BY Steve Rudman 08:30AM 10/25/2013

For Wilson, Every Game Is An Escape Act

Russell Wilson has 41 rushing attempts in Seattle’s last four games, a remarkable and dangerous total. His 8.3 rushes per game lead all NFL quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson is averaging 8.3 rushing attempts per game, the highest total in the NFL among quarterbacks. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It’s difficult to find fault with a football team averaging 27.3 points and allowing 16.6 with a scoring differential of +75, especially one missing its starting tackles, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. But if that’s the overriding plus with the Seahawks, who take their impressive act to St. Louis Monday night to face the Rams, the minus is that Russell Wilson is getting hit way too much.

By one count, the Arizona Cardinals sacked or dinged Wilson 19 times last Thursday. In Houston Sept. 29, the Texans lit into Wilson 16 times in 34 drop-backs. He’s already been sacked 20 times, 13 shy of his 33 total as a rookie, fourth-highest total in the NFL and the highest total for a quarterback on a division-leading team.

Wilson is on pace to get sacked 46 times, which would rank as the second-most takedowns of a Seattle quarterback in franchise annals, behind Dave Krieg’s 52 in 1985. Dumped, hit or hurried an average of more than 10 times per game, Wilson is fortunate to be blessed with such remarkable escapability. Others haven’t been so lucky.

(Through the season’s first seven weeks, 51 quarterbacks threw at least one pass. Ten starters sustained injuries that cost them at least one game, and three others were benched, including Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden twice. Three third-string quarterbacks have already played and a No. 4 — Buffalo’s Thad Lewis — made two starts.)

When I see a quarterback run as much as Wilson – 41 times in his last four games – I see trouble lurking, even though it’s a kick to watch him exhaust defenses with his legs. We know why he’s running, but it’s the volume of runs, leaving him exposed, that causes concern.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson not only leads the NFL with 29 scrambles after dropping back to pass (Drew Brees has scrambled six times), a league-leading 46.6 percent of Wilson’s passes have come under pressure (Peyton Manning 21.7 percent).

Let’s put those 41 rushes in the past four games – 10 at Houston, 13 at Indianapolis, 10 vs. Tennessee, eight at Arizona – in perspective. Wilson’s previous high in any four-game stretch was 30, from Nov. 4 through Dec. 2, 2012, when he ran nine times vs. Minnesota, seven vs. the Jets, five at Miami and nine at Chicago.

Wilson has 20 or more rushing attempts in a four-game span eight times (top six listed below) since joining the Seahawks, including 22 attempts in the first four games of his career. No other Seattle quarterback is remotely close to that. Most rushing attempts, any four-game span, by a Seahawks quarterback:

Year Span Quarterback Att. Skinny
2013 Sept. 29-Oct. 17 Russell Wilson 41 1st 100-yard rush game at Indy
2012 Nov. 4-Dec. 2 Russell Wilson 30 7.6 yards per attempt at Miami
2012 Dec. 9-30 Russell Wilson 28 6.7 yard-average in 4 games
2012 Dec. 2-23 Russell Wilson 27 Rushed for 3 TDs at Buffalo
2013 Sept. 8-29 Russell Wilson 27 10 attempts vs. 49ers, Texans
2012 Nov. 4-Dec. 2 Russell Wilson 26 127.3 pass rating vs. Vikings
1993 Sept. 26-Oct. 24 Rick Mirer 22 Season-high 9 rushes at Cincy
2000 Sept. 10-Oct. 2 Jon Kitna 20 Seahawks went 2-2 during span
1978 Sept. 3-24 Jim Zorn 19 Season-high 54 yards vs. SD
1987 Dec. 6-27 Dave Krieg 18 7.6 yards per attempt at KC
2002 Dec. 8-29 Matt Hasselbeck 18 Career-high 62 yards vs. Phil
2010 Nov. 14-Jan. 2 Charlie Whitehurst 18 8 rushes, 30 yards vs. Rams

The contest against the Rams Monday begins a favorable four-game run against opponents who are a combined 5-16. Then comes Seattle’s bye. While the run includes road trips to St. Louis and Atlanta, it’s not unrealistic to envision the Seahawks at 10-1 or 9-2 by the time of their highly anticipated Week 13 matchup at CenturyLink against New Orleans – unless Wilson gets clocked.

