It’s no secret that Russell Wilson was out on the Seahawks before being moved to Denver. That does not necessarily mean he did not want to make things work with his previous franchise but there were several issues and differences of opinions that led to the split.
Having spent his entire career in Seattle, pulling him away would present a challenge. The weapons in Seattle were surely enticing with players like DK Metcalf and underrated pass-catching pro Tyler Lockett, but there were immense holes in pass protection.
For the first time in Wilson’s career, he suffered a significant injury that sidelined him for multiple games. In week five, Aaron Donald was able to apply pressure to Wilson and on his follow through, Wilson banged his middle finger on Donald’s helmet, severely injuring it. Wilson came back rather quickly but he simply didn’t look like he had ever fully recovered as the season wore on. In the NFL a player’s health is paramount, and Wilson’s was in jeopardy if he chose to remain with Seattle.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 8, 2021
The Seahawks offensive linemen were arguably the worst group in the NFL, especially in regard to pass protection. Though the sack numbers alone may not point to this as an issue, Wilson found himself ducking and dodging defenders in the backfield and finding ways to escape crushing tackles with a finesse that would make Harry Houdini proud. Wilson was under pressure a whopping 37% of all drop backs in 2021. Additionally, according to statmuse.com, he tied for the fourth-best passer rating while under pressure with a 103.1, only slightly behind Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott.
PFF recently posed projections of what each starting offensive line’s pass protection ranking would be in the 2022-23 season and Seattle’s line came in dead last. Duane Brown was easily their most effective blocker and is a high-quality starter in the NFL, even at his age, but his play was still not enough to pull this underwhelming unit out of the basement.
If we took the 5 listed starters for each team from ourlads and tried to guess how good their pass protection would be based on most recent PFF grade, which teams would we expect to have the best and worst pass protection in 2022?
Hmm, I wonder why Russell Wilson wanted out… pic.twitter.com/dN3R9OEcGf
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) March 28, 2022
Not only that, but Denver was projected in the same statistic to be a potential top-six team when it comes to protecting the quarterback. The Broncos line was far from perfect last year but between young players like Dalton Risner, Quinn Meinerz and Lloyd Cushenberry and the injuries suffered, they have a solid chance to take a step in their growth as a unit. George Paton still has an opportunity to add depth as free agency rolls on and the draft can provide improved depth as well.
Paton doesn’t seem completely comfortable with the unit as a whole but he and coach Nathaniel Hackett will make sure they are fully assembled and ready to play when the regular season begins.
The Broncos are keenly aware that their quarterback’s health will be key to a successful season in what is arguably the best division in football. The Chargers and Raiders made a concerted effort to obtain high-powered EDGE talent to slow Wilson and the Broncos offense and without reliable protection, they could edge Denver out by season’s end.
Even with battles looming for select starting and depth positions, this group of offensive linemen will be the best Wilson has had in multiple years and presumably, will be a large reason Denver will assert themselves as contenders in 2022.