Russell Wilson’s play has declined as the 2021 NFL season has progressed

Russell Wilson got off to a strong start in 2021, but the advanced metrics suggest that the Seahawks QB regressed in the last few games.

Although the Seattle Seahawks are only 2-2, star QB Russell Wilson performed at an elite level through the month of September, as evidenced by him being named our September Player of the Month at the QB position. However, his advanced metrics show that a concerning downward trend is developing during the first four weeks of the 2021 NFL season.

Russell Wilson’s statistics haven’t been great in a traditional sense

Looking at Wilson’s box score statistics, it doesn’t seem that he has been setting the league on fire. He only has 1,044 yards through the air through four games, which ranks 16th in the NFL.

However, Wilson’s numbers in the areas that genuinely matter have been spectacular. His 9 passing touchdowns are tied for fifth, and he has yet to throw an interception.

It’s hard to complain about a lack of yardage when a quarterback is getting the ball into the end zone and keeping it out of the defense’s hands.

Russell Wilson has earned exceptional advanced metrics

Despite his somewhat modest statistical production, Wilson’s advanced metrics this season compare favorably to the league’s other quarterbacks. To help illustrate this fact, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM).

The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players based on how much they contribute to the creation of their statistics rather than the statistics themselves.

Going into Week 5, Wilson ranks third among all QBs with a grade of 31.32. Clearly, despite not ranking as one of the NFL’s most productive quarterbacks, Wilson has been one of the most effective players at his position in 2021.

Examining the advanced metrics behind his overall OVM grade

Wilson’s advanced metrics reveal that his high grade was primarily due to his awe-inspiring completion numbers.

The Seahawks QB has completed 72.5% of his passes through four games, ranking fifth in the league. Perhaps even more impressive, according to the NFL’s projections, that number is 7.1% higher than expectation, the third-best differential among qualifying quarterbacks.

Those statistics reveal that Wilson has undoubtedly been one of the most efficient quarterbacks to start 2021.

Grades from the first four games of the season form a worrying trend

Although Wilson’s overall OVM grade is excellent, there are still reasons for concern. Curiously, his grade has fallen with each passing week.

The Seahawks QB started the season with a grade of 42.62 in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, the third-highest grade earned by any QB this year.

Over the next two weeks, he earned grades of 33.28 and 27.97, respectively, before receiving his worst grade at 21.62 in Week 4. Interestingly, Wilson’s effectiveness doesn’t seem to be related to how well the Seahawks are playing since they won his most and least effective games.

Still, if Wilson’s grade continues to fall, Seattle might be in trouble.

The advanced metrics from Wilson’s best and worst games in 2021

To demonstrate the analytical differences in Wilson’s performances this season, let’s compare his advanced metrics from Weeks 1 and 4.

As with his overall grade, the primary factor involved relates to Wilson’s completion percentages. Between the two weeks, his overall percentage fell from 88.6% to 70.6%.

According to the NFL’s projections, his differential fell by a similarly dramatic amount, dropping from an impressive 13.6% higher than expected in Week 1 down to 5.1% three weeks later.

Wilson’s Week 4 statistics still aren’t terrible, but they are a far cry from the terrific numbers he produced in Seattle’s season opener.

A look back at Wilson’s 2020 performance

For further context regarding Wilson’s OVM grades in 2021, let’s look at his weekly grades from last season, which you can see in the chart below marked by the black dots. For comparison, the yellow line represents the regular-season OVM grade average for quarterbacks in 2020.

Russell Wilson's play has declined as the 2021 NFL season has progressed

As you can see, Wilson started the year strong but became more inconsistent as the season went on. After Seattle’s Week 6 bye, Wilson earned four grades below 20 points, with one of them even below 10. That resulted in an overall OVM grade of 24.79, Wilson’s lowest on record.

He seemed to be back on track early this season, but we’re seeing worrying signs once again.

Seattle needs Wilson to play at an elite level to succeed in the NFC West

It seems unlikely that Wilson’s overall grade will continue to fall at the current rate. However, the Seahawks will need their QB to turn things around in the weeks to come.

Seattle is in a tight race in what might be the best division in the NFL right now. And this Thursday, they have a crucial divisional matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The Arizona Cardinals currently have the edge over both their rivals, but this Thursday night could prove essential in deciding the division later down the line.

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