Risk vs. reward part of the deal with Wilson

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
8:00
AM ET
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell know that every time Russell Wilson runs with the ball there's risk involved to the one player this team can't afford to lose.

It's a risk they're willing to take. In fact, it's a risk they have to take to be the team they want to be on offense.

"I think he's as much of a risk taker as anybody playing the game," Bevell said of his quarterback. "But I think he can manage that risk really well."

Carroll said they're willing to accept some danger with Wilson because of his ability to make good things happen.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsOne of Seattle QB Russell Wilson's top strengths -- his ability to keep plays alive by scrambling.
"Absolutely, that comes with it," Carroll said of his scrambling quarterback. "I understand that, and if we were going to go conservative, [Wilson] would take a knee back there if he felt some pressure. He's not doing that."

He's not going to do it. Wilson is going to run, sometimes by design and sometimes by necessity. It's the necessity part, way too many times lately when Wilson has had to run to escape pressure, that Carroll wants to see change.

"He's been hit pretty consistently the last three or four weeks," Carroll said. "We don't ever want him getting hit. Even when we're running the football, we don't want him getting hit. So, we're trying to avoid that, but there are a lot of factors in there. And that's why the ball has come out."

Wilson has fumbled eight times in the first seven games, losing five of those fumbles. He fumbled three times when hit in the backfield last week in the Arizona game, losing two that resulted in 10 points for the Cardinals.

"It's a big issue, but he's getting clocked every now and then," Carroll said. "So we're working like crazy to keep that from happening. His awareness is growing and realizing that, 'OK, it's happening [heavy pressure]. I need to get out of this situation and go down.' But he may have had the opportunity to escape."

Carroll and Bevell called Wilson, "an escape artist." Anyone who has watched him play would agree. Wilson can sense the defender nearing him, almost to the point that it seems he has eyes peering out the back of his helmet.

"The escape-ability factor is a good thing," Wilson said Friday. "Having that competitive nature helps our football team. But the smart thing is sometimes to say, 'Maybe this isn't the time.' There's a time and place for everything.

"I have that never-say-die attitude, but you have to be smart with situations. I'm still learning and still figuring things out."

It's a fine line of knowing when to try to run downfield, when to throw it away, and when to go down and avoid a possible turnover.

"We want him to make smart decisions on how much is enough and when to give up the play," Bevell said. "But he's so good at escaping that good things happen for him most of the time. He needs to understand when it's a dead play and when he needs to make sure that he's protecting the football."

But the last thing the coaches want to do is handicap Wilson's ability to improvise.

"It comes with the territory of utilizing his great talent to make plays but also protecting the football," Carroll said. "So it's a little bit of an issue right now. Hopefully, we'll manage this well and it won't keep us from winning a football game."

One thing Wilson isn't doing much is throwing interceptions. He has thrown only four picks this season and hasn't thrown an interception in the past two games. Wilson hasn't thrown two picks in a game in more than a year. The last time was Week 5 last season at Carolina on Oct. 7.

Instead of throwing a risky pass, Wilson will tuck the ball and run, often with great success. Most of the fumbles have come when Wilson remains in the pocket or just begins to roll out, trying to extend a play.

Wilson said he has made an effort to get stronger, adding a little weight this season. He's up to 210 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame.

"I work on my legs a lot," he said. "That's a big part of my game, obviously. But I also want to be strong in the pocket and make sure I'm ready to take those hits, deliver a big-time throw when we need it and still get up for the next play."

Wilson is the riverboat gambler back there, but Carroll wants him to know when to fold 'em.

"He has to realize when that's not available," Carroll said. "We're looking for him to kind of recognize, 'OK, this isn't that time.' That's not easy to do because you don't know when he's going to make one of those miraculous escapes. He looks like he's dead and gone, and now he's out."

Wilson's athletic skills of avoiding trouble often result in a big play. For example: the touchdown pass at Arizona when Wilson rolled to his right, ran backward to the 40-yard line and threw a perfect pass -- off his back foot -- to Sidney Rice in the end zone.

Wilson had another big play at Arizona when he was a split second from being sacked but lunged and completed a third-down pass to tight end Zach Miller as Wilson was falling to the ground.

It was a risky throw, but it's what Wilson does. And most of the time, he does it successfully. So, it's a risk the Seahawks are willing to take.

"He's a great decision-maker and a fantastic competitor," Bevell said. "He gets it. He knows what we're after and what we want, and that means there is some risk involved. But we're just going to take it as it comes because we trust him."

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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