Russell Wilson is damn good at just about everything. He’s deadeye accurate, he throws one of the most beautiful deep balls in the game and he’s as clutch as anybody. But maybe Wilson’s most elite and unrivaled trait is his production in the scramble drill.
There are several quarterbacks in the NFL with the athleticism to avoid a pass rush and keep plays alive. But Wilson’s ability to extend a play, keep his eyes downfield, reset his feet (or not) and then deliver a dart downfield is uncanny. And it’s not just short checkdowns, either. Wilson’s insane vision, mechanics and arm strength allow him to create explosives in these situations.
It’s why Wilson is able to burn even the most talented secondaries. The Patriots have one of the best, led by safety Devon McCourty and the talented corner duo of Stephon Gillmore and JC Jackson.
But for as good as that group is, they’ll need help from New England’s front seven in order to keep Wilson in check.
“For them, it’s critical to not only keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, but use that crush rush that they always talk about in New England,” Phil Perry of NBCS Boston said on the Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast, “which is, they’re not always going to have guys ripping through offensive linemen and trying to fly up the field, because that’s when you leave running lanes open for somebody as athletic as Russell Wilson. You have to control your offensive linemen and push him back into the pocket and try to collapse Wilson inside that pocket.”
That, as Perry noted, is far easier said than done. Most opposing defenses have a similar game plan but very few are actually able to execute it. New England, while obviously well coached with Bill Belichick still at the helm, might not have the elite pass rushers and linebackers needed to contain Wilson.
“I’m not sure they can do that. They lost a lot from that front seven last year,” Perry said. “Chase Winovich is dependent to play a big role. John Simon is the same way. There are a lot of solid (defensive linemen), but are they good enough to run that kind of game plan. That’s to be determined.”
Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal posted a video on Twitter on Thursday of the Patriots practicing the "crush rush" that Perry described above.
When asked about the scramble drill, Wilson unintentionally explained what makes him such a special talent.
“There are always two parts to the play,” Wilson said on Thursday. “There’s obviously the first part where you’re trying to go through your reads 1-5, and then if those aren’t there for whatever reason, OK now comes the second play and I think that’s where defense’s get super nervous as well. We always find a way to make a play.”
There aren’t 32 quarterbacks in the world who can go through reads 1-5 on a play-to-play basis. That’s even before you consider “Part 2” of each snap when Wilson is under center. He’s likely to dazzle once again on primetime Sunday night despite the Patriots best efforts.