We take a closer look at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who carries the weight of the team on his shoulders.
Inside Wembley Stadium on Sunday, as the Seahawks take on the Oakland Raiders live on Sky Sports Action from 5pm, British fans will have the chance to see someone unique for an NFL event: the World’s Strongest Man.
No, Mark Henry is not coming out of that tunnel, and neither is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, winner of this year’s World’s Strongest Man contest, as I’m sure you know.
On Sunday, we’ll welcome – for the first time – Seattle quarterback Wilson, who has managed to carry the weight of the entire organisation over the past few years.
We take a look at face of the franchise, who will once again be tasked with carrying his team to the postseason…
Since Wilson took over the starting position as a rookie for Seattle in the 2012 campaign, the Seahawks haven’t had a losing season. In fact, until last year (9-7), the Hawks had made the playoffs and won at least one playoff game on every single occasion.
One Super Bowl win, one Super Bowl loss. The first Lombardi Trophy in the city since their introduction to the league in 1976. These have happened with Wilson at the helm; the team’s smart, athletic, exciting, charismatic and consistent leader.
But in the early days, Wilson’s supporting cast was strong – and wide. The vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ gave Seattle the top-ranked scoring defense in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – an improbable and outstanding stretch. And during all four of those seasons, the team’s rushing attack ranked in the top five.
Marshawn Lynch was trucking over players on his way to multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Richard Sherman was picking off every ball thrown in his direction. While Wilson’s talent and leadership couldn’t be denied, it was clear he had strong contributions from those around him.
Over the past two seasons, however, the balance of the team has shifted.
To use the word ‘slipping’ may be misleading – they are 19-12-1 over the past two regular seasons – but the killer instinct that made them what they were has been missing.
In 2016, the defense remained fantastic (third in scoring), but they fell to 25th in rushing yards per game.
Last season, the formidable D decidedly dropped in performance – to 13th in scoring – while the rushing attack remained down in 23rd. Neither disqualifies a team from success, but they certainly put a lot more on the plate of their passing game, which both needs to account for more of the attack, and score more points to keep up with the faltering defense.
Whether by design or because of the well-documented problems that come after a Super Bowl win (or loss) whereby stars leave for bigger contracts, quarterbacks command new contracts (Wilson signed a four-year, $87.6m extension before the 2015 season) and the roster becomes swayed, Wilson has become the man who does it all.
If Seattle had managed to sneak into the playoffs last season, Wilson had one of the strongest MVP cases in the league. However, after an 8-4 start and a huge win against the Eagles to snap their nine-game winning streak, the Seahawks ran into the Jaguars and Rams at the wrong time to miss out, barely.
But it wasn’t for lack of effort from Wilson, who led the team in both passing and rushing yards (and rushing touchdowns!) Seattle scored 38 touchdowns in the year, and Wilson accounted for 37 of them (34 passing, three rushing).
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All in all, Seattle managed 5,286 yards of offense. Wilson accounted for 4,569 of them (3,983 as a passer, 586 as a runner) for 86.4% of the offense, an NFL record. That doesn’t include sack yards, but even when they are included, the total is 80.6%, still a record. For reference, actual MVP Tom Brady – though clearly not a runner – managed 73% of New England’s offense.
Wilson had 586 yards on the ground, and the team’s next best rusher – Mike Davis – had less than half of that (240). His 34 passing touchdowns led the league and made him just the fourth QB in history to have two 34-TD seasons in his first six.
He also broke the record for the most fourth quarter touchdowns in a single season with 18 (previously Eli Manning with 15).
On the flip side, Wilson became the third quarterback ever to be sacked 40-plus times in five consecutive seasons. Along with the rushing woes, it’s no surprise the team wasn’t built to win late in the year.
All of that said, and however impressive the numbers may look, it is not healthy for any team to be so reliant on one man. Seattle’s four-time Pro Bowler carried the weight of the team on his back in 2017, and it led to missing out on the postseason for the first time in five seasons.
2018 so far
Onto this season.
The good news? Wilson isn’t left to make up astronomical numbers on his own. He’s currently on pace for 71% of the team’s yards. Plus, Seattle have finally found a rushing attack. They rank eighth in the NFL with 122.4 yards per game and importantly, three different runners – Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny – have more yards on the ground.
‘Russ taking advantage of running game’
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has praised quarterback Russell Wilson for “taking advantage” of their found again running game.
The bad? Rather than adding to Wilson’s production, the Seahawks have the sixth-worst passing attack through their first five games. Also, the porous offensive line has continued to leak, and they are on pace to allow over 55 sacks.
Wilson has been his usual self, with outstanding throws mixed in with jaw-dropping scrambles. The Seahawks are 2-3 and opposed to in his early seasons, are in the wild card hunt, not pushing for the division lead which belongs to the 5-0 Rams.
Sunday’s outing against Oakland is a ‘swing game’ for Seattle. Win, and a 3-3 record keeps them in the hunt with the NFC’s finest. Lose, and at 2-4, they might have to kiss their playoff dreams goodbye already. However, games against the Lions, Rams, Packers, and Panthers coming up could factor heavily in the wild card race.
Seattle come to Wembley looking to get their season well and truly kicked off, and will once again rely on the talent of their star quarterback Russell Wilson to do it all.
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