How Russell Wilson’s Broncos offense will mimic Seattle’s early days

from Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer

New Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett was direct when asked what he wants to see from his new starting quarterback.

“It’s all about just running the system,” Hackett told reporters during offseason workouts. “We want to build this thing entirely around him, make sure he’s completely comfortable and watch him come to life.”

In other words, it will be Russell Wilson’s offense.

To that end, Hackett spent the spring and early summer acclimating Wilson to the offense he carries over from his time in Green Bay as quarterback coach Aaron Rodgers, working to transition his new signal-caller to the scheme and new personnel.

How Russell Wilson can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl

How Russell Wilson can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl

The Broncos had just seven wins last season, but Russell Wilson said he wanted to “go to a team that wants to win and go to a city that knows how to win.” Emmanuel Acho explains why he believes Wilson can lead Denver to the Super Bowl.

For Wilson, it seems like a stark change from his previous team’s reliance on tough play and a stout defense to win the Super Bowl.

Wilson and Seattle coach Pete Carroll later clashed over the control and direction of the offense, which reportedly led to the departure of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer a year ago. The Seahawks brought in OC Shane Waldron, but the gap between Wilson and Carroll remained and Seattle decided to part ways with the QB in a blockbuster trade with the Broncos in March.

Whatever the reasons for his departure to Seattle, Wilson says he’s the same guy who strives to keep winning and going to Super Bowls.

“One thing I’ve always believed is that it’s a way of life,” Wilson said. “You must direct your whole being and thought process towards victory and success. And with that comes great opportunities, but also great challenges – and how you manage that and think about it.

“I have an amazing team. My team always comes with me wherever I go and my assistant helps me with everything. Everyone is super organized, so I’ll never waste a place.”

Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III, who played with Wilson at Wisconsin, called him a “winner’s aura.”

“It’s just the mindset of a winner,” Gordon said. “He’s always been like that. The first time I met him when he came to Wisconsin, I was like, ‘Man, he just has this aura of a winner.’ And he just carries it with him.”

Wilson said that in the last few weeks before training camp opens, he will spend some time with his workouts in San Diego. But the ever-busy Wilson wasn’t keeping his fingers crossed.

He gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth College, the alma mater of his father, Harrison Wilson. Russell and wife Ciara also traveled to Europe, taking in a tennis match at Wimbledon and watching a Formula 1 race in Monaco.

Wilson and Ciara even attended an Ed Sheeran concert with Hackett and his wife Megan at Wembley Stadium, working to create that closeness between the coach and the QB.

Wilson, Aaron Rodgers tip the QB pressure cooker scale

Wilson, Aaron Rodgers tip the QB pressure cooker scale

Colin Cowherd plays the “QB Pressure Cooker,” in which he determines what kind of pressure QBs like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are under.

After five consecutive losing seasons, the addition of Wilson caused a stir in the Mile High City. Denver’s new quarterback is the No. 1 selling NFL jersey. He already hosted a passing academy for junior soccer players in Colorado.

Wilson also said he finds time to spend with the most recent quarterback to lead this franchise to a Super Bowl title: Peyton Manning.

“Obviously the thing Peyton and I both love is football,” Wilson told reporters last month. “We can spend all day just watching football together. And that’s what we were able to do, spend some time together. And we’ll be making more as we go.

“It’s fun to be around maybe the greatest in the world to ever play that position. So to be able to learn, ask questions – and he asks me questions, that’s the fun part. Obviously you have John Elway here too. So you’ve got two of the greatest guys to ever play the game right in your midst.”

The Broncos have a new owner in Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune. Walton’s team would have to eventually make Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game to keep him happy, something the Broncos realized when they traded several picks and three players to secure the 33-year-old’s services in March.

Meanwhile, with active receivers Cortland Sutton, Jerry Judy and Tim Patrick and an improved offensive line, the Broncos are poised to be much better on offense in 2022.

But Wilson is the star stirring the drink in Hackett’s new offense. And in the stacked AFC West, the Broncos will have to hit on all cylinders in Week 1, which for Denver turns out to be a Monday night game in Seattle.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting time,” Wilson said of meeting his former team. “Obviously, Seattle has meant the world to me over the last 10 years. This is a special place to play at Lumen Field. I respect all those guys out there and what they do. I think for me it’s not emotional. You have to be unemotional, be able to go into it and understand that it’s just a ball.”

Russell Wilson is getting ready to face the Seahawks in the season opener

Russell Wilson is getting ready to face the Seahawks in the season opener

Chris Broussard tells Nick Wright what he expects from Russell Wilson as the Broncos prepare to face his former team in the season opener.

What will Denver’s offense look like with Wilson at the helm? Interestingly, it could look a lot like the offense Wilson was able to run early in his tenure with the Seahawks when they were Super Bowl contenders.

And just like Seattle back then, the Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league, with safety Justin Simmons, cornerback Patrick Certain II and tight end Bradley Chubb.

Expect the Broncos to rely on outside zone runs, led by the one-two punch of Javonte Williams and Gordon in the backfield, setting up the action passing game to make deep plays down the field. Wilson remains one of the best deep ball throwers in the game.

Along with that, Wilson is free of the injuries that have limited his mobility over the last few years in Seattle. With Wilson revived and healthy, Hackett will use the QB’s ability to step outside the pocket and create those second reactions he became known for in his early years in Seattle.

“We always want guys to be ready to extend the game,” Hackett told reporters during offseason workouts. “He has so many records in his past where sometimes games don’t go the way we want as a coach and he makes you look good by running around.

“Even if there’s a potential for a layoff at this point, you never know with him. So we want to try to expand it and we want to get those DBs back out there to have to continuously cover.”

So maybe it’s not such a big change for Wilson. But there’s one big difference: For the first time, Wilson has a young, offensive guru as a head coach. The son of longtime NFL coach Paul Hackett, Nathaniel Hackett, 42, and Wilson are effectively shaping their vision of how they see the offense running on game day.

“He just brings great energy,” Wilson told reporters about Hackett during an offseason workout. “He’s young. He’s vibrant. He brings intelligence to the game. He’s obviously got a great pedigree. And he wants to win, too. Our relationship is really close.”

Sounds like they’re ready for Seattle.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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