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Has Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Regressed in Year 2?

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Has Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Regressed in Year 2?
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The possibility of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson having a sophomore slump was a common topic this past offseason.

Is such a drop-off actually a myth or has Wilson genuinely regressed in his second season as a starter in Seattle?

Wilson was efficient and precise as a rookie in 2013, leading the Seahawks into the second round of the playoffs. So far in 2013, however, he has been erratic with some of his passes and Seattle's offense has sputtered. 

Wilson completed just one of his first nine passes in last week's win over the San Francisco 49ers and ended the game with just eight completions overall. While the defense powered the Seahawks to the easy victory, Wilson's lackluster performance was not what most fans expected. 

Wilson's struggles have left many around the league wondering whether he has indeed regressed.

The best way to determine that would be to examine his statistics. Since most stats, such as yards, completions and TDs can vary greatly because of things the quarterback cannot control, other factors like game situations, play-calling, etc., are the best way to compare quarterback data sets in ratings.

For the purpose of this comparison, completion percentages, yards per attempts and touchdown-to-interception ratios are used.

Comparing Wilson's Stats
Comp % yards/att TD/Int
First 2 games of 2013 63.4 7 2
First 2 games of 2012 61.1 5.6 2
Cumulative 2012 64.1 7.9 2.6

Pro Football Reference

Comparing Wilson's first two games of 2013 to his first two games of 2012, it is clear that he has improved. Both his completion percentage and yards per attempt have increased without it hurting his TD-to-Int. ratio. 

Anyone who was paying attention last season knows that Wilson showed incredible improvement over the course of last year. Comparing his stats to those from his first two games of 2012 probably isn't the best way to determine if Wilson has regressed this season. 

When Wilson's 2013 numbers are compared to his totals from a season ago, the results are less conclusive. Wilson's completion percentage and TD-to-Int. ratio have both decreased, but not in a statistically significant way. The small sample size of his available 2013 data and high variability of NFL statistics mean that nothing conclusive can be determined by such small variations.

That isn't true for his yards per attempt, however. Wilson's performance has caused him to lose almost an entire yard per passing attempt, which is a statistically significant decrease. 

While there are people out there who will spin those numbers into talk of some sort of sophomore slump for Wilson, that wouldn't be accurate. Wilson's struggles thus far can be accounted for simply by examining how often he has been under pressure. 

Russell Wilson Pressure Profile
Dropbacks Pressures Percent
First 2 games of 2013 63 29 46
First 2 games of 2012 68 30 44
Cumulative 2012 477 290 39

Pro Football Focus

Wilson has been under pressure significantly more this season than he was in 2012. If the Seahawks simply do a better job of protecting him, his numbers will likely rebound back to the point that they were last season.  

Wilson's passer rating when under pressure is approximately 40 points lower than when he is not facing the defensive heat. Just giving Wilson a clean pocket to work with on a few additional plays per game would make a huge difference. 

 

Comparison of Second-Year QBs

Wilson came into the league as one of five rookie QBs who started in Week 1 of the 2012 season. To get the complete picture as to what type of improvement for regression should be expected for a quarterback like Wilson, the stats for all five should be examined.

Here is the change in the stats for all second-year quarterbacks when compared to first two weeks of 2012. Positive numbers mean the player improved in that area. Negative numbers indicated that the player declined:

Change in Stats: Current vs. First Two Weeks of 2012
Comp % Yards/Att TD/Int
Wilson 2.3 1.4 0
Griffin -7.2 -2.3 -1.3
Tannehill 7.6 1.9 1.66
Weeden 1.8 -0.1 -0.2
Luck 11.6 2.5 -2

Pro Football Reference

Here is the change in the stats for all second-year quarterbacks when compared to their own stats from 2012. As before, positive numbers mean the player improved in that area while negative numbers indicated that the player declined:

Change In Stats: Current vs. 2012 Totals
Comp % Yards/Att TD/Int
Wilson -0.7 -0.9 -0.6
Griffin -2.7 -0.8 -2.3
Tannehill 7.2 1.4 1.1
Weeden -2.8 -0.4 -0.5
Luck 14.3 -0.5 -0.3

Pro Football Reference

Wilson falls into the middle of the pack for both comparisons. This suggests that both Wilson's level of growth from the start of 2012 and his lack of growth since the end of 2012 would be well within normal limits. 

Perhaps the most interesting discovery from this data would be the alternate trajectories for Washington's Robert Griffin III and Miami's Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has made huge strides already this season, while Griffin has taken a large step backwards. 

 

Making Sense of it All

Some Seahawks fans are frustrated by the lack of efficiency displayed by the Seattle offense this season. That is understandable, but any anger currently directed at Wilson is misplaced.

As stated above, it is clear that there is nothing wrong with Wilson's game right now. He is actually playing rather well. The Seahawks need to do a better job of protecting their franchise passer and he will undoubtedly rebound back to his 2012 level of play.

While Seahawks fans may be worried about the play of the Seattle offense, they have no reason to be worried about any regression by the team's franchise player.

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