Wilson smart and safe as a running quarterback
RENTON, Washington (AP) — Every so often, even though he’s proven that when angry NFL defenders are trying to chase him down he will make the smart decision, Russell Wilson will get a little reminder in his ear.
Often it’s coach Pete Carroll with yet another word of caution for Wilson: If the Seattle Seahawks quarterback is going to run, be wise, not careless.
“He gets it; the competitor in him needs to be reminded every once and a while but I usually get a really good response,” Carroll said. “He knows and acknowledges that he’s going to try and get out of harm’s way every chance he gets.”
Wilson’s ability to get out of the pocket and run will always be part of what he brings to the position, and has helped to separate him from his peers in just his third season.
But the reality about Wilson is he’s not a running quarterback. Wilson is a scrambler, almost always running so he can try to get the ball to his receivers. Sometimes Wilson decides the best option is to tuck the ball, pick up as many yards as he can and find safety, whether that’s sliding or getting out of bounds.
Such was the case on Monday, when Wilson took advantage of Washington not respecting his running ability. The result was 122 yards rushing, some of the yards coming by design, but many being improvised.
“I try to slow it down as much as I can. I try to be very clear-minded and keep my eyes down field. I trust what I see and if it’s not there just salvage the play,” Wilson said. “That’s something I learned at a young age. My dad used to always tell me when I was younger to just salvage the play, move onto the next play.”
Wilson’s past two games were a clinic in the balance between his threat of running and being a traditional pocket passer. When Seattle beat Denver 26-20 in overtime on Sept. 20, Wilson decided during the extra session that he wasn’t going to give Peyton Manning another possession. That meant running. Twice Wilson converted third downs with scramble runs, leading to Marshawn Lynch’s game-winning touchdown.
“I knew that I had to fight for it. Sometimes in a game, you have to pick and choose, when to stay in there a little bit longer, when to throw it, and when to slide,” Wilson said after the win. “And that’s not one of those times, I don’t believe. I’m usually pretty smart on getting down and running out of bounds or whatever, but when the game is on the line and you have Peyton Manning over there on the other side, you know you have to make some plays.”
Against Washington, Wilson and the Seahawks ran by design early in the game, a nod to late in his rookie season, when Seattle first introduced the zone-read as part of its offense. Two of his first four carries were designed keepers, but of his 11 total carries, six were pass plays where Wilson tucked and ran.
“He’s smarter and more aware of everything that we ask of him now, and he will continue to get better,” Carroll said.
Wilson has managed to keep his running as part of Seattle’s game plan without exposing himself to injury. Wilson is not a long-strider like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. He doesn’t have the size to run with the brute force and speed of Carolina’s Cam Newton. And Wilson certainly doesn’t have the speed or elusiveness of Washington’s Robert Griffin III as a runner.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Wilson has the third-most rushing attempts and fourth-most yards rushing of any quarterback in the NFL. He’s tied with Griffin for the second-most runs that have gone for first downs with 66, both trailing far behind Newton’s 97. But Wilson has an understanding of situation. More than half of his yards and first-down runs have come in the second half and overtime.
Usually when Wilson gets out of the pocket, he wants the ball out of his hands. The team has acknowledged it wants to be the “best scrambling team” in the NFL. Receivers have spots they’ll try to reach when the play breaks down and keep an eye on whether Wilson’s about to throw their way or if it’s time to block.
“Scramble rules just kind of develop when he gets out of the pocket,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We run our route and if he scrambles out of the pocket we’ll hear the crowd cheering or look at the big screen and see him out of the pocket and we just play backyard football and get open for him.”