Aug 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles out of the pocket for a short gain during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Is Russell Wilson most likely to experience 'Sophomore Slump'?


It’s hard to find a place where Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson looks rattled. A batter’s box, maybe, but 379 minor league plate appearances is a small sample size and when you factor in that he was splitting his focus with college football, a .710 OPS doesn’t sound nearly as bad.

However, while Wilson’s success on the diamond is up for rather meaningless debate, Wilson is as calm, cool and collected as anyone within the boundaries of the football field. The pocket presence, the elusiveness, the accuracy and the leadership skills he displayed in 2012 spoke of a man far more seasoned than any rookie should be — let alone a third-round draft pick.

Yet, that’s what Russell Wilson was. A rookie third-rounder taking the reins on day one of his first NFL season and leading his team to an 11-5 record.

It’s good being Russell Wilson. But, that wasn’t always the case.

After he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Wilson made it clear that he wanted to give professional baseball a shot, while maintaining his eligibility on the football field with the North Carolina State Wolfpack. When he went back to play his second season of Minor League Baseball, Wolfpack head coach Tom O’Brien named Mike Glennon the starter despite Wilson’s established role and allowed the senior his release.

As an early graduate at N.C. State, Russell Wilson was eligible to transfer anywhere in the country to play out his final year of eligibility. He’d ultimately settle on the Wisconsin Badgers.

The rest is history.

He led Wisconsin to a championship in the inaugural Big Ten Title Game, and would eventually set an FBS record for passing efficiency with a 191.8 rating.

However, despite proving himself as a dynamic quarterback in two conferences and setting national records, Russell Wilson was never considered never even considered in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. That’s because at under 5-11, Wilson didn’t have the prototypical size desired of an NFL quarterback.

Some even thought the Seahawks overreached for Wilson in the third round,  but by the time training camp broke and Wilson had already beaten out free agent signing Matt Flynn for the starting job, people started to understand that the Seattle Seahawks got a tremendous value with the 75th pick in the draft.

Time and time again, Wilson has proven his detractors to be fools. Yet, with the 2013 season less than a month away, is Russell Wilson poised for a sophomore slump?

Three rookie quarterbacks led their teams to the postseason in 2012: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Wilson. Of the three, I think you can make a strong case that Russell Wilson IS the most likely to experience the affliction we all know as the “Sophomore Slump.”

Now, conventional wisdom may lead most to believe that RGIII would be most likely of the three to be heading for a sophomore slump considering he’s coming off a torn ACL. However, having been relegated to rehab for most of the offseason, I think we’ll see a much more conservative style of quarterbacking in Washington D.C. this season. That style should be more conducive to keeping Griffin on the football field.

What worries me about Wilson is the same thing that’s worried a lot of people about the young signal-caller forever. His size.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Wilson does better overcoming his literal shortcomings than anybody outside of Drew Brees. He has a presence off his backside that’s uncanny, and he reverses out of trouble as well as anybody in the NFL. However, while he’s learned to mask his stature with elusiveness, when the pocket is collapsing from all angles (as it did last night in early preseason action against the San Diego Chargers), his height is still an issue.

It makes it difficult for Russell Wilson to get on top of the football and throw over the opposing pass rush, and can cause accuracy issues within the pocket.

That alone isn’t enough to lead one to believe that Wilson will slump in 2013. After all, he’s dealt with his size as a quarterback his whole life. However, the argument isn’t that he’ll be in a full-blown tailspin. It’s that he’s most likely to experience a sophomore slump, meaning he’s most likely to take a step back from where he was last year.

As the first two overall picks in the draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were expected to produce. I don’t know that anybody had their heart set on the playoffs, but they expected capable Day One NFL quarterbacks. Wilson, however, didn’t have those expectations.

He overachieved significantly. His team also overachieved to a certain extent.

And, call it pessimism, but when I see a team and a player that significantly overachieves, I worry about the law of averages. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t expect Wilson or the Seahawks to tank, but I expect them to potentially come back to earth.

