Russell Wilson in 2016-17: A Deep Passing Game Analysis

Russell Wilson

2016-17 NFL SEASON
353 completions on 546 passing attempts, 4,219 passing yards, 64.7% completion, 7.73YPA, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 92.6 passer rating, 41 sacks for 293 yards

40 completions on 60 passing attempts, 449 passing yards, 66.7% completion, 7.5YPA, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 97.2 passer rating, 6 sacks for 31 yards

Page 1: Introduction and 1st Quarter (Weeks 1-4)
Page 2: 2nd Quarter (Weeks 6-9)
Page 3: 3rd Quarter (Weeks 10-13)
Page 4: 4th Quarter (Weeks 14-17)
Page 5: Playoffs and Conclusion

In a year characterized by injury for some of its most important players, Seattle struggled to find consistency, ultimately suffering another early road playoff game exit. The offense in specific had issues on finding their identity much throughout the season. Injuries to the running back position coupled with inexperience of Seattle’s offensive line resulted in a giant decrease in running efficiency.

Along with the decline of the running game, Wilson’s ability to throw an accurate deep ball throughout the season was erratic at best. Traditionally an accurate deep ball passer, Wilson and the offense’s struggles became the face of the 2016 season, with the offense never returning to their 2015 level of execution with any regularity. One of Seattle’s major issue was an inability to capitalize in the red zone, ranking a mere 25th in red zone scoring percentage (TDs). In addition, Seattle also ranked a league average 15th in third down percentage.

The deep passing game declined this season for 3 primary reasons.

  1. Russell Wilson suffered 3 major injuries, including his high ankle sprain, MCL sprain, and pectoral strain, limiting his mobility and ultimately causing mechanics issues later in the season. These injuries ultimately seemed to drastically impact Seattle’s offensive game-plan in different parts of the season.
  2. A decline in the running game, marred by injuries to running backs, the quarterback, and an inability to run block with any consistency. Seattle used a total 11 different players at the RB at some point this year, forcing the brunt of the offense onto the passing game. The offense ended up relying too much on an injured Russell Wilson and a young offensive line. 
  3. Protection continued its worrisome trend of appearing to decline even further this season. Due to the offensive line’s inexperience, Russell Wilson played with more pressure than ever. 

Overall, there were some notable times this year when Wilson was able to accurately deliver his deep ball on a consistent basis. However, too many of Wilson’s deep throws this year were due to him overthrowing his receiver, with throwing mechanics often the issue; often cited as a result of his injuries this past season. 

Seattle’s focus on signing offensive lineman and running backs in free agency show their dedication to bringing a better running game to Seattle in the upcoming 2017 season. Ultimately, this will prove to Russell Wilson’s benefit, as he is one of the better play-action passing quarterbacks in the league. This article will attempt to look at Russell Wilson’s passes per game of the 2016 season using a short, intermediate, and deep passing scale system. Charting per section will display the amount of air yards with each throw, regardless of yards after catch. Analysis of most of the complete and incomplete deep passes (21+) will follow. Deep throws that resulted in pass interference for either team were not included.

SHORT: 0 – 10 yards
INTERMEDIATE: 11 – 20 yards
DEEP: 21+ yards



SHORT: 157 yards, 1 touchdown, 21/35 – 60%
INTERMEDIATE: 77 yards, 5/5 – 100%
DEEP: 24 yards, 1 interception, 1/3 – 33%

27/43 for 258 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 62.8% completion, 6YPA, 77.5 passer rating, 3 sacks for 18 yards

One sprained ankle for Wilson and one dropped deep touchdown by Stills complimented a game dominated by both defenses, resulting in a Seahawks win of 12-10.

1-10-SEA 31, 4th quarter
(9:24) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 15-J.Kearse ran ob at MIA 45 for 24 yards

The Dolphins are showing a single high safety look are playing in man coverage. Before the play starts Miami’s corner shows blitz (#20), Wilson recognizes this blitz and adjusts his protections. Wilson completes his first pass of over 21+ yards this game by throwing a perfect back shoulder fade to Jermaine Kearse (#15) against CB Byron Maxwell. Kearse plays the pass perfectly, using a slight push to help create separation and adjust for the pass.

At the time, the pass was a comforting sign given the injury to Wilson’s ankle. Wilson only attempted 3 deep passes the entire game, as the Seahawks struggled to establish a consistent pocket.


SHORT: 119 yards, 17/26 – 65%
INTERMEDIATE: 47 yards, 3/4 – 75%
DEEP: 88 yards, 2/5 – 40%

22/35 for 254 passing yards, 62.9% completion, 7.26YPA, 84.7 passer rating, 2 sacks for 15 yards

1-10-SEA 31 – 1st quarter
(4:59) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 16-T.Lockett to LA 34 for 35 yards (31-M.Alexander).

Seattle comes out with 3 tight ends showing a heavy run formation on the field. Consequently, the Rams stack the line of scrimmage with a 9 man box, and are playing man coverage with a single high safety. The formation fools the Rams and they let TE Luke Willson (#82) run free up the middle of the field. Wilson elects to throw to Tyler Lockett (#16) instead, who creates a yard of separation because of his release and speed. Wilson throws this pass with DT Dominique Easley in his face as RG J’marcus Webb attempts to block him.

