BY Steve Rudman 03:36PM 10/06/2015

Seahawks’ Wilson on pace for record pancaking

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made several fantastic escape plays Monday night against Detroit, but is on pace to absorb a record pounding.

Jimmy Graham still doesn’t fit with the Seahawks offense. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Because of an officiating crew inexplicably ignorant of fine print, specifically NFL rule 12, section 4, article 1 (b), which “makes it illegal for a player to bat or punch a ball if it is loose in either end zone,” the Seahawks got away with one Monday night, escaping CenturyLink Field with an asterisked 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions. For what it’s worth, neither Pete Carroll nor Mile Holmgren knew about the rule, either.

While LB K.J. Wright’s nudge following Kam Chancellor’s knockout punch on Calvin Johnson (first red-zone fumble of Johnson’s career) tops the conversation today, the real “whew!” from Monday should be reserved for Russell Wilson.

Wilson had 37 dropbacks. The Lions, ranked T27 in total defense, sacked, hit or placed him under duress 18 times (48.6 percent). Officially, the Lions dropped Wilson six times. A quarterback with less mobility – that’s all of them – would have gone down double that number.

Talk about handling pressure: While under duress, Wilson went 5-for-8 for 119 yards. Flushed from the pocket, he went 6-for-9, averaging 16.1, including a 50-yard completion on 3rd-and-2 to Jermaine Kearse to ice the game. Facing a blitz, Wilson went 7-for-7. With all that heat, it’s astonishing Wilson only fumbled twice.

ESPN analyst and former head coach Jon Gruden made the point repeatedly Monday night: The Seahawks have no ability to protect Wilson, in whom they have invested millions of dollars. As all network analysts do, Gruden tried to soften his criticism by explaining that the Seahawks feature an almost-new offensive line that “is a work in progress.” But his message was clear: Wilson is low-hanging fruit who is forced to play “playground” football, an assessment seconded by Doug Baldwin in a post-game interview.

Gruden didn’t say so, but left the impression that Seattle’s offense isn’t so much designed as it is whatever Wilson can conjure up on any given down. OC Darrell Bevell has his charts and calls, but because of the all the swiss cheese up front, probably has no idea what’s coming more than half the time.

Wilson’s critics argue that he isn’t a classic pocket passer, a detriment that keeps him from joining the small list of elite quarterbacks. Wilson wants to play from the pocket, but his offensive line won’t allow it, forcing him to flee more than any quarterback in the league. Wilson has been sacked 18 times in four games, including 12 times over the past two weeks.

That means he has already been dropped six more times than Aaron Rodgers (six) and Tom Brady (six) combined. The two marquee rookies, Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay (seven) and Marcus Mariota (two) of Tennessee together have been sacked exactly half as many times as Wilson.

Wilson (4.5 sack per game) is on pace for 72 sacks, which would make him one of three players in NFL history (also David Carr and Randall Cunningham) taken down 70 or more times in a season.

With Wilson shown for comparison purposes, the following is a list of the most-sacked quarterbacks for a single season in NFL history (since 1969 when sacks were first kept), sorted by how many times they were dumped through their first four games. Only Carr experienced a more nightmarish first four than Wilson.

Year Player Team Sacked Thru 4 Nadir
2005 David Carr Hou 68 27 8 sacks vs. Pitt Sept. 18
2002 David Carr Hou 76 26 9 sacks at SD Sept. 15
2015 Russell Wilson Sea 18 18 12 sacks past two games
1985 Ken O’Brien NYJ 62 16 10 sacks at Raiders Sept. 8
2006 Jon Kitna Det 63 14 6 sacks at Chic. Sept. 17
1992 R. Cunningham Phil 60 14 6 sacks vs. NO Sept. 6
2000 Steve Beuerlein Car 62 11 6 sacks at Wash. Sept. 3
1986 R. Cunningham Phil 72 8 8 sacks at Minn Sept. 25

In Seahawks annals, only one quarterback comes close to Wilson’s 18 sacks in four games: In 1978, Jim Zorn was flattened 15 times. Dave Krieg, sacked most often in franchise history (341), never went down more than 12 times in the first four games of a season.

Seattle’s beleaguered offensive line – RT Gary Gilliam, RG J.R. Sweezy, C Drew Nowak, LG Justin Britt and LT Russell Okung – statistically isn’t the worst in the NFL, but it’s close. On 154 passing plays, the line is responsible for nine sacks, seven QB hits, 39 hurries and  55 pressure plays allowed, according to figures provided by Pro Football Focus. Only Miami (68) and Detroit (64) are worse. The Dolphins (1-3) just fired their head coach. The Lions are 0-4, but shouldn’t be.

