With Seahawks training camp set to kick off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 12 of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2020 season. Today we look at quarterback Russell Wilson and if this is the year he finally gets some serious MVP consideration, and tomorrow we turn our attention to the competition at receiver behind presumptive starters Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Ever since Russell Wilson won the starting job as a rookie, there hasn't been a lot of mystery for the Seahawks heading into training camp when it comes to quarterback, at least not in regard to the starting job.
The job is Wilson's, that much is obvious, so this year, as has been the case in the past, the real question is this: just how much better can Wilson be? And on a related note, could this be the year Wilson finally wins an MVP award, or at least gets some votes?
Wilson has already established himself as the best quarterback in franchise history, he's a seven-time Pro-Bowler, and last season he was named second-team AP All-Pro, but for much of his career, he has been underappreciated, at least from a national standpoint.
Whether it was Seattle's historically great defense or the Marshawn Lynch-led running game, there were always reasons for pundits to downplay Wilson's greatness, but what has become more and more evident in recent years is that Wilson is truly one of the game's best players.
Wilson was very much in the MVP conversation last year, but his numbers cooled slightly down the stretch while the Seahawks lost three of their final four regular season games to fall just short of an NFC West title. That, combined with Lamar Jackson's insane season for the 14-win Ravens, led to Jackson being a unanimous MVP choice. And as has been pointed out numerous times this offseason, Wilson was not only left off the ballots last year—NFL MVP is a single vote, not a ranking—he has never received a single MVP vote despite being the quarterback of one of the best teams in the NFL over the past eight seasons.
Wilson, however, was the MVP pick for analytics website Pro Football Focus, which also named him their top quarterback and No. 3 overall player last season. A recent ESPN survey of coaches, executives and players named Wilson the league's No. 2 quarterback behind Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, while NFL.com's Bucky Brooks and CBS Sports' Pete Prisco both recently named Wilson the No. 2 quarterback and No. 3 player in the league. NFL.com also recently crunched the numbers to determine that Wilson is the No. 2 deep-ball thrower in the league.
And while none of those rankings will help the Seahawks win games this year, public perceptions very much matters in an award voted on by members of the media. MVP is and always will be an award tied to team success, so the Seahawks will need to be a playoff team and in all likelihood a division champ to make that award a real possibility, but if people are talking about Wilson as one of the game's truly elite players in the offseason, they're that much more likely to take a good look at his MVP case come January.
Whether or not Wilson takes home any individual honors next season, the Seahawks fully expect him to continue the growth he has shown in recent years, including last season when he threw 31 touchdowns with a career-low five interceptions, completed 66.1 percent of his passes, and posted a 106.3 passer rating. And as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has pointed out numerous times over the years, quarterbacks, unlike most other positions, can and often do continue to improve even a decade into their careers. That's why Wilson has posted two of the top three passer ratings of his career in the past two seasons, as well as two of his top three completion percentages, two of his best four yards-per-attempt averages, two of his lowest three interception totals, and two of his top four touchdown totals.
Carroll isn't going to suddenly abandon his philosophy of having a balanced offense, but Wilson did see his attempts go up significantly from 2018 to 2019, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Seahawks put even more on his plate in 2020
"Russell is as the best of his game that he's ever been," Carroll said recently on 710 ESPN Seattle. "His command, his control, his understanding of everything we can put forth allows him to be the be the best he's ever been. And in that, we want him to have more opportunity to be the factor in the game and control the game."
As for the backup job, there figures to again be competition in camp for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Wilson. Geno Smith, who last year won the backup job over Paxton Lynch, this time will compete with Anthony Gordon, an undrafted rookie out of Washington State. Smith, a two-year starter early in his career, obviously has experience and knowledge of Seattle's offense on his side, but Gordon is an intriguing prospect, coming off a senior season in which he set Pac-12 single-season records for touchdown passes (48), passing yards (5,579) and completions (493). There is also always the possibility that the Seahawks could keep three quarterbacks if they really like Gordon's upside but want the security of Smith's experience, though more often than not, Seattle has kept only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster since Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010.
Check out photos of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from throughout the first nine seasons of his career.