3-7-SEA 33 – 2nd quarter
(10:44) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to 10-P.Richardson (32-T.Hill).

The Rams are showing another aggressive look with a 8-man box and no safety deep and as a result Seattle decides to throw the ball deep again, searching for a one on one. Rams corners are playing off to avoid giving up a deep pass. The Rams blitz 5 but the offensive line is able to provide a pocket for Russell Wilson, who recognizes the cover 0 look and audibles to his offense. Wilson throws to Paul Richardson (#10) who is almost able to adjust to the pass but is unable to come down with it.

1-10-SEA 39 – 4th quarter
(6:58) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to 10-P.Richardson. LA-32-T.Hill was injured during the play. His return is Probable.

This pass represents one of the major issues that Russell Wilson had throwing deep this year, which was him overthrowing his receiver. The Rams blitz 5 and are playing man coverage with another deep safety look. The pass falls out of bounds and does not give his receiver a chance. Wilson showed trust in Paul Richardson (#10) early in the season to come down with these balls in traffic, but did not find much success.

1-10-SEA 12 – 4th quarter
(1:53) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 16-T.Lockett to LA 35 for 53 yards (32-T.Hill). 

The Rams only rush 4 and are playing a zone look. One of the Rams safeties is playing in the box, but retreats to the middle of the field when Russell Wilson snaps the ball in an attempt to confuse him. The Rams give up a majestic rainbow of a pass from Wilson. Tyler Lockett (#16) makes an incredible adjustment to come down with the pass but is unable to keep his feet and continue running.


SHORT: 50 yards, 8/12 – 67%
INTERMEDIATE: 60 yards, 1 touchdown, 4/6 – 67%
DEEP: 133 yards, 3/5 – 60%

15/23 for 243 passing yards, 65.2% completion, 10.57YPA, 1 touchdown, 114.9 passer rating, 2 sacks for 17 yards

2-10-SEA 25, 1st quarter
(14:56) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 89-D.Baldwin pushed ob at SF 41 for 34 yards (41-A.Bethea).

Two weeks out from a high ankle sprain brought Russell Wilson one of his best deep passing performances of the year. It wasn’t until midway through the 3rd quarter where Wilson suffered a significant MCL sprain, eventually pushing him out of the game a few plays later.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Seattle chooses to throw again on second down. Jimmy Graham (#88) motions closer to the offensive line drawing his corner with him, signaling man coverage. Wilson audibles to his offense to take advantage of the coverage that he sees. San Francisco appears to be playing in a cover 1 with a single high safety. The near rub route here succeeds as Jermaine Kearse (#15) smartly avoids contact with Doug Baldwin’s (#89) defender. The two run a switch route, that combined with Baldwin’s excellent release creates separation and a window for a deep throw. Wilson throws a dime to Baldwin and gains an explosive play almost immediately on the opening drive. Seattle’s offensive line holds up well against this four man rush giving Wilson plenty of time to set his feet and make an accurate throw.

3-14-SEA 23, 2nd quarter
(8:48) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep middle to 89-D.Baldwin to SF 18 for 59 yards (35-E.Reid).

The second of Russell Wilson’s deep completions to Doug Baldwin (#89), one of his best throws of the year resulted in completely flipping the field, on a 3rd and 14 no less. San Francisco chooses only to rush three lineman and drops eight defenders in coverage. Wilson takes advantage of the lack of pressure to give Baldwin time to get open and develop his route down the field. The Seahawks utilize a bunch formation here, making press coverage on the receivers more difficult. Baldwin takes advantage of this with his superior speed, and takes a sharp cut mid-route to create separation. Both safeties drop to Willson in the middle of the field leaving Baldwin one on one on the outside.

3-17-SEA 36, 2nd quarter
(2:40) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep middle to 88-J.Graham to SF 24 for 40 yards (35-E.Reid; 29-J.Tartt) [51-G.Hodges]. Penalty on SF-55-A.Brooks, Defensive Offside, declined.

Another 3rd down and long, another Russell Wilson deep completion. Seattle had no problem protecting against San Francisco’s defensive line all game allowing him to throw deep 5 times in total. This completion to Jimmy Graham (#88) on a defensive offsides penalty might be the most significant, exemplifying the trust Wilson has in his tight end and displaying Graham’s ability to come down with the ball that no other Seahawk player has been able to do in recent memory.

Seattle goes with 4 wide receivers to spread the field, leaving RB Alex Collins in to help pass protect. San Francisco attempts to confuse Seattle’s line by playing with a 3-man rush, using two DTs in modified 3 point stance, and one DE in a 2 point stance on the left ege. They place two corners on the left side of the field, eventually blitzing one of them along with the linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who draws the offsides penalty. Knowing he has a free play, Wilson heaves a pass to his biggest target on the field who is able to come down with the catch in-between two defenders.