The Seahawks are in this jam in part because they traded veteran C Max Unger, forcing them to go with Nowak, a former defensive tackle who is in over his head. Worse, Unger went to New Orleans for TE Jimmy Graham, whose skills Bevell won’t, or doesn’t know how to, exploit.

Graham, an ineffective blocker, has 174 receiving yards through four games, or about half as many as he had through four games last season with the Saints. Graham also has 14 fewer receptions than he did at this point last season.

With the Unger-Graham trade, the Seahawks weakened themselves at center and so far haven’t figured out how to best utilize their big tight end playmaker. Perhaps that will change in the coming weeks. The big if is whether Wilson will be upright to see it.

On the air Monday night, Gruden made it clear he wouldn’t bet on it.


YourThoughts

  • Bruce McDermott

    “Shouldn’t be” is stretching it. There is no guarantee that Detroit would have scored a TD, or that the Hawks would not have scored thereafter. The Hawks dominated that game statistically. Wright had nobody within several yards of him and was two feet from the endline tracking a ball at waist height he easily could have plucked and that was inarguably headed out on its own. This was hardly Fail Mary. Letter of the rule? Sure. Spirit of the rule? Not hardly.

    • Tim

      You said it perfectly.

    • dingle

      No, not really stretching it at all. The Seahawks were extraordinarily fortunate. Detroit rammed it down their throat the last drive and only a once-a-season play stopped them from taking the lead.

      The Seahawks are simply not very good overall right now. Their defense played well most of the game, but couldn’t get a stop when it counted on that last drive. Wilson Houdini’d his way out of trouble multiple times and made some very good throws, but also gave the ball away twice, once for a scoop-six.

      Hopefully the O-line will get better. If they don’t, good luck making the playoffs. Their only gimmes the rest of the way are the woeful 49ers (twice) and the not-very-good Browns. And maybe the Vikings.

      • Effzee

        The attrition after the two Super Bowl runs is showing.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Detroit “rammed it down their throat” one time, after a full game of offensive impotence. That last play WAS fortunate, but the only reason it was necessary is because of a string of Hawk mistakes on offense that kept Detroit close. The “shouldn’t be” reference from Rudman seemed to be about that one play, and my point was that this was giving too much credence to the “Detroit was robbed” meme. But otherwise, you are right–our offense is a train wreck. The Seahawk formula of spending big money on skill players and counting on “diamonds in the rough” elsewhere is NOT working on offense, and specifically on that line.

    • ll9956

      I agree, the ball could have easily exited the endzone on its own. Also, if K. J. had been aware of the rule, he could have corralled it for the touchback. Game over. Nevertheless, strictly speaking, the Hawks got away with one.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      The ESPN people certainly have sensationalized the Wright Tap as one of the real injustices in the world…injustices happen every day in life. Fernando Rodney is in the play offs tonight with the Cubs(Wed NL Wild card)… with his season with the Ms that might count with some folks.To be sure your point is correct. Letter of the rule. Calls like holding and pass interference are missed literally every single game. These guys need to get over it like the Detroit coach correctly pointed out.
      Move on.

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  • 1coolguy

    Russian needs to have more 3 step drop passes that are 5 to 10 yafds. A number er of these and the defense will back of.

    • Pixdawg13

      No, the Russians are using cruise missiles.

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      I’d like to have some of that Russkie vodka you appear to be drinkin’. It sure did a job on the spelling expertise in your cerebral cortex. Har!

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        Wow. The gin did it!

  • ll9956

    Good piece, Steve.

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  • jafabian

    Bevell seems to not involved Graham in the offense until the second half. Not sure if that’s by design or teams figuring he isn’t a threat after being ignored in the first half. His blocking skills are not anywhere near Zach Miller’s. Possibly Bevell is platooning him because of that.

    • eddieTeacher

      I think PC already mentioned that Graham’s number was called on numerous occasions. Either the coverage was good or for other reasons RW chose not to go with the called play. It’s not entirely on Bevel.

  • RadioGuy

    Why is anyone surprised that Russ is spending so much time identifying cloud formations this year? It usually takes time to develop offensive linemen at the NFL level, let alone a collection of players who were playing other positions prior to coming to Seattle, and trading your best O-liner for a tight end who doesn’t block doesn’t help. Add the absence of Marshawn Lynch, who has made a mediocre line look better by pounding out yards on his own, and you get what we’ve been seeing.
    Maybe by the end of the season, the youngsters up front will have picked up the nuances of their position and would be able to protect Wilson better (“at all” would be an improvement), but until then, they’re a bunch of converted players learning on the job. Get used to it.