MERILATT MONDAY

The Russell Wilson haters are quickly getting exposed

Aug 14, 2023, 4:00 AM | Updated: 5:46 am


Merilatt Monday is presented by Mercedes-Benz of Loveland


Let’s start with a couple of disclaimers, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Russell Wilson was not a good quarterback in 2022. After being acquired by the Broncos in a blockbuster deal with the Seahawks, he struggled through the worst season of his career. Wilson threw just 16 touchdowns, while tossing 11 interceptions, as Denver went just 4-11 in his starts.

Off the field, things were just as bad. The QB became a bit of a punchline around the NFL, as commentators and other players couldn’t help but poke fun at his cringe-worthy “Let’s ride” and high knees on the flight to London.

So it’s understandable that plenty of people are cautious about getting on the Wilson bandwagon this season. There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a prove-it attitude when it comes to the quarterback’s second year in the Mile High City.

But it’s becoming painfully obvious that many of the people grading Wilson this season are looking at everything he does through a negative lens. The last week or so has proven that he simply can’t win in the eyes of many of his detractors.

Last week, the Broncos offense started to play better at training camp. As has been the norm for every team throughout the history of football, it took longer for that side of the ball to get rolling, leading to a rough beginning and improved play over time.

That didn’t stop plenty of people from declaring that Wilson is cooked. During the first few days of camp, they were quick to decide that the QB simply didn’t have it anymore.

Then, when Wilson started playing better, they still found ways to shoot down his good play. Last week during practice, the quarterback connected on a pass to Jerry Jeudy. The throw was a dart, zipping through the hands of cornerback Damarri Mathis and into the arms of the Broncos wide receiver. It was an electric play, one that lived on the razor-thin margin that separates a big play from a turnover.

That didn’t stop people from criticizing the moment. There were plenty of onlookers who questioned the throw, counting it against Wilson. It could’ve been intercepted, so therefore it was a bad throw.

It was laughable. It was the moment that the naysayers jumped the shark. They were complaining about a completion. That’s a new low.

But it didn’t end there. During the Broncos first preseason game, they were all over Wilson for needing four possessions to get points on the board.

Nevermind that Denver’s kickers missed two field goals in the first quarter. The QB wasn’t getting the job done in the eyes of the critics.

They pointed out his errant throw to start the game. They blamed a tip pass on him, conveniently ignoring the fact that every other quarterback who played on Friday night suffered the same fate. And they chuckled that he had to play into the second quarter in order to satisfy new head coach Sean Payton’s desire for the first team to put points on the board.

Talk about looking at things in the worst possible way. In reality, there were a lot of things to be positive about during the Broncos preseason opener.

Three of Wilson’s four drives could’ve ended in points. Two resulted in missed field goals, while the final drive resulted in a touchdown.

That score was a pretty play, a 21-yard touchdown strike to Jeudy. It was one of many intermediate throws that saw Wilson hit receivers. He connected with Jeudy on a 19-yard completion earlier in the game, while also hitting Courtland Sutton for connections of 13 and 19 yards.

Wilson wasn’t just checking the ball down to running backs and tight ends. He wasn’t just chucking up “moon balls” in an attempt to create big plays. He was working the middle of the field, dissecting the Cardinals defense.

The result was an impressive stat line. Wilson finished the night 7-of-13 for 93 yards and a touchdown, posting a 102.4 QB rating.

In his first start under Payton, it was more than a passing grade. It was certainly a performance to build upon. But that wasn’t the narrative coming out of the game.

Plenty of people thought Wilson didn’t play well. Those who admitted that he did discounted the performance because the Cardinals aren’t expected to be a very good team in 2023.

In other words, Wilson can’t win. His failures are highlighted, while his successes are diminished.

It’s embarrassing at this point. It’s painfully obvious what is going on.

Any objective observer would note that Wilson looks much, much better this season. Back to his Seattle playing weight, the quarterback appears to be the same player he was during a decade of success in the Pacific Northwest.

Will that translate to a better regular season? Will the Broncos start to get a better return on their investment? Can Wilson turn into the piece that finally ends the losing ways in Denver?

Those are all fair questions. Given how last season went, it’s reasonable to have doubts and questions.

But to ignore the positive signs, to shoot down the good moments, goes beyond being cautiously optimistic. It’s being a Russell Wilson hater, which is turning into a losing side to be on in Broncos Country.

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