In Russell Wilson, the NFC-champion Seattle Seahawks have a quarterback well-equipped to comfortably operate when the offense has to crumble up its blueprint and adjust on the fly.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Wilson has a special combination of arm strength, accuracy, athleticism, instincts and speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2012). He throws well on the move and is one of the game’s premier rushing threats under center.
“Some mobile quarterbacks use their legs to just take off and run and some use their legs to create opportunities to throw the ball. I think he does a little bit of both,” Broncos linebacker Paris Lenon told reporters earlier this week. “You see him avoid pressure, create time, throw the ball down the field and sometimes he does keep the ball and move the chains himself.
“He’s a difficult guy to deal with, but you have to have a plan.”
For the Broncos, disciplined but strong pressure on Wilson will be key. The more the Broncos can push Wilson backwards in the pocket, the better. If Wilson breaks out of the pocket, the Broncos can’t give him much space to scramble, given his speed.
“The main thing is to keep him inside the pocket and don’t let him get out and scramble,” Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie told reporters earlier this week.
Wilson’s scrambling ability allows him to keep plays alive well beyond their normal expiration date, and he is not afraid to challenge secondaries.
In the NFC title game, Wilson connected with wideout Doug Baldwin on a 51-yard pass after rolling right, doubling back toward the middle of the field and throwing a deep strike. Around eight seconds elapsed between snap and throw -- an extraordinarily long time to ask defensive backs to cover. Baldwin snuck behind the San Francisco safeties, who did well to keep tabs on him for as long as they did.
Giving Wilson time to move and scan the field is asking for trouble. Denver must limit his contributions to the occasional five-yard scramble or a nice completion on a rollout.
“You don’t stop a guy like that,” Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips told reporters at Media Day on Tuesday. “You go out and play your game, and we have to let him do his thing. We just have to make plays when we need to.”
The Broncos can’t stop Wilson from doing his job, but they must prohibit him from working his magic.