SHORT: 101 yards, 2 touchdowns, 15/22 – 68%
INTERMEDIATE: 50 yards, 3/4 – 75%
DEEP: 158 yards, 1 touchdown, 5/6 – 83%

23/32 for 309 passing yards, 71.9% completion, 9.6YPA, 3 touchdowns, 133.5 passer rating, 2 sacks for 21 yards

Wilson excelled in passing deep against the New York Jets. Initial fear regarding his immobility and the ferocity of the Jet’s defensive line did not deter Wilson from hitting all levels of the field with strong accuracy. This was one of Wilson’s best games all year in terms of spreading deep targets around to all of his receivers.

2-11-SEA 7, 2nd quarter
(15:00) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep right to 88-J.Graham to SEA 34 for 27 yards (50-D.Lee) [91-S.Richardson].

One of Jimmy Graham’s best games as a Seattle Seahawk had him make at least 3 incredible grabs for sizable chunks of yardage.

It’s 2nd and 11 and the Jets are showing an aggressive no safety look, stacking the box with 8 defenders. Wilson recognizes the look and audibles to his offense. As Doug Baldwin motions across the line of scrimmage Darelle Revis (#24) is pulled from the box and follows him signaling man coverage. The Jets decide to block 5, and the failed cut block from LT Bradley Sowell results in almost immediate pressure for Wilson.

Waiting any second longer on this throw would’ve resulted in a sack or a turnover. Wilson takes the matchup against a linebacker, and throws an accurate deep ball to hit Jimmy Graham (#88) in stride down the sideline.

2-8-NYJ 48, 2nd quarter
(13:16) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep middle to 89-D.Baldwin to NYJ 10 for 38 yards

Seattle shows a run formation to the Jets by coming out in an I-look with TE Brandon Williams (#86) in the H-back role. The Jets stack the box with six defenders and play their S Calvin Pryor, in short right field.

The offensive line does a solid job picking up the stunt by Muhammed Wilkerson (#96), as he twists into the A gap and is picked by C Justin Britt (after he blocks his initial defender), and RB Christine Michael. RG Germain Ifedi works to block Britt’s previous defender and create a pocket for Wilson to work up into.

Wilson runs play-action to his RB and chooses to step up almost immediately to mitigate the edge pressure. Wilson maintains great footwork here while continuing to look downfield for a passing target. While TE Luke Willson (#82) is also open on the intermediate short right, Wilson chooses to go to Doug Baldwin (#89) after looking at his outlet in short left field. He threads the needle in-between an incoming Pryor and Baldwin is able to hold onto the ball after an illegal hit by the safety.

1-10-NYJ 42, 2nd quarter
(3:54) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 19-T.McEvoy for 42 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

The Seahawks return in an identical formation to the previous play, just flipped to the other side. The Jets return in what looks like practically the exact same coverage, but this time their corners are playing less off and they are playing in zone.

Wilson runs play-action and again senses edge pressure, utilizes the same move as the last play, and steps up in the pocket to find his receiver open down the field. Future Hall of Famer, Tanner McEvoy (#19), jukes S Calvin Pryor out of his shoes and finds himself wide-open for a touchdown.

2-6-SEA 43, 4th quarter
(13:41) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 88-J.Graham pushed ob at NYJ 33 for 24 yards (50-D.Lee)

The Seahawks spread their receivers out by playing empty, 4 WRs and 1 TE (01 personnel). The Jets respond with a cover 2 man look, and again Wilson looks to find his match-up, Jimmy Graham (#88) on LB Darron Lee again. The Jets run a stunt that is picked up sufficiently by LG Mark Glowinski and Wilson throws a ball that lands in between two defenders on the redline, ignoring immediate edge pressure from his left tackle.

1-10-NYJ 33, 4th quarter
(13:06) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 10-P.Richardson to NYJ 6 for 27 yards

The Seahawks place their receivers in wide splits on each ends of the field. Typically, the Seahawks like to run out of this formation as pulls defenders out of the box towards the sideline, in order to create running lanes on the edge for the running backs and Russell Wilson. The Jets have a safety deep with their corners in man coverage, and a LB dropping into zone to take Doug Baldwin (#89) as an outlet away.

By placing Paul Richardson (#10) behind Baldwin hte Seahawks are assuring by formation that he cannot be pressed at the line of scrimmage. A ball with more arc to it might’ve resulted in a touchdown, but Richardson makes a great adjustment and comes down with the difficult grab. Richardson’s speed really shows up here as he gains separation from his defender as he runs down the field.


SHORT: 427 yards, 2 touchdowns, 61/95 – 64%
INTERMEDIATE: 234 yards, 1 touchdown, 15/19 – 79%
DEEP: 403 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 11/19 – 57%

1,064 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 87 completions and 133 attempts – 65%.


…continue on to PAGE 2


Page 1: Introduction and 1st Quarter (Weeks 1-4)
Page 2: 2nd Quarter (Weeks 6-9)
Page 3: 3rd Quarter (Weeks 10-13)
Page 4: 4th Quarter (Weeks 14-17)
Page 5: Playoffs and Conclusion

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