When the discussion comes to mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, many will point to the pounding the QB takes in the open field as he scrambles as a danger. While the talented quarterbacks that can move often make a game-breaking play with their legs, they sometimes suffer game-ending injuries. That dichotomy makes some shy away.
The Seahawks didn't shy away from Russell Wilson when they selected him in the third round in this year's draft and gave him the starting nod when the season began. Wilson is certainly in the mold of many of the young quarterbacks that can make plays with their arms and legs in the NFL right now, but one thing he hasn't shown in his rookie season is a tendency for injuries.
"He does a nice job of running," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said of Wilson. "He'll get down. He won't take a hit. I have not seen many people get big hits on him because he's very astute at knowing when to get down."
The game plan against QBs like Wilson is to bring the pressure and hit him early and often. Repeated hits can often stunt a running quarterback's ability or desire to hit the open field. This season the Falcons have faced three quarterbacks in the same vein as Wilson and have played well against them.
Against Cam Newton and the Panthers, the Falcons D allowed Newton to rush for 86 yards and one touchdown and in the second game — a loss — he rushed for 116 and another TD.
The week after they faced Newton for the first time this season, they went to Washington for a matchup with Robert Griffin III. The Falcons put pressure on Griffin all day and forced him into one of the worst games of his rookie season. RGIII only rushed for seven yards and added only 91 passing. Atlanta's tough approach on defense led to Griffin having to leave the game.
The Falcons have gotten used to facing the Eagles' Michael Vick nearly every season since he arrived in Philadelphia. This season they held Vick to 42 yards and in the last few meetings against him, Atlanta has deployed a similar approach that they used against Griffin.
This season Wilson has rarely looked like a rookie. His 27 passing touchdowns set the rookie record and he added four rushing touchdowns. In his last four games, he's thrown seven touchdowns and only one pick, doing it all with a 116.9 QB rating. He's one of two rookies in league history with a plus-100 QB rating in a season. Additionally, Wilson's four rushing TDs all came in that same stretch. Wilson managed Seattle's offense, often to big scoring displays, using his arms, legs and head. His ability to avoid big hits has paced the Seahawks this season.
"He's got a great knack for avoiding contact," Smith said. "It seems like he's got that sixth sense to move around in the pocket. He's a guy that can extend plays and when he extends plays it gives him the opportunity to throw the ball down the field."
There's always a sense that if you can just keep a guy like Wilson from making a big play with his legs, everything else can be handled. While Newton ran for big numbers against the Falcons in their second loss of the season, the feeling in the Falcons locker room seems to be had they kept Newton from that 72-yard touchdown run, things could have ended up differently. Against Wilson and the Seahawks, that lesson will be on display.
"We'll have some eyes on Russell Wilson," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "Eyes and legs; Feet; Bodies. That's the plan, get bodies to him. He likes to extend the play so you have to leverage the guy. He has to find some receivers down field and we have to get him on the ground and go out there and make some plays."