BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 12/13/2019

Thiel: Wilson ‘could do a little bit better.’ Still?

Russell Wilson’s passing numbers have declined as good defenses sharpen pursuit of him. In C.J. Prosise and Josh Gordon, Seahawks have fresh legs to help with the heavy lift.

In 2014, TE Luke Willson celebrates with QB Russell Wilson after their game-winning touchdown pass allowed the Seahawks to prevail in Charlotte, 13-9. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It would be errant to say that Russell Wilson will have his get-well game Sunday at Carolina (10 a.m., FOX), because that assumes Wilson is sick (he isn’t) and the bedraggled Panthers will lose (probably, but all us have been around the NFL long enough to be dope-slapped by assumptions).

Nevertheless, there’s little argument that Wilson is a few ticks off his stellar-ness of the first nine games. Over the past four, he’s had passer ratings of 86.9, 75.4, 98.9 and, against the Rams Sunday, 69.8 (in the four games, he’s had four each of TD passes and interceptions).

Reasons are numerous, including the fact that defenses of the 49ers, Eagles, Vikings and Rams have more than standard amounts of desperadoes, outlaws and varmints.

The Panthers, however, have given up 360 points this season, fewer only than the 374 by Seattle’s subsequent opponent, Arizona — the two worst totals in the NFC. Somewhere in these next two weeks needs to be some grindstones that sharpen Wilson’s sword ahead of the regular-season closer against the 49ers, which shapes up as the template for the next Marvel Comics clash of superheroes and supervillains.

“Yeah, I like him to be able to throw for 300 yards and about four touchdowns a week,” said coach Pete Carroll, in a bit of a sarcastic mood. “We’d like for that to happen.”

But it was Carroll who pointed out that Wilson was guilty of sometimes holding the ball a little too long against the Rams in LA, where he was a modest 22 of 36 for 245 yards, no TDs and a pick, absorbing five sacks.

“He could do a little bit better and we need to help him,” Carroll said. “We need to contribute. If we run the ball for 180-something, and he throws it 20-something times, I don’t care. As long as we play well. We’re not worrying about it in the end.”

But at the beginning Sunday, Wilson set an ominous tone, one from which he didn’t recover.

On the first possession, Wilson had two misfires. On a well-blocked screen pass to the left, he missed wide-open RB Chris Carson wide right.

Wilson recovered to sustain the drive to the LA 15. Then on third and three, he had WR DK Metcalf come open in front of him on a crossing route. But Wilson pulled the ball down to run and was slammed from the left by a blitzing linebacker, the first of the five sacks. The Seahawks got a field goal, but it was was of only two serious approaches to the end zone all night.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said he wasn’t aware of any downward trend in Wilson’s play.

“Certainly there were times (Sunday) that Russell could have gotten the ball out of his hands,” he said. “He’s still having a great year. We didn’t ask him to do a whole lot versus Minnesota, because we were running the ball so well. Against the Rams, we had to ask him to take different shots down the field.”

Regarding the two plays in question, both misfires were a resul of the inability to cope with the Rams’ premier pass rush.

“On the screen, he felt a little pressure,” he said. “Bottom line, he rushed it. He should have hit that and knows it. It should have been more of a lob pass. On the third-down pass, he was waiting for DK to come across and he felt a little pressure.

“You’re going to miss some. The cool thing about him is he’s got a very short memory.”

At his weekly presser Thursday, Wilson wasn’t offering up disagreement or complaint. Per usual.

“I think we could get the ball out a couple seconds earlier,” he said. “The Rams did a good job of rushing —  they had such great pass rushers.

“There’s a happy medium. A lot of people want us to throw the ball deep. Then they want us to throw it short. I think the reality of that game is we just didn’t make the plays that we wanted to.”

In the grand scheme, these are nits. But because the Seahawks rely so heavily on him to cover their mistakes, his errors get magnified.

Here’s what Pro Football Focus had to say ahead of the game in Charlotte:

It’s hard to overstate how great Wilson has been this season. He leads all quarterbacks in overall grade at 91.8, and he’s done it despite facing pressure on 39.7% of his dropbacks (fifth-most among qualifying quarterbacks) and quick pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 28.2% of his dropbacks (third-most).