All that being said, Wilson looked as poised as ever in the preseason opener last night, according to SaturdayBlitz.com editor (a FanSided site) and San Diego-based freelancer Kyle Kensing (Disclaimer: Kyle is my editor at Saturday Blitz), who was at the game last night for SportsOutWest.com.

Kensing saw a quarterback who showed no signs of letting his size hamper him, despite a collapsing pocket throughout his two series of action. He said the second-year starter made the most of broken down plays and was able to create with his feet, a trait we’ve all taken note of over the last several years in college and the NFL.

Granted, the sample size was small, but Wilson does appear to be off to a good start.

The one worrying thing in that analysis (again, granted, it’s two series of an exhibition game) is that Wilson spent an inordinate amount of time outside of the pocket, having been flushed by a persistent pass-rush. We saw the toll playing on the edge played on RGIII last year, and while Wilson isn’t exactly similar in his running demeanor, with his size, playing on the outside too much is just asking for trouble.

All told, I don’t expect Russell Wilson to be terrible, but I don’t expect a guy with a traditional QB rating of 100.0 and a QBR of nearly 70 again either. And, of the three rookie playoff starters, I think he may be most likely to take a small step backwards in 2013.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Andrew Luck NFL Robert Griffin III Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

  • Ben Peterson

    You realize that the starting TE, the leading WR, and the all-pro C, were all not playing that game right? The fact that he was flushed out of the pocket wasn’t exactly his fault.

    • Ryan Wooden

      I made specific mention twice that two series of a preseason game are hardly indicative of full-fledged problems. It was an outlet to mention that a 5-11, 205 lb. QB playing consistently outside the pocket is at risk to get hurt.

      Thanks for the read, but let’s not act like I put significant stock in a preseason game when I merely mentioned something in passing. It’s a mere observation.

      • Louis Helmke

        Just ask Fran Tarkenton….. Right? Anyone that thinks he was 6′, well – I highly doubt that.

      • Ben Peterson

        You know something interesting about Wilson’s size? He’s got almost exactly the same BMI as Andrew Luck. I know that BMI sin’t the best indicator of fitness, but seeing as that’s not a concern for these players, I think that if one is concerned for Russell Wilson when he scrambles, that person should actually worry more about Andrew Luck or Collin Kaepernick (a lower BMI than either Luck or Wilson) when they scramble because they have similar height-weight ratios, but worse leverage in terms of getting hit. Since Wilson has a lower center of gravity he actually has better balance, and won’t hit the ground as hard as other QBs when he gets sacked.

        • Ryan Wooden

          I am VERY concerned about Kaepernick getting hurt. Kid is a twig. However, while you are correct about BMI, it’s inaccurate to say that Luck is in a similar position to Wilson in terms of being injured outside the pocket, because as a nearly 240 pound man, regardless of his body mass index, he generates more momentum and is more capable of delivering and absorbing contact. Russell’s a strong kid, but if you show me a 250 pound linebacker, versus a 205 lb. quarterback or versus a 239 lb. quarterback, the guy who weighs more is in a better position to not get hurt. Now, that doesn’t mean Luck can’t be knocked unconscious as easily as Wilson, nor does it mean that Wilson will inevitably be hurt, but, in terms of likelihood, the guy who weighs 240 and moves well is in a better position to defend himself than the guy who weighs 205.

          • Ben Peterson

            Not if that weight is taken out of context, and that context is height. Luck’s weight is more spread out than Wilson’s.
            And consider this, Wilson reported to camp at 215 pounds, at 5’11″ and 215 do you want to know the player who closest resembles Wilson’s stature? It’s Marshawn Lynch. People are only talking about him getting injured because of the style of running that he uses. Russell Wilson isn’t going to run like that or near that many times.
            Did you take physics and anatomy in high school? then there’s one more thing that you’re missing, When that 250 lb linebacker hits, he’s going to be pushing UP into the QB, and that QB will likely fall. Take those things into account and then think about two things, which is easier to push into, the taller QB, or the smaller QB. Then which is going to fall harder, the taller and heavier QB with a greater distance to fall, or the smaller and lighter QB with the lower center of gravity.
            It’s really not likely for either of these two to get injured, but if I had to say one was going to it would have to be Luck because the physics works in Wilson’s favor. Plus Luck is going to get hit a lot more.

