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Russell Wilson improved play vs. the Raiders encouraging, but is it enough?

Russell Wilson looked much closer to his Seattle form vs. the Las Vegas Raiders last week in the opener loss, but in the end, the scoreboard still showed just 16 points for the Denver Broncos

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As fans groaned and cursed watching the Las Vegas Raiders kneel out the clock for a season-opening win over the Denver Broncos, something got lost in the aftermath and emotional reactions.

Russell Wilson looked much, much better than he did just about all of last season.

His stat line wasn’t exactly reminiscent of Peyton Manning circa 2013, but he finished the game completing 27-34 for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a go-ahead pass to Courtland Sutton to give the team the lead at halftime.

Those numbers were good enough to earn Wilson a QBR of 74.7, good enough for fifth in the league after week one, and a passer rating fo 108, good enough for fifth as well.

Yet, the number that sticks out the most remains 16: the Broncos’ final output. And the money owed to Wilson is going to be hard to get around, so for a guy getting paid so much only to produce 16 points, is getting excited or even simply optimistic about a decent stat line (especially when most starting QBs looked terrible) a naive reaction to a troubling reality?

Former head coach and current analyst Eric Mangini urged caution to anyone hovering around the edge of the cliff during an appearance with Colin Cowherd on The Herd.

“(He) may not be the Russell Wilson that we knew in Seattle, it just has to be better than what we saw last year,” Mangini said. “And I thought there was improvement in this first showing. And with Sean (Payton), he’s going to get Russell’s greatest hits. He’s going to give him the things that he does well, and in time, hopefully Russ will be able to take the best things from Sean’s system and be very productive in it.”

The Payton factor is certainly something fans should keep in mind when monitoring Wilson’s progress through the first part of the season. The Super Bowl winning coach, even with a stumble out of the gate, is a major upgrade over Nathaniel Hackett and is known for getting the best out of his QBs.

Payton didn’t get the best, per se, of Wilson this past Sunday, but he did get a very productive performance than can be built on moving forward. And there were also some hiccups Wilson can’t be held responsible for, like Philip Dorsett running out of bounds on the sideline, costing the team a huge gain and favorable field position in Raiders’ territory, The team would be forced to try a deep field goal and missed. It wasn’t a great way to start the second half.

He also can’t be fully blamed for the offense only having six drives the whole game. The defense has to be able to get off the field, and allowing the Raiders to milk the last five minutes of the game was a nail in the coffin.

It also can’t be ignored that right before that drive, the offense suffered a three-and-out when they needed to make a play the most. It didn’t happen, and high-priced QBs are paid that much to make those kind of conversions.

As of now, the silver lining is that Wilson looked extremely efficient throughout most of the game, that Sean Payton is a far better coach than Hackett and should be able to make the necessary adjustments that will allow Wilson to continue to improve, and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is expected to return this Sunday.

Not having WR1 on the field last week certainly made a difference.

Wilson had a performance that showed promise, and he looks more smooth in the pocket and has a much better offensive line protecting him.

But these “silver linings” are only going to be tolerated by a fan base eager for wins, so while performances like this can be viewed as “encouraging”, they can’t turn into the norm.

Sean Payton is good at winning football games, and Russell Wilson used to be, too. The two men are going to have to work with one another to ensure that this performance is simply a taste of what the offense can be and not the full meal.

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