RENTON Is Russell Wilson still hurt?
Or, at least, is the Seahawks’ quarterback still limited in his running and lacking speed because of the high-ankle sprain and sprained knee he got in mid and late September?
Wilson’s season has gone from getting the bad ankle sprain in the opening game Sept. 11 when Miami’s Ndamukong Suh sacked him to the sprained medial collateral ligament he got two weeks later he got when San Francisco’s Eli Harold sacked him; doctors advised him the latter injury should have led to four weeks of rest. He didn’t miss a practice and played on, through months of waking up in the middle of nights for rehabilitation. In that span, he wore a bulky brace. He wasn’t running as he had for some many brilliant, improvisational plays in his first four seasons leading Seattle.
Then, the brace on his left knee got smaller. And in games such as the win at New England in mid-November, versus Philadelphia the next week and the blowout of Carolina to begin December, Wilson looked fast again. The running game starting getting 2012-15-like numbers of 152 and 240 yards in games.
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But in the last couple weeks, notably Sunday on the grass field in Santa Clara against San Francisco, Wilson appeared slower again.
Following Tuesday’s practice for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against Detroit at CenturyLink Field, I asked offensive coordinator and play caller Darrell Bevell if he thinks Wilson is still slowed from and bothered by those injuries.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure,” Bevell said. “You know, it’s funny, we look back at some earlier cut-ups (of game plays) and we’re like, ‘Man! Look at that guy!’ He looks really fast and really quick and moving. But sometimes you see it each and every day.
“I don’t know if he’s a hundred percent. He’s probably not running 4.4, like he was coming out of the combine.
“But, obviously, he still runs well enough to be able to do the things that we need him to do.”
Bevell has called far fewer runs for Wilson this season because of the injuries. Wilson rushed a career-low 72 times, and 32 of those were scrambles on which he was forced to try to run away from pass rushers.
Consequently, defenses have been playing Wilson and the Seahawks differently. Fewer are devoting linebackers, ends or extra defensive backs as spies behind the line of scrimmage to track Wilson trying to run around the ends, as foes had been doing for years. More defenses are stacking the inside run lanes and overwhelming Seattle’s iffy offensive line, without as much concern that Wilson will burn that approach by keeping the ball around the end on read-option plays. There have been fewer of those keepers by Seattle’s QB this season.
And, as Bevell and line coach Tom Cable acknowledged Tuesday, another effect has been the Seahawks’ play-action passing that had been so effective when they were one of the top rushing teams in the league has suffered with Seattle 25th in the NFL in rushing this regular season.
The Seahawks called 609 pass plays this season, including the 42 plays on which they got sacked. They had 403 rushing attempts, minus the 34 scrambles by Wilson (32) and backup quarterback Trevone Boykin (two), for 369 called runs. A split of 609 passes to 369 runs is SO far out of whack from any other season since Pete Carroll arrived to install his run-based philosophies in 2010.
All of that is related to Wilson getting hurt -- and still appearing to be less than 100-percent healed.
All of that needs to get better for the Seahawks to advance deep into these playoffs.