Wilson has 58 rushing attempts, most in the NFL by a quarterback and 14 more than the No. 2, Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor (44). Wilson’s 58 are 20 more Robert Griffin III (38) and 25 more than Michael Vick (33), the league’s No. 3 career rushing quarterback. Wilson’s 58 also matches the combined rushing attempts of Aaron Rodgers (22), Manning (18) and Brady (18).

But that doesn’t begin to illustrate just how much Wilson is running the ball. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, only three quarterbacks have averaged more rushing attempts per game than Wilson this season (RPG=Rushes Per Game).

Year QB Team RPG Skinny
1972 Bobby Douglass Bears 10.1 NFL record with 968 QB rushing yards
2011 Tim Tebow Broncos 8.7 Had 660 rushing yards in 14 games
2010 Michael Vick Eagles 8.3 100 rushes, 9 TDs in 12 contests
2013 Russell Wilson Seahawks 8.3 Pace: Team-record 738 rushing yards
2003 Michael Vick Falcons 8.0 Averaged 51 yards per contest
2004 Michael Vick Falcons 8.0 Averaged 61.1 yards per game
2012 Robert Griffin III Redskins 8.0 Slacked off to 6.3 rushes per this year
2011 Cam Newton Panthers 7.9 14 rushing TDs, most ever by a QB
2012 Cam Newton Panthers 7.9 127 attempts, 741 yards in 16 games
2006 Michael Vick Falcons 7.7 NFL record 1,039 rushing yards
2002 Michael Vick Falcons 7.5 Led NFL with 7.5 yards per attempt
1990 R. Cunningham Eagles 7.4 4,928 career yards, most by a QB

If Wilson maintains his present pace, he will rush for 738 yards, 249 more than the 489 he posted as a rookie. That would give Wilson the seventh-highest, single-season rushing total by a quarterback in modern (since 1970) NFL history, a mark surpassed only by Vick (three times), Douglas (1972), Cunningham (1990) and Newton (2012).

I can’t help but think that the Seahawks, if they had their druthers, which they don’t, would prefer Wilson not show up anywhere on this list.


YourThoughts

  • Matt712

    Wow. First of all, thank you for the interesting piece, Rainman – I mean, Steve. What DangeRuss has uniquely in his favor (in addition to his big brain) is his build – strong and compact (approx 210 lb. packed into 5’10′). He’s really built more like a running back quarterback, so I tend not to worry as much when he actually decides to call his own number. The scarier thing is the sack total for such a mobile guy. Some of Mudbone’s sacks were just him tripping over his own feet. For Russell, it’s those blindside hits and strip sacks that he can’t see coming that make me cringe. Either way, the NFL law of averages looms.

  • jafabian

    Not sure if Wilson will actually pass 700 yards rushing once the team gets healthy. By December everyone should be back, including Okung. That could give Wilson more time to find his receivers or more plays for the RB’s though now defenses are well aware of what he can do and don’t really know how to prepare. Will he run? Will he throw? Hand off? I’ve read that QB’s like Wilson, Vick, running QB’s who can throw are the most difficult to prepare for.

  • Mylegacy

    Little Russell repeatedly asserts he, “doesn’t want to run the ball.” – I believe him.

    In my 67 years (66 and one half of which I’ve followed football fanatically) I can’t remember ever seeing a CONTENDER in the NFL, CFL or wherever, having so porous an offensive line (indeed Seattle has a most offensive offensive line).

    When Carroll and Co. get this under control (Okung and Giacomini’s return from injury should be a reasonable start) Russell Wilson is going to be fully fledged member of the American Hall of Great Quarterbacks (a small annex just off the back corner of the Football Hall of Fame). This kid is a rare physical and mental animal. He has the “IT Factor” in spades (whatever the ‘It Factor’ actually is).

  • CreatorCare

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the concern for too many rushes and scrambles. I was concerned already last year. In large part, it speaks to weaknesses in the OLine – not great pass blockers. I expected the Seahawks to do something about the missing parts and depth in the OLine in the off season and was stunned when they did almost nothing.

    Wilson’s high number of runs also comes from simply extending plays rather than throwing the ball away when no receiver is open, and sometimes he’s not seeing a receiver who’s actually open, so he bails out.

    I did notice something else in their game against the Cardinals.Wilson was staying in the pocket longer than normal. But he wasn’t letting the ball go soon enough, either throwing it away or finding the open man. He’s still growing.

    Still, the biggest part of the problem is the offensive line, last year and this year. It’s the Seahawks weak link, even with two pro bowlers. Why they didn’t sign or draft offensive linemen is beyond me. I was sure it was a top priority.