
Here's Wilson in one of his best statistical games, at home against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9:
The game is tied at seven points apiece, and the Vikings have forced Seattle into a 3rd-and-9 situation. The Vikings defensive linemen pin their ears back; a sack here would be massive. The three receivers to the right will be running a clever set of routes that will attack the deep safety.
Initially, it looks like the pocket sets up very well. Minnesota's Everson Griffen, though, has gotten free with a spin move, and he is flying right toward Wilson:
Wilson keeps his eyes downfield as the defense closes in and "feels" both the pressure and the escape route:
At the last second, Wilson breaks down and slips away, then gets his eyes right back up and fires the instant a receiver gets open:
He delivers a strike to Sidney Rice:
Wilson's athleticism, awareness and arm strength turned a third-down sack into a touchdown. This was at least a four-point swing at a critical juncture in the game.
But Wilson Had Help
Wilson was lucky enough to be dropped into a team with an incredible defense. In the few games Wilson wasn't "on," his defense usually bailed him out.
One of Wilson's worst statistical games last season was against the Arizona Cardinals. He completed only seven of his mere 13 pass attempts. He threw a poor interception, standing around all day just to get his pass jumped by Patrick Peterson.
Fortunately, the Seahawks were already up 31-0 at that point, thanks to a pair of defensive touchdowns.
Even when Wilson was at his very best, having the best scoring defense in the NFL on the other side of the ball gave opponents no margin for error when trying to stop him.
If the loss of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to the Jaguars drops the defense down to the middle of the pack, Wilson could be playing a lot more catch-up in 2013.
Reinforcements Have Arrived
That may be why the Seahawks have invested so heavily in their defense this offseason, adding free agents like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to their pass rush. They also traded for former Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, giving Wilson a terrifying new weapon.
Defenses trying to stop Wilson will have an even bigger challenge in 2013. Containing Russell is hard enough without Marshawn Lynch's power running and Harvin and Rice stretching the field horizontally and vertically.
He made the Pro Bowl last season as a third alternate, sneaking into the NFC squad after Griffin, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan all pulled out with injuries. Wilson has the chance to not only make the Pro Bowl but start in it this season.
If the new-look defense takes a big step down, Wilson might face an even bigger challenge than jumping from the Big Ten to the NFL.
If he can take advantage of the Seahawks' pricey new additions, though, he'll be almost impossible to stop.