“If you didn’t know he was a rookie, you wouldn’t think he was.” – Ray Horton
The words uttered from the mouth of the Cardinals’ respected blitz-happy defensive coordinator were a sign of the utmost respect towards the young man the football world calls “DangeRuss,” a heavily scrutinized athlete prior to being selected 75th overall in the 2012 draft who has now gained full backing from rabid football fanatics and support league wide. Gil Brandt perhaps gave the biggest endorsement through the eyes of a personnel man when he said, “You go broke looking for those guys. For every guy that you draft, that’s three inches and four inches below the accepted minimum, 99 of 100 are going to fail. He’s a real exception.”
In noting Wilson’s size deficiency, Brandt was referring to the stereotypical and much misplaced analysis that many draft gurus, including the brains of many professional shot callers, had of the passer coming out. I don’t need to elaborate much on this, as the story has been written and re-written countless times, but it’s still one to take note of; that is because many did knock Wilson, which is why he slipped to the 75th pick when he had the talent deserving of a very early selection. Again, Brandt confirmed this thought of mine (and many others’) by saying that “if he were two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier, he’d be a top-10 pick.”
Wilson is playing like a top-10 pick through 14 weeks of the season, and has been as important to his team as Luck and Griffin have to theirs. He has a quarterback rating of 95, 20 touchdowns, and nine measly interceptions. He’s also completing 63 percent of his passes while averaging 25 throws a game. The latter statistic falls just short of Griffin’s average of 27 a game and significantly shorter than Luck’s 45, but the former is higher than Luck’s by nine percent and slightly behind Griffin’s 66 percent. Nevertheless, the numbers are impressive, and some of them could have been even better had he not gotten benched last game.
It was a rather uncommon situation at CenturyLink Field last Sunday. Through two full quarters and one drive in the third, Wilson was 7 of 13 with a touchdown and interception, and his team was winning by 45 points. It’s not often a team has a 45-point lead against their opponents in this land of parity — I use the term loosely in this case — that is known as the NFL, right? Such was the case last Sunday, and Wilson was to be relegated in favor of initially popular but since forgotten offseason signing Matt Flynn.
Before Wilson took to his seat in the third quarter, he threw his one and only touchdown in the second. It came right before halftime, with 11 seconds left on the clock. Wilson first received the play call in his ear and then walked to the huddle, leaning over with a slight bend at the waist and telling everyone where they would be aligning and what their jobs were. During this time, one of the commentators boasted about him, saying “what a superb pick by John Schneider, the general manager…” Then the players clapped altogether before diverging to their alignments and Wilson turned around and took a step to reach his five-yard depth for a shotgun alignment.
As he leaned forward in shotgun set to catch the snap, Wilson had three receivers evenly distributed to his right and two others to his left. This created an Empty set, and the Seahawks would be running four-verticals from it, which consisted of four receivers running either go-routes or in the case of the tight end, a slight double move. Conversely, the Cardinals were going to be playing four across, Quarters coverage; a concept that divided the field into fourths in the deep end while the underneath saw three zone defenders.
Wilson figured this out before the snap by going through his various checks, and after catching the ball, he immediately looked to his near then deep left, where one of the safetys was covering. The safety was reading the eyes of Wilson and running vertically with the slot receiver, who took advantage of the safety’s assignment of running with him down the field. This was done by the safety in order to form double coverage with the cornerback, but what it really did was benefit Wilson as the seam spread. Then, Wilson shifted his eyes to the opposite safety.
The second safety had the same responsibilities and was dealing with the same issue of a slot receiver running vertically and as a result, was forced to cover him.
Wilson then looked to the middle of the field, where tight end Zach Miller was running a seam route that started as an inside route before being turned downfield. Seeing that Miller had a step on the middle linebacker and the safeties were occupied outside of the hashes, he lobbed a pass over the top that led his tight end into the end zone for six points.
The throw was the second to last for the young quarterback on the day, and it gave the Seahawks a 38-point lead going into the half. It also exhibited how far along he was as a passer, as he scanned the field patiently like a veteran before delivering the exquisite pass over the middle. In a phone interview with NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington the following day, he joked about his sabbatical, saying “I don’t remember the last time I was on the sideline for that long.”
When discussing the wins that the rookie quarterback class has piled up, Wilson added, “That’s what the NFL is about. Great players play great in big-time situations, and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve always dreamed of being a Super Bowl winning quarterback, doing great things.”
If he continues to be DangeRuss, the Seahawks could get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2006 and, according to Ray Horton, it would all be because of Wilson’s play:
“I think it is everything. Last year they had a mobile, athletic quarterback in (Tarvaris) Jackson, but they didn’t go far,” Horton said. “I would put all of it on him (Wilson).”