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Can Russell Wilson Still Cook?

russell wilson fantasy football rankings NFL injury news DFS picks

In a 2022 free agency that witnessed many a splash trades; Russell Wilson was perhaps the pinnacle. Wilson was the proclaimed savior to a Denver Broncos team that was ‘only missing a quality quarterback to take it to the next level’.

Wilson was finally saved from a stifling Seattle Seahawks offense that did not allow him to “cook.” Denver saved Wilson and now Wilson will save Denver.

However, with the QB struggling to start the 2022 season, the question is: can Russ still cook?

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'Go Hawks' Russell Wilson

Wilson spent nine years in Seattle. Since his rookie season, the Seahawks ranked 29th in designed pass-play rate. Yes, for most of his Seahawks’ career, they were a run-first team.

But he won a Super Bowl and came within a pass of winning a second Super Bowl with the Seahawks, but that was in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. After the ill ill-fated pass that led to the Super Bowl loss, Seattle became more run-centric. And then it happened. The “Let Russ Cook” social media campaign increased.


What The Stats Say

Per Next Gen Stats, before the start of this season, Wilson had a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio on deep passes with 978 deep passing yards, the third-most in the NFL. Using his mobility, he completed 41.7% of deep passes for 403 yards on extended dropbacks (four-plus seconds) while 60% of his deep passes went to slot targets.

Wilson has never averaged less than 7.2 yards per attempt. Excluding his rookie year in Seattle, he never attempted less than 400 passes and his completion percentage never fell below 61.3%.


'Let It Ride' Russell Wilson

Wilson’s offense in Denver has two touchdowns in three games. He has a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio. He has attempted one pass over 20 yards in the air through his three games.

In Week 3, the Broncos had eight drives of 10 yards or less. Per NFL Research, they had nine three-and-outs, which are the most in Wilson’s career and the most by a Broncos team since 1991.

Before Sunday Night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, there were concerns surrounding the Broncos’ offense and Wilson adjacent. In Week 1, the offensive woes were placed on the shoulders of new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. His call for a 65-yard field goal attempt instead of trusting his $250 million dollar man on a fourth-and-five highlighted an inept offense. This same offense had two turnovers on the one-yard line in a 17-16 loss to Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks.

In Week 2, the win against the Houston Texans did not dispel the uneasiness concerning the Broncos’ offense. Wilson attempted 31 passes, completing only 14 for 219 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Broncos did win the game 16-9, but the high-powered offense foretold of in preseason did not emerge.

Part of the problem appeared to be in Wilson’s immobility. In two games, he only attempted three carries for five yards. In the past, Wilson has always relied on his ability to extend plays and find the man downfield. Now, he wasn’t extending plays. And his passes were mostly dump-offs to the running backs.

Wilson’s past mobility led him to average 5.12 rushing yards in his career. His average for this season is 2.4.

But something magical did happen in Sunday Night’s game. In the fourth quarter when they needed it the most, Wilson led the Broncos on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. It began with Wilson buying time with his legs and throwing a bullet on the run to Kendall Hinton. Three plays later, Wilson scrambled for a 12-yard gain on third-and-6. In the next play, Wilson checked from a run play to a pass play to Courtland Sutton, completing a back-shoulder pass for 19 yards.

Once in the red zone, Melvin Gordon bullied his way in for a touchdown. It ended the Broncos' 0-6 red zone drought while also displaying a glimpse of what the Broncos thought they had acquired with Wilson.

However, Wilson finished with 35 fewer passing yards than the week before (184-219) and he averaged only 5.6 yards per attempt. He did double his rushing attempts (six) and rushing yards (17). But was it enough?


Can Russell Wilson Still Cook?

Even before the start of this season, there were indications of Wilson’s declining abilities. He missed two games in 2021 with a finger injury, but his stats are still revealing. His completion percentage dropped from 68.8% to 64.8%. His rushing attempts dropped from 83 to 43 while his average rushing yards per attempt went from 6.2 to 4.3.

Last season, the narrative for the decline was placed on the injury and he returned too soon. So far this season, the excuse is his new team, new coach, new system, and new weapons. It will take some time to get used to all the newness. Completely understandable, both narratives.

But in the NFL and for fantasy managers, patience isn’t a virtue. Wilson may be firing up the grill, but so far, the results are not palatable.

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