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What the Numbers Tell me About Russell Wilson vs. Josh Rosen

Looking at the quarterback matchup heading into Sunday.

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

By: Ryan Michael

Pro Football Analyst

Published: September 29th, 2018

Ryan Michael is a Pro Football Analyst who specializes in quarterback statistics, analytics, film-study and interviews with NFL veterans. He has used his own era-adjusted metric, QBS2, to grade every qualifying starting quarterback since 1937. For more information, visit his website: and follow him on Twitter: @theryanmichael

If you’re familiar with my work, you know that I hold both Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen in high regard. I’ve gone as far as to label Wilson the NFL’s “most underrated quarterback” and Rosenthe best pure passing prospect I’ve seen since Peyton Manning”. High praise, sure. But reality is, neither Wilson nor Rosen have me looking so hot right now.

Wilson, currently ranked 14th in passer rating (94.9) and 25th in DVOA through Week 3 (-19.6%), has led the Seahawks to a 1-2 record. Rosen, 7 passing attempts into his young career, has averaged 5.1 YPA, threw a pick on his first drive and had a pick-six called back on his second. Obviously, this sample-size needs to grow, and will on Sunday.

One man armies don’t exist in the NFL. Not even bad teams with good quarterbacks. The great ones cover up holes and give you a fighting chance, but nobody does it alone. Just over three and a half years since the Seahawks were one play away from winning a second Super Bowl ring, a lot has changed since Malcolm Butler became a household name.

Richard Sherman’s a 49er. Kam Chancellor retired. Beast Mode retired too, but pulled a Favre and now plays for a Raiders team going nowhere. The famed “Legion of Boom”? Gone. But the current unit has very quietly become the NFC’s No. 1 ranked passer rating defense (74.4) heading into Sunday’s game.

That’s bad news for a 21 year-old rookie quarterback. Rosen inherits the NFL’s 32nd ranked scoring offense, a unit that averaged 6.6 points per-game and ranked dead-last in the NFC in passer rating under Sam Bradford (62.5).

Just how bad was Bradford? He averaged 3.3 AY/A (adjusted yards per passing attempt) in Weeks 1-3, lower than the career averages of Ryan Leaf (3.6) and JaMarcus Russell (5.0). Mike McCoy’s offense? The worst the NFL has seen since we were a year away from the release of Apple’s first iPhone.

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The Seahawks and their 17th ranked scoring offense need to average more than 21.7 points per-game in today’s NFL. It doesn’t help that Wilson’s 3.0 YPC this season is the lowest average of his 7-year career. Duel threat? He may need to be again. Seattle’s running game currently ranks 30th in YPC (3.3) and that’s not even the worst of it.

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Per Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks rank 31st and the Cardinals rank 32nd in offensive line play through Week 3. If both Seattle and Arizona don’t do something about their offensive lines—we may see Wilson playing Baseball and Rosen playing Tennis in 2019.

To protect Rosen, the Cardinals may opt for a heavy dose of David Johnson. Better to push Johnson into a Seahawks defense that ranks 28th in YPC surrendered (5.1) than to have Rosen launching passes against a pass defense that ranks 6th in YPA surrendered (6.5).

I don’t expect Rosen to have enough time in the pocket for his receivers to complete their routes anyway, so forcing passes into a secondary that leads the NFL in interceptions (7) sounds like a recipe for disaster.

I see the Cardinals dying slowly, quietly with a running game that doesn’t yield them enough points to win before I see them crushing the aura of hope that Rosen’s supposed to give them. This organization can ill afford another PR-hit this early in the season.

Against a Cardinals defense that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 71.1% of their passes, Wilson should be able to complete enough of them to keep the offense moving. Scoring early will be advantageous, forcing Rosen to play from behind, making the Cardinals passing attack even more predictable.

McCoy had experience working with Peyton Manning in 2012, coming off four neck surgeries when there was more need than ever to master the art of the quick-release passing. Manning led the NFL in completion-percentage (68.6%, tied with Matt Ryan), but did so playing behind a superior offensive line.

Rosen may not have a neck-injury to worry about, but studying Manning’s 2012 tape might help him stay alive behind an offensive line that could leave him looking more like the 2011 edition of Manning than the 2012.

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The Seahawks are currently 3-point favorites, but this game has the potential to be a more dominant win for Seattle. In a matchup of two quarterbacks I hold in high regard, I’ll take Wilson’s 7 years of experience over Rosen’s 7 days of experience. Both teams are incomplete, but the Cardinals sans Rosen remind me of the 1998 Mud Dogs sans Bobby Boucher.

Hit me up Sunday night (@theryanmichael) to tell me how “Chosen Rosen” made his biggest supporter look foolish. If that time comes, I’d tell you I’m happy to be mistaken.