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.