Seahawks must give Russell Wilson weapons and unleash the passing game in 2020

By Jesse Reed
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson is a top-three quarterback in the NFL, but the Seattle Seahawks have never truly unleashed him as their primary weapon. That has to change in 2020.

The skinny: The Legion of Boom is long dead and buried. If the Seahawks are going to once again rise as a dominant force in the NFC, they have to change their offensive philosophy completely and center it around Wilson.

Square peg, round hole: The Seahawks have essentially kept the same model that won them a Super Bowl after the 2013 season. They are approaching the game as if the defense was still dominant and Marshawn Lynch was still in the backfield during his Beast-Mode days.

Sure, the run game is still going strong, but Seattle’s defense was mediocre last season and the team only won 11 games because Wilson was so magical during big moments. And nobody can blame Wilson for Seattle’s early exit in the playoffs this past year.

The guy is out-of-this-world talented. He’s also the biggest reason the Seahawks have any chance of featuring another potential Super Bowl-contending team any time soon.

But when it comes to usage, the Seahawks seem to abstain using Wilson’s arm at a high volume unless they need a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive. Consider how he’s been utilized the past couple of years, despite a team roster that has been largely depleted of the defensive talent that led to the team’s philosophy in the first place.

  • 2019: Ranked 12th in passing attempts (516)
  • 2018: Ranked 20th in passing attempts (427)

The only reason Wilson saw such a significant uptick in passing attempts last season is that Seattle’s defense was so atrocious that the offense had to come from behind all too often.

  • Wilson was tied with Deshaun Watson for the most game-winning drives last year (five) and fourth-quarter comeback wins (four).
  • In those games, he completed 107-of-153 passes (69.9%) for 1,368 yards (8.94 yards per attempt) with 14 touchdowns and just one interception.

It’s rare that Wilson is called upon to lead the offense with his arm and does not succeed. Quite simply, he’s one of the game’s elite passers. But the Seahawks continue to treat him like an afterthought when it comes to designing and executing the offense outside comeback scenarios.

Time for a change: The Seahawks have a simple, but loaded decision to make this offseason. They can continue to try pounding the square peg into a round hole, or they can evolve and thrive. The answer is just as simple, if they would just embrace reality. But with a change in philosophy comes a desperate need for the Seahawks to give Wilson the weapons he needs.

Don’t get us wrong. D.K. Metcalf is special and fits perfectly with what Wilson does best, which is throw deep. But Tyler Lockett isn’t a No. 1 threat, and the rest of the wide receiver room is unremarkable.

Arms race: This offseason provides the Seahawks with a unique opportunity to load up on essentials, as the 2020 NFL Draft is one of the richest in recent memory when it comes to pass-catching options. But with such a loaded crop of potentially elite receivers, we have to expect there will be a run in the bottom half of Round 1 and on Day 2 of the draft.

Here’s a look at players the Seahawks could target in the draft to provide Wilson with the help he needs to become the focal point of Seattle’s offense in 2020.

  • Round 1 (No. 27 overall): Henry Ruggs out of Alabama would be an incredible fit in Seattle’s offense. He’s electric after the catch and has track-star speed.
  • Round 2 (No. 59 overall): USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. is a big, strong receiver who has absurd ball skills and is a red-zone monster.
  • Round 2 (No. 64 overall): Gabriel Davis out of UCF is an incredible deep-ball threat who averaged 17.2 yards per catch last year and hauled in 12 touchdowns.
  • Round 4 (No. 123 overall): Denzel Mims out of Baylor is the kind of receiver who would absolutely thrive playing with a dynamic passer like Wilson. He has incredible hands and routinely wowed showing them off on Saturdays.
  • Round 5 (No. 137 overall): K.J. Hill out of Ohio State is a bit different than the rest of the receivers we’ve listed so far. But he’s an exceptional slot specialist who has plenty of big-game experience.
  • Round 7 (No. 219 overall): Quintez Cephus out of Wisconsin is flying way under the radar but could be an outstanding pro due to his big-play abilities and sticky hands.

Seattle has other needs, of course, such as on the offensive line and defense in general. But acquiring another potentially elite weapon for Wilson and the passing game has to be a high priority.

Free agency frenzy: Before the draft, free agency will dominate NFL headlines. Speaking of headlines, the headliners for this year’s wide receiver free-agency class are gems, and the Seahawks have the cash to make a splash.

  • A.J. Green, when he’s healthy, is among the game’s elite receivers. He missed all of last season with an ankle injury, but you have to imagine he would have found a way to play for a winning team.
  • Amari Cooper is one of a handful of expensive free agents the Dallas Cowboys want to lock up this spring. But he could make out like a bandit on the open market, and his game suits Russell Wilson to a T.
  • Emmanuel Sanders isn’t quite as explosive as he was when Peyton Manning turned him into a national star. However, he’s still reliable and capable of taking short passes a long way with an accurate quarterback slinging the pigskin.

Landing one of those guys would supercharge Seattle’s passing game. With that in mind, the Seahawks absolutely have to give it a shot.

The bottom line: The Seahawks are paying Russell Wilson to be an elite passer. He is just that. But until they actually treat him like the passing-game genius he truly us, the Seahawks will continue to sputter.

It’s time to sell out and let Wilson be for Seattle what Patrick Mahomes is for the Kansas City Chiefs. He has that type of talent, and if Seattle provides Wilson with the caliber of weaponry Mahomes has at his disposal, the Seahawks will become a national powerhouse once more.