Russell Wilson is dropping some weight, according to ESPN. That and a return health could go a long way toward also improving the Seattle offense in 2017.
Okay, so maybe it’s not accurate to say nobody is talking about Russell Wilson since the Seahawks quarterback is always in the limelight to a certain degree.
But in an offseason dominated by Richard Sherman trade talk and reports of team strife, Wilson’s return to health may have been easy to overlook as one of the biggest positives for the Seahawks going into 2017.
“My body’s 100 percent,’’ Wilson said before minicamp in June.
As revealed in an ESPN story published Thursday, it’s also a body that may have a slightly different look to it in 2017.
Wilson was vague when asked during a meeting with the media in June about his offseason conditioning goals.
But Wilson and his nutritionist, Philip Goglia, detailed to ESPN a new diet for the Seahawks quarterback this offseason in which he is taking in more calories in an attempt to cut fat and lose weight.
Specifically, the story reports Wilson is eating nine times a day while also eliminating dairy (except on rare occasions) and gluten. The result is a 4,800-calorie a day meal plan, up from 2,700 last year, that according to ESPN has seen Wilson cut his weight from over 225 pounds and 16 percent body fat to 214 pounds and 10 percent body fat.
Wilson was spurred to the new diet after gaining weight last year during a season when he couldn’t run and condition as he normally has due to injuries that began week one and plagued him throughout — specifically, a high ankle sprain in the first game of the season against Miami and then a sprained knee in week three against the 49ers.
“He came in feeling as though he was too heavy and not mobile enough,” Goglia told ESPN.
Wilson’s limited mobility was painfully evident throughout the 2016 season and as big of a factor as any for the struggles of a Seattle offense that went from one of the best rushing teams in the NFL in his first four seasons as quarterback to one that last season ranked 25th at 99.4 per game.
After rushing for at least 489 yards and 5.2 yards per carry in each season from 2012-15, Wilson was held to 259 yards and 3.6 yards per carry last season.
Broken down another way, Wilson rushed for more than 19 yards in a game just three times last season after averaging more than 30 yards a game each of his first four seasons.
And it wasn’t just the lack of Wilson’s rushing numbers themselves that hurt the Seattle offense but also the threat of his ability to run. Opponents figured out quickly that Wilson simply wasn’t going to be as dangerous getting around the edge or keeping the ball on zone reads and were able to play Seattle a bit differently, ganging up more on the inside run while also able to concentrate more on the passing game. Wilson’s ability to make as many big plays in the passing game by escaping the rush and finding receivers down field was also curtailed (something that undoubtedly played into the struggles of someone like Jermaine Kearse, whose chemistry with Wilson has always been one of his biggest values to the Seahawks).
Other factors played into the dropoff in running last season — specifically, a young and evolving offensive line and injuries and inconsistency at running back.
Seattle has taken steps to solve each, adding the likes of lineman Luke Jockel and running back Eddie Lacy as the two most high-priced offensive free agents the team has signed in years while also banking on improved health and experience at each spot.
But what also should make as much of a difference as anything in returning Seattle’s offense to its 2012-15 look — a team that would ideally lead with the run more than the pass — is the return of a healthy and mobile Wilson.
“There were a lot of things we had to do differently last year with injuries, whether it was offensive line, whether it was running backs, whether it was him,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said during mini-camp. “So we made a lot of adjustment, and we were able to handle it the best way we could, and I think our guys were great in that way. We ended up throwing a lot more last year, different kind of passes, but there’s no question that early he was really limited—he basically was just sitting back there. Then as we were able to keep him healthy, he was able to kind of get his legs back, and by the end of the year in the Atlanta game, he was moving around. He still wasn’t 100 percent, but he was able to function and save plays like he does for us. But I like where he is now. He’s all the way back.’’
The Seahawks will be banking on that bringing their running game back, as well.