      • JJ Allen Keller

        Russ never takes hits. He is much smarter about that than RG3, and gets down/out of bounds every time.

      • GeorgiaHawk

        ” It was an outlet to mention that a 5-11, 205 lb. QB playing consistently outside the pocket is at risk to get hurt.”
        A QB consistently playing inside the pocket ( who can’t scramble or run) is a risk to get hurt.
        Some forget that Wilson is built solid, like a RB, and has the field awareness of a Fran Tarkenton .
        As far as QBs playing consistently outside the pocket I don’t know what you exactly mean by that.

  • Vijay

    “but I don’t expect a guy with a traditional QB rating of 100.0 and a QBR of nearly 70 again either” What you are saying is don’t expect the ratings he had last year and he will take a step back. I don’t agree seeing his progression so far. I think he has the most well rounded team around him, so I can only see him go upwards. I can’t say the same with RGIII or Luck. Yes, they are the most media favorites and have the skills, but I don’t think both their teams have a system in place to make them succeed. Thats my two cents

  • Shawn

    You also realize he played in a significantly more conservative offense to start last year, yet still tied Peyton Manning’s rookie TD record. I have little doubt that he will continue to prove his doubters wrong this year, he didn’t overachieve last year, if anything he under achieved based on the conservative approach the coaching staff took with a rookie QB. Lets see him with the true #1′s before we rush to any conclusions, but his consistency going back to college and the way this kid prepares I’d be absolutly shocked if he didn’t put up similar numbers to his second half last year.

    • Ryan Wooden

      I respect your opinion, but if you subscribe to the notion that he’ll average nine yards per pass attempt, you’re putting yourself out on a thin limb. Maybe he throws for more yards, but they’ll likely come at the price of MANY more dropbacks and a dropoff in overall efficiency.

      • Shawn

        This offense will always be run first, it’s the philosophy built by Pete Carroll’s philosophy of a physical run game setting up everything else. I do think it will continue to be similar at 9yds per because the other thing they do is go for the big play set up by play action. No the emergence of Russell Wilson will not mean a ton more passing attempts, but it will mean the passing attempts will be larger per based on opportunity as defenses shift to stop the run. His big play potential is because of the amount of 8 man fronts Seattle consistently faces based on our highest run to pass ratio in the NFL, but the coaching staff trusts Wilson’s ability to sling the deep ball when the defense gives him man coverage, which is often. He is in a perfect situation in being able to be efficient when called upon, but he’s not the focal point of the offense.

        • Ryan Wooden

          Hold on, we don’t think that Seattle created the play-pass do we? Because if we do, AND we decide that they will attempt passes at nine yards a clip all year, I feel like we’re kind of dooming Russell to fail. I mean…. I pegged him as “most likely” to regress, but if we legitimately think that the kid is going to throw 6+ percent of his passes for TD’s… well I feel like we might be getting ambitious.

          • GeorgiaHawk

            Ryan,
            Rodgers led the league in passing touchdown percentage with 7.1 percent. Wilson came in second at 6.6 percent, ahead of Brees (6.4%), Peyton Manning (6.3%) and Ben Roethlisberger (5.8%).

  • gohusk

    He got shorter this off-season? I fail to see how anything you brought up is something that wouldn’t have shown its face last year.

  • GeorgiaHawk

    I stopped taking your article seriously after you state that -

    “As it did last night in early preseason action against the San Diego Chargers), his height is still an issue.”

    “It makes it difficult for Russell Wilson to get on top of the football and throw over the opposing pass rush, and can cause accuracy issues within the pocket.”

    Lol. Sounds so much like the ignorant analysis about Wilson that we heard over and over again last year.
    Do you realize Ryan Wooden that all QBs almost always throw through lanes and not over lineman? Check out which QB lead the NFL in batted down passes. Not Wilson. It was Weeden. All 6’4 or so of him.

