'Always a threat': Lions still leery of Russell Wilson's ability to run
Allen Park – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has averaged more than 500 rushing yards per season his first six years in the league, but has dialed back that element of his game this year. Through six games, Wilson has gained just 62 yards on the ground.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, in a conference call with Detroit media this week, said he's not forcing the stylistic shift on his quarterback.
“He’s always a threat to run,” Carroll said. “We’re not trying to restrict him in any way, he just hasn’t had to as much. Pass protection has been more solid the last four weeks and it’s made a difference. He hasn’t had to scramble as much. But he’s always part of our thoughts in the running game and I’ve never discouraged him from running. Whether it’s a scramble or out of the running-game approach, he knows how to get down, he knows when to take his chances and all of that, and I’ve trusted him for years in that regard. So, he’ll be ready to roll if you give him the chance.”
Carroll isn’t wrong. The much-maligned Seahawks offense line is doing a better job protecting Wilson this season. It would be a stretch to say the blocking has been good, but it’s certainly improved.
According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks allowed pressure on 36.9 percent of dropbacks in 2017. That’s down to 31.7 percent this year, which is still in the bottom 10 of the league.
Also contributing has been a quicker trigger finger for the quarterback. He’s trimmed more than a tenth of a second off his average time to attempt a pass this year, giving opponents less time to impact him in the pocket.
Finally, the Seahawks’ overall ground game, long a staple of their offensive success, is trending up after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Led by the tandem of Mike Davis and Chris Carson, the team is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. And first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny, who has had a sluggish start to his inaugural campaign, is starting to come on, with 18 carries for 92 yards in his past two games.
The Lions are preparing for all the subtle tweaks to Seattle’s offensive scheme, but they’ll keep a leery eye cast on Wilson, who has 21 carries of at least 20 yards during his career, and an equal number of games with 50 rushing yards.
“I think you have to pay attention to it and I think you have to go in there on every down and you have to defend Russell Wilson’s ability to run the ball,” Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “The plays are designed that way, so whether he hands it off or keeps it is really not the issue. You have to be in position to play him because at a critical moment in the game, he may pull it and run. So, you certainly cannot fall asleep on him.”