As part of the 2012 rookie class, the Emerald City's star quarterback is still outrunning defenses six seasons later.
The 2012 NFL draft yielded an impressive crop of young quarterbacks. Andrew Luck went No. 1-overall to the Indianapolis Colts, and the Washington Redskins picked up two future starters in Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
One quarterback, however, flew under the radar and was picked up in the middle of the draft one round ahead of Cousins. With a Rookie of the Year award, one Super Bowl victory and 20,000 passing yards under his belt, one could argue Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been the most successful rookie to come out of the 2012 draft to date.
"The way Russell Wilson was in college, it's really not that surprising," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "Anybody who watched him on tape – the athleticism that he displayed in college at Wisconsin and when he played at NC State – he was a great player, great athlete, very successful, always a team leader."
Wilson's leadership can be seen more than ever in 2017. After the departure of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have dealt with uncertainty at running back, leaving Wilson as the unit's biggest star and most important contributor. Of the Seahawks' 2,592 total yards in 2017, Wilson accounts for 2,202. It's a one-man show in Seattle, and it will be up to the Redskins' defense to try and put a stop to it.
"You've got to keep them from having a lane up the middle, you got to make sure you apply pressure in their face and keep them from stepping up in the pocket and throwing comfortable throws," said Redskins linebacker Preston Smith. "So, you got to kind of cage those guys in."
That's easier said than done. Despite Wilson being a mobile quarterback that is often exposed in the open field to pursuing defense, he has an ability to escape clear would-be sacks. Wilson has been brought down behind the line of scrimmage 16 times this year. Fifteen quarterbacks in the league have higher sack totals, including strict pocket passers like Tom Brady, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford.
So, if Wilson often puts himself in harm's way and still manages to escape, how does the Washington defense aim at containing him? Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the use of spy could offer some benefits, but the method is not without drawbacks.
"Sometimes from a spy's perspective, sometimes it's a three-man rush, sometimes it's a four-man rush, so that spy player sometimes gets lost in the shuffle – sometimes when he's thinking he's going this way and he goes the opposite way," Manusky said. "Overall, sometimes you do have to spy him and sometimes you don't."
Manusky said the key to disrupting Wilson will come down to harassing the receivers down the field.
With four of Seattle's top five wideouts averaging more than 10 yards a catch, the Washington secondary should expect to play deeper coverage than usual. With speedsters like Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin out on the field, players like cornerback Josh Norman and safety D.J. Swearinger will have their hands full eyeing Wilson's movements while guarding the back end of the field.
"You've got to plaster the receivers because [Wilson] does a great job keeping his eyes up the field and letting the ball loose and he has a great arm to get the ball down the field," Manusky said. "Overall, we've got to make sure we harass him in the pocket and make sure we cage him a little bit and then overall get plaster drills on the backside."