What If Russell Wilson Can Be Better?

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Plenty of people are tapping the brakes on expectations for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks after a special second half of 2012 and a promising off-season of additions. Too much hype is unfair to the second year quarterback. Or, at least, that is the story line. That is a reasonable perspective given the other-worldly praise being heaped on a player only one season into his career that will face defenses more equipped to challenge him during his second year. What happens, though, if Wilson steps forward, not back? What happens if the end of last year was just the baseline for what is to come? There is at least as much evidence to support that future scenario as a step backwards.

First, take a look back at what Wilson did in his first season:

ATT: 393
CMP: 252
YDS: 3,118
CMP: 64.1%
YPA: 7.9
TD: 26
INT: 10
RATE: 100.0

He upped his game in the second half of the season:

ATT: 183
CMP: 123
YDS: 1,652
CMP: 67.2%
YPA: 9.0
TD: 16
INT: 2
RATE: 120.3

Those numbers give us the ability to work out per-game averages, and also identify the ratio of yards, touchdowns and interceptions per pass attempt. All the ingredients we need to project a range of possible futures.

The Seahawks averaged the fewest pass attempts in the NFL last year. Wilson put the ball up only 25 times per game. Many are surprised to learn that Wilson actually averaged fewer attempts in the second half (22.9/game), despite putting up such better numbers. He did this was fantastic efficiency numbers like an eye-popping 9.0 yards per attempt and a 9% touchdown rate.

Seattle will certainly put the ball up a little bit more this season. That is the most squishy part of the projections, so I stuck with a very conservative 27 attempts per game, just two more per game than last season. Here are the results:

These do not include Wilson’s rushing totals at all. If he were to match what he did last year on the ground in the second half of the season, you can add another eight touchdowns to that total, which would bring his high-end projections up over 45 total touchdowns.

Keep in mind, these projections are not based on Wilson doing better than he has done before. They are based on him either performing at the average rate of his full rookie season, or the final eight games of the regular season. Many rookie quarterbacks experience a significant improvement in performance in year two.

These numbers also do not push the pass attempt totals closer to the more likely 30 pass attempts per game we will see this year, or include the impact of adding a player like Percy Harvin that could greatly increase the completion percentage due to simpler throws, while also possibly forcing the yards per attempt lower due to shorter passes.

The next time someone talks to you about sophomore slumps for Wilson, you may want to share these projections as what 2013 could look like if Wilson simply matches what he did in 2012.