Russell Wilson is 32 years old. 2021 will be his tenth season in the NFL, following a full four years in college. As has been discussed previously – but hasn’t been made a big-enough deal of – he’s no longer a spring chicken. Yes, he can still run – he’s run for over 4,500 yards in his NFL career, including 513 in 2020 – but he can’t escape like he used to. It used to be pretty rare when a defensive lineman brought him down in the open field; now it’s happening regularly. He isn’t able to juke guys and get around them as much as before. It’s father time! He is, and always will be, undefeated.
It took a few years before the league came to terms with the fact that Russell Wilson is a quality pocket passer. We saw what he was capable of in the latter half of 2015, when he put it all together and shredded the league with his arm. That’s been the version of Russell Wilson we’ve been trying ever-since to recapture. Over the last half-decade, Wilson has been more of a pocket passer, and the results have been great. Yet, every year after his rookie season, he’s been sacked a MINIMUM of 40 times; he’s almost always at or near the top in all of football. That can’t continue. Not with his aging body and slowing legs.
It makes sense, though. While the Seahawks’ offensive line has been better the last few years, it has never TRULY been great (and some seasons, it’s been among the very worst in the game). And, to be honest, I don’t think the O-Line has EVER been particularly good at pass protection since Pete Carroll joined the organization; he likes to run the ball, he wants guys who can make that happen, to the detriment of our quarterback’s safety. We’ve been able to manage thanks to Wilson’s legs and his ability to make plays out of thin air. Yet, even at his most fleet-of-foot, he’s still been knocked on his ass more than just about anyone else over the life of his NFL career.
With Shane Waldron as our new offensive coordinator, the hope is that the Seahawks’ offense will look a lot more like the Rams’ offense. If it works out the way it should, this might be the smartest hire by Pete Carroll since he decided to hitch his wagon to John Schneider as General Manager.
The Rams specialize in lots of running and lots of play action passing. The Rams love to run a wide variety of plays out of similar-looking pre-snap sets, to better fool opposing defenses and keep them on their toes just a fraction of a second longer (that fraction is all the difference you need in the NFL).
The Rams also do what the Seahawks have been completely incapable of doing – except for that brief run in 2015 – get the ball out of their quarterback’s hands quickly. Jared Goff, for all his faults, has yet to be sacked more than 33 times in a season (and other than that one year, he’s never been sacked more than 25 times since he became a full-time starter). Imagine what the Seahawks could do if we were able to shed TWENTY sacks from Wilson’s body every year!
While the O-Line – and its construction by the people in charge – deserves its share of the blame, just as much should be placed on the scheme itself. Yes, Russell Wilson is one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL. But, taking so many shots also comes with a lot more risk: holding the ball a lot longer, waiting for guys to get open. If those guys end up covered, that leaves Wilson trying to find other alternatives; it’s in that amount of time where the pocket usually collapses, leaving Wilson either running for his life, or cowering under the combined weight of multiple linemen closing in around him. If Wilson is forced to get the ball out quickly – by completing more short and intermediate crossing routes – then that’s less on his shoulders. Taking some of the decision-making off of his plate should be only to the team’s benefit. Wilson is always going to want to make the big highlight play; eliminating that as an option in favor of safer, less-sexy passing plays, should help us in that almighty metric of 3rd down conversion percentage.
And, while Wilson is slower, he’s not yet a total statue. Tom Brady has made a career out of quick passing, but he can’t run for shit unless it’s a quarterback sneak that only needs to get one yard! With Wilson’s legs – and the Rams’ style of offense that loves to feature designed quarterback roll-outs – the Seahawks should be able to take advantage of those plays far better than the Rams ever could with Goff; and, to his credit, Goff was good-enough on those types of plays as it was. These plays can still allow for Wilson to gain yards with his legs, but it should also drastically reduce the number of “playground” type plays where Wilson has to escape danger and throw long on the fly. These types of plays dried up CONSIDERABLY over the last half of the 2020 season, because of Wilson’s decline and the league catching up to what we’ve been doing all along. So, maybe it’s time to put those plays to rest in favor of something new.
I hope Waldron is able to fully implement the Rams’ style of offense, I hope the Seahawks have players who can adapt to it, and I hope everyone is able to buy in and let the new guy run the show (I’m looking at you, Meddling Pete Carroll). Word on the street is, Brian Schottenheimer either chose to keep, or was forced to keep, about 70% of Darrell Bevell’s playbook during the previous offensive coordinator change-over. That better not happen here. It’s time for the Seahawks to make wholesale changes. I don’t care how difficult it’s going to be with COVID-19 and the lack of in-person instruction. Make this new scheme easy to understand on paper, so when we finally can congregate together later in the summer, we’ll be off and running and ready to dominate in 2021.