According to data provided by PFF, Russell Wilson was a very frequent user of the checkdown in the passing game in 2022. Could this be a sign of things to come? Perhaps this was mostly due to the poor offensive line play, lack of offensive identity, and the injuries on offense.
PFF recently released an article looking at checkdown rates among quarterbacks in the 2022 season, and Russell Wilson is atop of most of their lists, which isn't usually a good thing. Well, what do most of us think when a QB checks the ball down a lot?
Typically we think of them as a low-ceiling quarterback, game manager type who can't really be asked to do a ton in the passing game. The likes of Alex Smith and Teddy Bridgewater are perhaps two of the best examples of checkdown quarterbacks that we've seen in the recent past.
Both have had successful NFL careers for the most part, but they were fringe starters for a reason.
According to PFF, Russell Wilson had the highest checkdown rate in the NFL last year on third down. On 130 passing attempts, Wilson checked the ball down 18 times for a rate of 13.8%, which was a bit higher than the second most user of the checkdown, Baker Mayfield, who checked it down 12.6% of the time.
Other QBs who check the ball down a ton on third down, in order after Mayfield, are Joe Burrow, Matt Ryan, and Justin Herbert; so, it's a mixed bag there.
Bad offensive line play seems to be a huge theme among the top five QBs with the highest checkdown rate.
In terms of the overall checkdown rate in 2022, Wilson also ranked high in the NFL in that, coming in at number five, checking the ball down 10.1% of the time on 484 passing attempts.
The lowest checkdown rates in 2022 belonged to Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Justin Fields. Again, this is a pretty mixed bag, but it's clear to me that having a strong offensive line should eliminate some of the checkdowns.
Also, you have to consider how many yards a team has to gain on third down to turn it into first down. Joe Burrow checking the ball down a lot might seem odd, but it's likely that the Bengals faced a lot of third and shorts, which would make sense.
In 2023, I don't think it would be a bad thing if Russell Wilson was again checking the ball down a lot. Perhaps within the Sean Payton offense, the Broncos are able to gain at least seven yards on first and second down to make third down much easier.
Wilson was also wanting to be a pocket passer, which he has historically not been, so I'm sure that's also contributed to the checkdowns.