SEATTLE – It’s the kind of statement Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has made often about Russell Wilson.
“This is Russell at his very best so far,” Carroll said Monday during his weekly radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle.
But if that statement was true the dozens of other times Carroll has said something similar, it’s truer than ever now with Wilson off to as hot of a start as any quarterback in NFL history following his five-touchdown performance Sunday night against the Patriots, which tied a career high and a team record.
So, for each one of Wilson’s TD passes Sunday, here are five thoughts on his season so far:
Wilson’s numbers are simply absurd
Through two games, Wilson’s numbers – whether using conventional stats or more advanced ones – seem like something out of a video game or a college run-and-shoot offense.
According to ESPN, Wilson is only the fourth QB in NFL history to throw at least four TDs in each of the first two games of a season. His 82.5 percent completion rate is the best through two games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (for QBs with at least 40 attempts).
Consider further that percentage could be higher. Wilson is 52 of 63, with three passes that have been dropped and three others that were throwaways escaping pressure.
Wilson’s passer rating of 140.0 through two games is higher than he’s had in all big six individual games in his career (158.3 is a perfect rating).
If you simply turn the interception return off Greg Olsen’s hands into a drop, that number would rise to 146.9, which would be the fifth highest of his career.
Here’s one other way of looking at it – Wilson’s nine TDs tie the entire season total of the 1992 Seahawks, who went 2-14, the fewest passing scores in team history in a 16-game season).
Wilson is throwing with more conviction
Carroll made an interesting comment on his radio show Monday about how hard Wilson is throwing the ball.
To Carroll, that’s a sign of how confident, comfortable and unquestioning Wilson is in the offense, at age 31, his ninth year in the NFL, and third working with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Carroll said Wilson is throwing the ball so hard “because he is so convicted in his reads.”
Quick decisions, quick throws, quick touchdowns.
Schottenheimer’s view from the booth is helping
Wilson’s fast start to the season has come with Schottenheimer calling games from up in the coach’s box instead of down on the field, as he did his first two seasons as Seattle’s offensive coordinator.
When he was hired in 2018, Schottenheimer said he liked being able to talk to his quarterbacks face-to-face, and had called games from the sidelines in nine of his 10 previous years as an OC.
But after last season, Carroll approached Schottenheimer about calling games from the coach’s box, remembering how he got told by 49ers coach George Seifert to work from upstairs when he became defensive coordinator in the mid-1990s and noticed an immediate difference in how much better he could see things than in the chaos of the sidelines.
Carroll noted that a rule change in 2016 allows coordinators to talk directly to quarterbacks on the field via headset.
“Everything processes much more clearly and facilitates what you need to know gathering information,” Carroll said when he talked to media Monday via Zoom. “He’s really comfortable with it and obviously it’s working out well and he and Russ are really hitting on all cylinders, so it’s a great start to that transition.”
Wilson is benefiting from pass protection
That might surprise some who just look at a few of the numbers, such as Wilson having been sacked five times in two games – which ranks tied for 11th most in the NFL.
But Wilson has been sacked only twice in the last six quarters with Carroll feeling a line featuring three new starters – center Ethan Pocic, right guard Damien Lewis and right tackle Brandon Shell – is rounding into form maybe more quickly than anticipated given the lack of preseason games or an on-field offseason program.
“It’s the best we’ve looked in some time,” Carroll said of the pass protection, saying it “was so solid that you saw Russell in command of the rhythm.”
“Russell’s always been able to kill you when he when he sits in the pocket and he has time and he has space. We’ve not been as good protection-wise over the years as we would like – he’s had to move more purposefully. Now he really can kind of do it when he as he needs to, and hopefully we can keep growing and stay consistent and keep that working. You know, I think he’s just as big a threat as he’s ever been right now.”
Carroll cited the quick emergence of Pocic at center. It’s his first year at the position in his fourth year with Seattle, but it was his primary spot at LSU.
“Ethan has given us a transition that was better than we might have thought,” Carroll said.
Wilson is still a dangerous runner
Someday, the theory goes, Wilson will slow down a little and won’t be the same kind of threat as a runner.
But that day is not now.
Maybe lost in all else that happened Sunday is that Wilson scrambled five times for 39 yards, picking up four first downs (all were called pass plays).
One of those was a 21-yard run that converted a second-and-9 and led to Seattle’s first TD.
In two games, Wilson has rushed for 68 yards on six carries, an average of 8.5 per attempt that would shatter his season best of 7.2 in 2014.
“Those scrambles, the 40 yards he gets us in scrambles, is so valuable,” Carroll said. “I mean, it’s just backbreaking plays. You feel like you got to the guy stopped and then they take off and run.”
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