Rookie emerges to join RGIII as an NFL star
ASHBURN -- He entered the league with little fanfare, no catchy slogans and not much of a chance. In other words, Russell Wilson was the opposite of Robert Griffin III. That's no longer the case. While Griffin still carries more sizzle, Wilson has proved he, too, demands attention -- both from defenses and the public.
Oh, and Wilson also now has a slogan. It's not quite Griffin's "no pressure, no diamonds," but it is his: "Separation is in the preparation."
More importantly, Wilson's statistics are comparable to Griffin's as well. It's why they're likely the two leading contenders for the NFL Rookie of the Year award, not to mention why they will play one another in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs Sunday.
"That's what's amazing about these kids," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "They have totally different styles, how they carry themselves. At the core they're really the real deal, and it's pretty hard to distinguish between those guys and what they bring to their teams."
Their stats are similar. Wilson has a passer rating of 100; Griffin's is 102.4. Wilson has thrown 26 touchdown passes; Griffin has thrown 20. Wilson has tossed 10 interceptions; Griffin has thrown five. Both have thrown 393 passes.
But Griffin was the No. 2 player taken in the draft -- the Redskins surrendered first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 as well as a second-round pick last year to swap first-rounders with St. Louis so they could select him.
Meantime, Wilson, a successful college quarterback at N.C. State and then Wisconsin, lasted until the third round. Many praised his intangibles and ability. But he dropped for a reason: He's listed at 5-foot-11.
"I don't even think about [height], to be honest," said Wilson, a Richmond native. "I've been playing at this height my whole life. I try to play tall in the pocket, have a quick release and throw the ball on time and trust my reads, trust my preparation."
That's what he did in college, too. It's why he led the NCAA in passer rating, one spot above Griffin.
"It's no different," he said. "Everybody is a little faster and a little smarter, and they're in the right place at the right time, but you just have to trust your reads and be smart with the ball."
Carroll said drafting Wilson was a no-brainer. He pointed to Wilson's athleticism and poise.
"It's always been the way for years in recruiting. We're always looking for guys to have special dimensions and unique qualities, and he's loaded with them," Carroll said. "He just was off the charts in that regard, and we just had to get over the thought that everybody said he can't play if you're not taller, and obviously that's not the case, not true."
Said said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who coached against Wilson at the Senior Bowl last offseason: "He has a lot of intangibles you look for in a quarterback. He has great run skills. He's a sharp guy. He's playing well."
Like Griffin, Wilson will take off running. He has carried 94 times for 489 yards compared to Griffin's 120 for 815 yards. But the book on Wilson is that when he leaves the pocket, he's usually looking to throw downfield more than Griffin. Both teams run the zone read option, but the Redskins are more advanced in it, perhaps because of Griffin's familiarity with running it at Baylor. Wilson played in a West Coast offense at N.C. State and a more traditional I-formation attack at Wisconsin.
He just didn't generate much hype. That's changing.
"I'm not about flash, but I don't mind being in the spotlight," Wilson said. "When you want to be the best one day, you have to be used to it. ... The more successful you are, the more attention you get. The key for any famous player is, can you ignore the noise? I always told myself to just ignore the noise."