Russell Wilson is struggling so far this season and a mitigating reason might be he’s been playing with a strained latissimus dorsi (lat in layman terms) near his throwing shoulder, as reported by ESPN.
And Wilson is hopeful he can overcome his discomfort with an injection he received last week in Los Angeles, an unorthodox treatment for an injury that typically requires rest, as reported by the NFL Network.
But that’s not all that’s troubling the Denver Broncos quarterback, as reported by OutKick.
Look elsewhere for the problems, scouts and a former NFL coach told OutKick on Tuesday.
“It stars with his legs,” one scout said.
“He’s not comfortable with his surroundings,” a former coach said.
Together those issues have Wilson off to the worst start of his career. He’s completing a career low 59.4 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 4 TDs but also has 3 interceptions, which is terribly uncharacteristic for a quarterback who before this season averaged 3.3 times as many touchdown passes as interceptions per season.
So, yeah, something is amiss.
Wilson is on the record as understanding something is wrong.
“Going through hell?”
“I didn’t see that one,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “I mean, Russell’s a competitor and he knows that we’re not where we want to be. And I know he wants to do everything in his power to get this offense and this team to where we all want to be.
“We’re 2-3. We are who we are. We need to get better and he knows that. He’s going to do everything in his power to get us there.”
There should be no doubting Wilson. His history — including overcoming pre-draft analysts saying he was too short, bouncing back from an infamous Super Bowl interception, coming back from injuries like last year’s broken finger faster than anyone expected — suggests he will somehow find a way to fix things.
But maybe this is the one time he can no longer overcome his problems because the stuff holding him back is beyond repair.
Age Is A Factor
“He’s almost 34 years and watching his tape, he’s simply not explosive anymore,” one source said. “He can’t escape the pocket like he used to, he doesn’t make the defense pay in the open field like he used to, he can’t extend plays like he used to, so it’s no surprise he’s just not the same player he used to be.”
It could be argued age shouldn’t be a factor in this equation but it does because it means Wilson has played a long time. And during his 11-year career he has absorbed 443 sacks.
“That takes a cumulative toll,” one NFL personnel man said. “He’ll never admit it because the guy is a warrior but it makes the average quarterback not love getting hit anymore. So now he’s getting rid of the football faster to avoid the hits. And that means he’s not going through his entire progression every time.
“You saw it on that last play of the game last week.”
We all saw Wilson in his element: Fourth down with the game on the line and the ball in his hands.
And on the game-deciding pass play he threw an incompletion to a covered receiver in the back of the end zone after not taking his eyes off that receiver. All while another receiver was open on a rub route on the other side of the field.
“He didn’t see him because he didn’t come off the guy he trusts, so that’s not really knowing your teammates,” a former coach said. “And he’s not scrambling to buy time, eyes downfield, looking to make an off-schedule play.
“All that is Russell Wilson’s game and it’s not all there right now. I don’t think any of that has to do with a sore shoulder.”
Statistics Show The Problem
If Wilson has indeed lost some explosion in his legs, statistics should bear that out.
Well, Wilson three years ago was averaging 5.1 rushes per game. Most of those were not designed but rather him improvising to escape pressure.
This year he’s averaging 3.4 rushes per game.
And just as the number of times Wilson escapes the pocket has decreased, so has the number of rushing first downs decreased, from 1.5 per game in 2020 to less than one per game this season.
In other words, the legs don’t always seem to be there in Wilson’s game anymore. The escapability that in the past made poor offensive lines a nuisance for the Seattle Seahawks now is making an average offensive line in Denver a serious problem.
So Wilson cannot turn problem situations into great plays as often.
Broncos Have A Nemesis
“Negative plays,” Hackett said. “I think that’s been one of our nemeses. We’ve been really good in some explosive passes down the field. But we’re really feast or famine in the red zone and the middle of the field.
“We need to be way more efficient on first down, getting positive yards and incompletions instead of sacks or penalties.”
So how does Wilson fix this? How does he play up to the standards of a quarterback the Broncos traded multiple first- and second-round picks for and then paid $245 million to?
“He’ll have his moments but being the guy he was in 2014 again is going to be hard,” the coach told OutKick. “He’s not getting younger in the next four years.”
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