He’s been able to succeed despite those poor circumstances, leading all qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt under pressure (7.9), while his passer rating when facing pressure (94.3) ranks fourth.

Nevertheless, the defenses are sharpening their pursuit of him. He’s been sacked 40 times. His career worst is 51, set last year, and he has three games left. Can someone help this guy?

Sunday seems an ideal time for the Seahawks to re-introduce RB C.J. Prosise and WR Josh Gordon to the football world, just to help share the weekly heavy lift by Wilson.

Prosise replaces injured Rashaad Penny as Chris Carson’s primary backup. He’s played in seven games and has carried 14 times for 43 yards and a touchdown, and has nine receptions for 66 yards. Gordon has been almost criminally underused since his mid-season acquisition — six catches in four games for 81 yards.

There’s nothing like fresh legs in December to help make Carroll’s pre-Christmas wish come true: Get the Seahawks to 300/4 while getting no closer to 51.


YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Worried a bit about the O line – well, maybe a lot more than a bit. Fluker and Iupati look pretty beat up, Ifedi is Ifedi, and Brown looks pretty frustrated. Joey Hunt is doing a nice job, but he’s not an all-anything. It’s gotten to the point of 7-man lines, just adding Fant and Roos and deleting a WR or 2, which leaves Russell with no one to throw to, which leads him to keep looking around futilely (holding the ball too long), which leads to him getting plowed by some large DL evildoer. And there’s no depth behind those 7 (and a talent gap, to boot). So, yeah, Russell has to do more, but how?

    • art thiel

      Good point. Fluker/Iupati are run blockers, not pass pro guys, and Hunt is subject to blow-overs. Brown’s biceps injury is like a giraffe with a sore throat.

      Possibility of some help Sunday: Ethan Pocic returns to back up three interior spots.

      • Ken S.

        Maybe Fluker and Lupati could learn to catch the ball? There have been a few big guys who have. If nothing else it’d be a great trick play, pull it out and give it a try, might save a win.

  • Kevin Lynch

    It’s extraordinary in this NFL game how often success comes down to line play. They’ll go as far in the playoffs as their offensive and defensive lines will take them. In the overall, I would call both lines average. If that’s the case they will have to play over their heads to take down the top teams in succession. The Hawks have bet a lot on Clowney. and had bet a lot on Britt.

    • art thiel

      True about the lines. With Prosise, there’s a chance for screen passes and wheel routes to help keep Wilson from a pounding.

      • DJ

        Art – that makes perfect sense since he’s not a power back, but I’ll be my eye teeth that Prosise gets the same first few play calls that Penny would get – rushing right into the line and stopped for minimal gain at that.

        • Ken S.

          You and I know where those first few runs will be directed, ya think maybe the d-line knows? Talk about deja vu!

          • art thiel

            Really, you ought to be coaching and let Pete do the fanning.

          • Ken S.

            Thanks but no thanks! I’m older than Pete, and happily retired.

        • art thiel

          Since the CAR run defense is nearly the worst in the league, I expect you’re going to see a lot of inside zone runs from Carson and outside zone from Prosise.

  • Ken S.

    Gotta hand it to Carroll and the crew. They’ve managed to cobble together another winning season. I was guessing a 9-7 season, a mark they’ve managed to surpass. Trouble is in the past few weeks its injuries and tendencies that have caught up with the Hawks. Injuries can’t be helped, but tendencies? There’s a cure for that. How about a few q-back runs out of the gate, nothing better to set the defense on their heels, if only for a drive or two. Or maybe a 40y pass? Something! Just don’t be so danged predictable. Handoff and a 2yd run to start the game? Come on man!

    • art thiel

      Most every play you think is a dork play typically is setting up the defense for its counter later in the game. And when you’re down 14-3 against a very good defense, the playbook shrinks considerably.

      Nearly all RW’s runs are spontaneous, which is why they work.

  • ll9956

    Let’s hope Russell has better protection than last week. Five sacks is way too many. At the risk of stating the obvious, ‘twould be so nice if Carson and Prosise could run wild and open things up for some long shots down the field. Also we need the D to rack up a few sacks, unlike last week. Am I wishing for too much?