    You say-
    “Time and time again, Wilson has proven his detractors to be fools.”
    True, however he doesn’t have to anymore, he’s already proven himself enough. But if you want to continue to be a fool go ahead.

    • Ryan Wooden

      Who are you quoting in that first sentence?

      • GeorgiaHawk

        You Ryan Wooden.

        Just look at Wilsons efficiency in the pocket compared to outside the pocket. You will be very surprised to see that Wilsons Passing efficiency (inside the pocket) doesn’t drop off at all.
        When Wilson gets better pass protection his passing efficiency should get even better, however it’s very good as it is right now.
        I’m surprised you didn’t look up Wilsons in the pocket/outside the pocket passing efficiency stats before you wrote this article.

        • Ryan Wooden

          1) Your first quote doesn’t exist.

          2)Nobody said Russell Wilson was BAD inside the pocket. Just that his size as the pocket was collapsing was an issue in a couple of series, and that if he spent too much time outside the pocket, as an undersized quarterback he’d be more at risk for injury. I understand that Seattle fans are incensed by the notion their quarterback might take a small step back towards the median of where his career will be (which, by the way, if you think Russell Wilson is last season and better throughout his career, you’re the guy anointing him as an HOFer right now); however, if you’re going to select passages and quote them in the comment section, make sure they exist.

          3) Thanks for reading, and commenting and reading and commenting again.

          • GeorgiaHawk

            What quote are you saying doesn’t exist?
            This one-

            “[Wilson] has better numbers from inside the pocket than outside the pocket. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, and he spends the vast majority of his time in the pocket. 296 plays… inside the pocket, and he’s got 14 touchdowns and seven picks on those, passer rating of 95.2, and his ESPN QB Metric is 77.4 out of 100. That’s from inside the pocket.

          • GeorgiaHawk

            Was it this quote?
            The one in the middle of your article at they end of your paragraph that you wrote that didn’t exist? Lol.
            Now, don’t get me wrong, Wilson does better overcoming his literal shortcomings than anybody outside of Drew Brees. He has a presence off his backside that’s uncanny, and he reverses out of trouble as well as anybody in the NFL. However, while he’s learned to mask his stature with elusiveness, when the pocket is collapsing from all angles (as it did last night in early preseason action against the San Diego Chargers), his height is still an issue.

            It makes it difficult for Russell Wilson to get on top of the football and throw over the opposing pass rush, and can cause accuracy issues within the pocket.)

      • GeorgiaHawk

        This is from Danny Kelly of Field Gulls on Dec-18-2012-
        “[Wilson] has better numbers from inside the pocket than outside the pocket. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, and he spends the vast majority of his time in the pocket. 296 plays… inside the pocket, and he’s got 14 touchdowns and seven picks on those, passer rating of 95.2, and his ESPN QB Metric is 77.4 out of 100. That’s from inside the pocket.

        Outside the pocket, 60.8 QBR and 95.1 passer rating.

        The whole league’s QBR inside the pocket is 60.3, and 30.8 outside the pocket. For the entire league, passer rating is 87.2 inside the pocket and 77.0 outside. So, Russell Wilson is higher than the league average inside the pocket and well higher outside the pocket, so to say that he is dependent on getting outside the pocket for a lot of his game, would really be inaccurate.”

        Obviously, those numbers don’t even take into account Wilson’s last two games, where the offense has looked even stronger.

  • JJ Allen Keller

    I dont see how the height would affect him more now than it did last year? Did he shrink? Did everyone else grow?
    Theres also the fact that he (arguably) works harder than any of the other two, and harder than most anyone in the league.

    I also didnt see much reasoning behind the claim that he overachieved. That assumes everyone’s ideas about him as a player were accurate, and he isn’t as good as he was last year. I would argue that it is much more likely that everyone was wrong about him, and he is actually a really good player.

  • Shawn

    Also how can you say he significantly overachieved when he has no lesser numbers to compare to? His talent was never the question with evaluators just his height. As he continues to prove doubters wrong. You may say that based on round drafted. Maybe in the immortal words of Denny Green he is who we thought he was, which is a player who lives up to the numbers he put up last year. Just be ready to be another national analyst who’s left in Wilson’s wake.

