Pa Bucky Brooks
Posted by FOX Sports NFL
If Russell Wilson uttered the catchphrase at his introductory press conference with Broncosthe football world assumed the partnership between the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the three-time Super Bowl-winning franchise would eventually turn into a “forever” relationship.
With the Broncos agreeing to a five-year, $245 million contract extension that ties Wilson to the franchise through the 2028 season, the marriage provides the team with stability at the game’s most important position. Remember, this franchise has run a revolving door at the position since Peyton Manning led the team to Super Bowl 50.
During that span, the team featured 11 different quarterbacks, including Brock Osweiler, Trevor SiemianPaxton Lynch, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Drew Locke and Teddy Bridgewater. Given their individual and collective struggles, it’s easy to see why the Broncos were willing to hand Wilson the bag before he took an official snap with the team.
Russell Wilson was ranked No. 61 on the NFL’s Top 100 list
Russell Wilson was ranked No. 61 on the NFL’s Top 100 list. It’s interesting that the players ranked the Denver Broncos QB in the bottom half of the list, but is that the right spot?
Wilson has the most wins (113) of any player in NFL history through his first ten seasons in the league, and his 292 passing yards are the second most in league history behind Manning (306) during that span. with Tom Brady (324) and Aaron Rodgers (317), the only players with more touchdowns in the past 10 years, the Broncos have found a great quarterback with an elite resume. The veteran will try to follow the blueprint established by Brady and Drew Brees as star quarterbacks who provided MVP-caliber production while aging gracefully at the position.
Still, there is some risk in investing heavily in a quarterback who is transitioning from an athletic playmaker to a traditional pass rusher. The 11-year pro is no longer a dual-threat weapon in the backfield who challenged defenders with his improvisational skills and ability to run. While he can occasionally stun a quarterback with a scramble or impromptu run, Wilson’s rushing numbers have fallen below 400 yards in three of the last four seasons, including a career-worst 183 yards in 2021.
While the 30-year-old quarterback is expected to cut back on his rushing attempts somewhat at this point in his career, Wilson’s reluctance to run has robbed him of one of his superpowers as a playmaker. When he’s not threatening defenses with his legs, the veteran should be a more effective passer from the pocket to punish defenses for playing in the umbrella zone with safeties parked in the parking lot.
The two-height look that has baffled Wilson the past two seasons calls for more of a playmaker role than a rhythmic pass rusher from the pocket. From a basketball perspective, Wilson is a scorer with a knack for hitting buckets despite lacking a consistent mid-range jump shot. Wilson is a three-point shooter who’s best at throwing the deep ball over the top of the defense instead of picking apart coverages on an assortment of quick passes (leans, hooks and sticks) that are on time and on target from the pocket.
Also, Wilson can expect opponents to continue blitzing at an alarming rate when he’s under center. Since entering the league in 2012, the veteran has been blitzed on 33.6% of his downs — the second-most blitzes of any quarterback in the league during that span. The risk-reward strategy hasn’t paid off for opponents based on Wilson’s touchdown-to-interception ratio (3.36, third in the league over that span), but opponents could be encouraged to continue to bring an edge with the declining veteran’s athleticism and mobility.
Russell Wilson was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL during his decade in Seattle.
In Denver, the game plans used to keep Wilson in check will surely revolve around a defense that features some of the brightest defensive minds in football.
In order to deal with the pressure and tactics of the two highs Wilson is expected to face, the Broncos’ secondary will need to step up in 2022. A highly touted receiving corps that has one pro bowler (Courtland Sutton) and a collection of potential difference generators (Jerry Judy, K. J. Hamlerand Albert Okuegbunam) will need to mature quickly under Wilson’s tutelage. The veteran will need to coax outstanding play from his young cast to take the pressure off him to make big plays using the deep ball.
If the Broncos’ playmakers can play a number of catch-and-run concepts that combat Wilson’s kryptonite (two-deep zones and blitz coverage), the veteran could turn into a mid-range dart thrower (much like Drew Brees did ) in his sunset. career.
The Broncos will also rely on an unproven offensive line and a talented backfield to balance the offensive attack rather than overwhelm Wilson. Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett must commit to running back Javonte Williams (and Melvin Gordon) early and often to keep opponents from getting off of Wilson in obvious passing situations. While Wilson will bristle at the idea of a team needing a three-yard-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach to win games, the veteran will certainly benefit from playing an offense that features a 50-50 run-pass balance.
As Wilson ages, it becomes more important for the Broncos to selectively lean on him as a primary playmaker. While he remains a capable threat, he can’t be expected to put this team on his back every week. That burden overwhelmed him in Seattle, and it could make life miserable for Wilson in Denver unless the supporting cast comes along.
Up until this point, the Broncos could have hoped that the defense would allow Wilson to steal a page from Manning’s game-winning play, especially in his later years. A star group featuring the likes of difference Bradley Chubb, Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmonscould allow the veteran to play more as a game manager.
If defense continues to be this team’s strength, Wilson will simply need to make a few plays each week to help the team record wins with a conservative approach. It may lack the zing Wilson wants as he tries to build a case for the elusive MVP award, but a defensive-minded team helped him get his first ring, and it could lead to others down the road.
With a seven-year commitment to fulfill his promise as the Broncos’ franchise quarterback, Wilson must find a way to elevate a supporting cast that could eventually carry him to the promised land in a few years.
Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He appears regularly on “Speak For Yourself” and also covers the game for NFL Network and co-hosts the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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