Last season when the Carolina Panthers squared off against the Seattle Seahawks, then rookie Russell Wilson was an unknown. Now, a year later, NFL Defensive Coordinators have an entire season's worth of game tape to study. This often times will be the biggest factor in the dreaded "sophomore slump".
How will the Panthers defensive staff contain Russell Wilson?
Russell Wilson - Seahawks QB
The first thing you need to understand about Russell Wilson is that he is a game manager. This means he is not expected by his coaching staff to carry the load himself. Wilson threw the fewest passes of any starting QB in 2012 despite the Seahawks having the 5th ranked Time of Possession.The Seahawks rely on a strong running game and stout defense, a recipe that has always had success in the NFL.
While Wilson does have mobility and can gain yards on the ground, he really is not a running quarterback. At a height of 5'11, Russell uses his feet well in the pocket to find passing lanes. He is elusive enough to buy time and has the poise not to be easily flustered. Make no mistake, he is an impressive young QB.
Here are three things you will see on Sunday to contain Russell Wilson
1. On passing downs, a base 4 linemen will add pressure. I don't expect an increased number of blitzes against Seattle. The Panthers have the luxury of a front defensive four that can apply pressure on their own. Hardy, Lotulelei, and Johnson all require double teams at times. There just are not enough offensive lineman to compensate. This will force Seattle to keep a tight end or a running back in protection and free up a Panthers linebacker to help contain Wilson should he decide to run.
2. Go for interceptions. Last season WIlson gave up 6 points on a poor throw, and history could very well repeat itself. Look for preseason defensive MVP (I am still not sure what that means) Josh Norman to play very aggressively and jump routes. Norman got into more than one scuffle against the Seahawks last season, chances are he will again. Good times.
3. Keep him off the field. Last season during Chudzinski's horrible offensive experiments, the Panthers never found a rhythm. This year, Panthers new OC Mike Shula must be able to run the football and get first downs. Touchdowns would be nice, but at the very least string together consistent drives of 12 plays or more. I have low expectations of Shula, hopefully after this weekend I will have loftier goals.