  • GeorgiaHawk

    More from Field Gulls-

    Wilson is great at half-escapes too – the partial rollouts or simple pocket adjustments that take him out of his natural footwork and make him move, but then allow him to quickly re-set and throw to a now-open receiver.
    If you’ve seen it then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that Wilson has a nifty little ‘break your ankles’ juke movement with his legs that allows him to keep a balanced and wide base, but forces a defender to change speeds. “Wilson’s small stature helps him stop his feet, get bigs to stop theirs, then re-accelerate more quickly than them.” Not only that, but he effectively and effortlessly uses subtle pump fakes to keep oncoming defenders honest and hopefully get some of them off their feet.

  • Tambo

    This author is a biased chicago based idiot. I understand you’re butt hurt because what he did to your weak bears. Wilson will be the best of the three quartbacks. Can’t wait for you to eat your words idiot! The Seahawks did not overachieve or they would’ve won the superbowl. Obviously you don’t know jack when it comes to football. Stick to what you know which is probably woman’s tennis.

    • GeorgiaHawk

      Lol Tampo.
      I wouldn’t go that far, however what’s most disturbing about his article is, he is either too lazy or too incompetent to do any credible research before he writes a WAG of an article.
      Then when confronted by facts he shifts focus or just lies about things. Example- When he said my quote didn’t exist.
      Still waiting for an answer on that Wooden.

    • GeorgiaHawk

      My bad Tambo.

  • GeorgiaHawk

    BTW-
    Wilson could very well have a lower QB rating this year, However not because of Woodens silly reasons.
    The Seahawks are getting better and better and they will most likely take that next step and jump on their opponents more early in the games this season, much like they did with Arizona, Buffalo, and San Francisco at the end of last year.
    If that’s the case Wilsons numbers will fall some simply because he doesn’t have to do as much. However Wilson really thrives with the game on the line so it could go either way.
    I doubt Wilson really cares if his rating is 100, 90, or 110 so long as they win.
    Put this in your book Wooden- Imo Wilsons numbers last year will be about average for his career or less. I don’t see him going below 90, however I see him having seasons in the future going well over a 100 QB rating.

  • Zev

    Purely an opinion piece. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. The arguments are: Wilson far exceeded expectations; was a “stretch” as a 3rd round pick; his team overachieved and he is too short to be effective in the pocket. Net: Wilson’s performance defied expectations and expectations by scouts and NFL GMs are infallible (except Schneider).

    Author Wooden may be right; most knowledgeable observers disagree. Performance does count for something.

    As for Hawks over achieving, it is a loaded team and may have done comparably if Matt Flynn had been the QB.

    As to beating the odds, Indy was substantially outscored and had a very weak schedule. Using “averages” Indy should be a 7-9 team, not an 11-5. If a slump is to occur, it will more likely be with Andrew Luck.

    Albert Morris’s running success (he was brilliant) has to be linked to RG3 running threat. If the run phase with RG3 is to be scaled back, will Morris be as successful? Doubtful. W/o Morris yardage will RG3 be able to maintain Rookie performance? Sophomore slump may occur with RG3 also.

    Wooden may be right, but for the wrong reason. The five Hawks away games not within the division are to be played at 10 am PST (Panthers, Texans, Falcons, Colts and Giants – all good to excellent teams). I expect the NFL stack against the Hawks may take its toll.

    Zev

    • GeorgiaHawk

      Zev-
      You lost all credibility when you said-

      “The Seahawks may have done comparably if Matt Flynn had been the QB.”

  • DJS425

    Dumb. This is only an opinion, no facts to back it up. People are still talking about height?! Common!! Wilson has proven at every level his height isn’t a factor! Using the example of the pocket collapsing and Wilson scrambling because he’s to short is nonsense. 1) if the pocket was collapsing and he scrambled there’s a good chance no receivers were open. Doesn’t matter if you’re 5’11 or 6’6 if a player isn’t open you have to scramble a collapsing pocket. At least that’s what good qb’s do. 2) he throws from inside the pocket with pressure all the time! Look at the stats!

