The Denver Broncos are familiar with Russell Wilson.
Too familiar. 43-8 is a score we all wish we could forget.
And now four years after that train wreck, it would be nice to think the Seahawks’ mobile QB had lost a step heading into his seventh year.
Sorry. That is actually fake news.
In fact, if anything, Wilson could be more dangerous because he has developed his passing game in recent years, making him a more legit dual threat with his legs and arm.
“Oh man. I’ll tell you what. I don’t think any pass rusher likes going against Russell Wilson. He’s just a handful,” Von Miller told the Seattle media on Wednesday. “He’s elusive; he makes plays with his feet, arm, everything. And I’m sure if you did a poll around the league right now, if you asked how many guys would want to go against Russell Wilson, nobody would raise their hand.”
Safety Justin Simmons probably wouldn’t either.
“I would say he’s probably the most accurate thrower on the run,” said safety Justin Simmons. “We’re obviously going to have to be able to get after him, and with that, we know that they’re probably going to put him on the run and on the move so he can make accurate throws out of the pocket where he’s not being pressured.”
Simmons is not alone in his wariness of Wilson’s ability. Even though only a handful of the Broncos’ defenders played in Super Bowl 48, the unit certainly knows No. 3 is still a problem to cover.
“Everybody has to keep their lanes, and people have to keep contain — the outside rushers do — and we have to cover twice,” Brandon Marshall said, noting that he definitely doesn’t see a drop-off in the Seahawks’ team despite a lot of different players. “When we think we have them covered, the guy can scramble and then he’ll get open. We have to cover them longer unfortunately. It’s going to be a tough day.”
Russell Wilson has started all 96 regular-season games thru 6 seasons. Average year: 11-5, 27 TDs, 9 INT, 3,696 yards; 546 rushing yards. I knew he was good. But those numbers are something. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 5, 2018
Shane Ray - who joked that he “hates” covering mobile quarterbacks - also emphasized defenders staying in their lanes to keep Wilson from escaping and gaining big yardage on the ground.
“Obviously, he does an excellent job of using his legs to make plays. We all know what he does in the pass game, but in the run game he’s probably right behind Cam [Newton] as far as what he does with his feet,” Ray said. “Everybody has got to be on the same page, everybody has to be in their rushing lanes to contain him and make sure we don’t let him use his legs. Get out of the pocket and throw a deep ball at someone. You’ll see him scramble, and then throw a ball 60 yards down the field, touchdown. ...You’ve just got to be on your toes.”
The biggest adjustment to covering a rushing QB like Wilson isn’t containing him as much as it is just needing to be ready to always do more - and never knowing which way it could go - Ray said.
“You’re already converting so much energy rushing the quarterback, trying to beat your guy. Then you might beat your guy and he’ll slip this way to run back this way, and you’re still chasing him,” Ray said. “It just adds a different dynamic to his game, and it adds more to what we have to do as a defense. So, we’ve got to keep rushing harder and we’ve got to have our back-end guys basically cover ‘cover guys twice,’ is what we say. You cover him, then when Russell starts scrambling, you’ve got to recover your guy because he could be the one he’s looking for to throw the ball to.”
Darian Stewart is well aware of the “covering twice” concept for Wilson, and the Broncos’ safety knows that’s what he and his No Fly Zone pals will have to do.
“You definitely have to have that mentality,” Stewart said. “[Wilson] is an athletic quarterback that can extend plays. As DBs, we have to notice who’s down and just relax and keep comfortable.”
Russell Wilson has accounted for (thrown or rushed for) 82.1 percent of the @Seahawks scrimmage yards this season.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 16, 2017
That's the highest such percentage by a player in any season in the Super Bowl era. pic.twitter.com/OjweQ1NEOK
“Relaxing” around Wilson might be tough, as he accounted for most of his team’s scrimmage yards last season, according to NFL Research.
“He’s the best. He is the best movement quarterback in this entire league,” coach Vance Joseph noted, adding that Wilson had the most 10+yard runs as a quarterback last season. “Obviously, he’s going to escape from time to time, so our coverage guys have to cover twice. When the ball’s snapped, they have to cover the concept, and when he starts scrambling, they have to cover the scramble plays.
“All of the big plays go through Russell, and most of them are outside of the pocket,” Joseph added. “He’s a dangerous guy.”