    I will NEVER bet against Russell Wilson, I was dumb enough to doubt him before 2012 and he made me look like a fool. Just like he made everyone who saw him play at NC State look like a fool and Wisconsin. Hell at Wisconsin he became team captain in a month and learned the play book, then had one of the best QB college year a guy has ever had! And he had 1 month to prepare for that season! Amazing if you ask me!

    Word of advice. Don’t EVER bet against Russell Wilson, you will lose!

    And this sophomore slump is baseless, with wild opinions as to “why he’s most likely” to have a sophomore slump. The guy was given a month at Wisconsin, look what he did. The guy was given couple months with the Seahawks look what he did. Add a year to that experience with the Seahawks and that’s a scary thought! Russell Wilson is a winner and always will be!

  • DJS425

    To underscore the point I made below… You can’t say Wilson isnt a good pocket passer when you don’t know the play, where the D is lined up and the coverage. If he stays in the pocket, then has to scramble why can’t the receivers just simply not be open (cough cough Mark Sanchez)? You’d want whoever your QB is to scramble if theres no one open, not force a throw thats not there so you throw an interception. Receivers can be covered well. Lack of height has zero to do with this. Especially since many, if not most of Wilsons completions are inside the pocket. This “to short” line is getting really old. You can’t use it as an argument anymore because Wilson has proven it hasnt been a problem. How many batted down balls did he have in comparison with all other QB’s? I bet he was near the bottom because rarely does a ball get batted down when Wilson throws. Wilson is 5’11, his legs are the only “small” part on him. His arms and hands are very large, the release point of the ball is very high and his touch on throws is impeccable. Wilson is NOT a small person. Sure, for a NFL QB he’s “small” but the word small is relative.

  • GeorgiaHawk

    Agree DJS425-
    Wooden has no facts to back up his opinion. But this is what you get sometimes in the Internet age. So called writers that blindly throw opinions out there without doing any reasonable research before hand.
    My question is how could anyone (take him seriously) much less pay him for such rubbish?
    Answer- There is still a Jerry Springer type news out there that folks are attracted to, so writers like Wooden ( who don’t take the time or effort) to research before they spew their opinions. And when they are confronted they play the shift focus game or like he did with me , say that what I quoted didn’t exist.
    Funny how when you get a Rat cornered it either gets away or it squirm’s until it does get away.

  • Billy M. Williams

    How’s this prediction working out through 3 weeks? Maybe not so good.

    Passing

    Rk Player Team Pos Comp Att Pct Att/G Yds Avg Yds/G TD Int 1st 1st% Lng 20+ 40+ Sck Rate

    7 Russell Wilson SEA QB 47 73 64.4 24.3 664 9.1 221.3 6 2 28 38.4 51 10 2 8 109.6

    16 Andrew Luck IND QB 61 93 65.6 31 663 7.1 221 3 1 32 34.4 47 8 2 8 92.7

    25 Robert Griffin III WAS QB 88 139 63.3 46.3 975 7 325 5 4 55 39.6 44 6 1 6 84.1

  • gohusk

    Great call on this one. Please predict that the Seahawks will fall on their faces in the playoffs.

  • Vijay

    OK, time to get back to this discussion again. Wilson has proved that there is nothing like Sophmore slump

  • JC

    man, what a horrible slump; he only ended up with a Lombardi and better QB rating than the GOAT. Great analysis man.

  • Peter Pun

    Hey Ryan, let me be the first to congratulate you for this AMAZINGLY VISIONARY piece.

  • Hugh Janus

    Thinking yer crystal ball might be a wee bit smudged or something here.

  • http://www.cjmillisock.com/ Chester Millisock Jr

    lol!

  • Realistic

    You shouldn’t write another article about the Seahawks and RW unless it’s an apology letter. They will be back again this year and RW with all his weapons by his side will serve up another full plate of crow for ya.