Which way is Russell Wilson's season headed?

Russell Wilson does well to escape pressure and make plays downfield, but Pete Carroll has said there are multiple times per game when Wilson ought to hang in the pocket and get rid of the ball. Leon Halip/Getty Images

Russell Wilson points to the scene after a devastating Week 6 loss as a sign that he and his teammates are going to be just fine. The Seattle Seahawks had blown another fourth-quarter lead, against the Panthers, and fallen to 2-4. The season appeared to be slipping away.

But as the team gathered in the locker room, Wilson and defensive lineman Michael Bennett spoke up.

"When we broke the huddle last week even after the tough loss, we said we choose to believe," Wilson recalled. "And that’s kind of been our motto."

The Seahawks rebounded to beat the 49ers Thursday night. They are six-point favorites going into Sunday’s game at Dallas, and despite a shaky start, have a good chance of entering the bye with a 4-4 record.

There’s been plenty of talk in Seattle about the leaky offensive line, questions about whether this defense is as good as in previous years and debate over when Marshawn Lynch might hit a wall.

But then there’s Wilson, the quarterback who inked a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension in the offseason. What has he shown through seven games? And how much is being asked of him as the Seahawks look to get back on track and make a run?

Numbers are courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.

The good

ESPN’s Jon Gruden argued earlier this season that Wilson could thrive in any offensive system. While conversations often steer toward his athleticism and ability to improvise, Wilson is actually operating from the pocket better than ever. That’s what Seahawks coaches have said repeatedly, and the numbers back it up.

Wilson is completing 73 percent of his attempts when hanging in the pocket. Only Aaron Rodgers has posted a higher number this season.

The completions have not been checkdowns and dumpoffs either. The Seahawks’ passing game looks different than it did in 2014. Last season, 30.8 percent of Wilson’s attempts were at or behind the line of scrimmage. That was the highest number in the league. As a result, the Seahawks averaged 6.48 yards after the catch, tops in the NFL.

This season, only 22.5 percent of Wilson’s passes have been at or behind the line of scrimmage (14th). More yards are being gained through the air and less with receivers running. The Seahawks are averaging 4.72 yards after the catch (25th).

Overall, there’s no denying that Wilson has improved as a pocket passer. He’s completing 69.6 percent of his passes and averaging 8.18 yards per attempt. In the past five seasons, only two quarterbacks (Tony Romo in 2014 and Drew Brees in 2011) have reached those numbers in a complete season.

Bottom line: When Wilson has time, he's doing work and making strides as a passer.

The bad

But there have been issues, and the biggest one has been negative plays. Wilson has been sacked on 11.7 percent of his dropbacks. If he finishes the season at that mark, it would be the second-highest rate of any quarterback in the past five seasons.

The Seahawks have obviously had offensive-line issues, but coaches and Wilson have pointed out that the quarterback, too, needs to do a better job. Wilson averages 2.70 seconds before each pass; that’s the second-highest number in the league. He does a great job of escaping pressure and making plays downfield, but Pete Carroll has said there are multiple times per game when Wilson would be better served to hang in the pocket and get rid of the ball.

Another area worth monitoring is interceptions. In many ways, Wilson's commitment to protecting the football has made him a perfect fit with Carroll. But this season, Wilson’s interception rate has jumped to 2.5 percent (16th) from 1.5 percent (sixth) a season ago.

And then there’s the red zone, which has been a complete disaster. The Seahawks have converted touchdowns on 33.3 percent of their trips, last in the league. With Jimmy Graham and a productive run game, that number is baffling and something that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to take a close look at. Wilson has struggled inside the opponent's 20, averaging 2.14 yards per dropback (29th). Only Colin Kaepernick, Teddy Bridgewater and Brandon Weeden have been worse.

What's next?

The Seahawks want to be a run-first team that takes care of the football and dominates on defense. That’s not going to change just because Wilson got paid. Carroll has said as much on a number of occasions.

But with the additions of Graham and vertical threat Tyler Lockett, Wilson has a diverse array of weapons at his disposal. Figuring out when to take off and when to hang in the pocket will be a constant battle. His ability to master that aspect of decision-making will likely determine in what direction the passing game goes over the final nine games.

Opponents recognize that the Seahawks are vulnerable in pass protection, and Wilson can expect to see a heavy dose of blitzes. When opponents send more than four rushers, Wilson has been sacked 18.6 percent of the time. He’s averaging just 5.01 yards per dropback against the blitz, which ranks 27th.

The Seahawks have a formula that led to consecutive NFC crowns and one Super Bowl title. They don't plan on straying from that this season. But Wilson's continued development as a passer, his decision-making in the pocket and his ability to handle pressure will go a long way in determining whether this team can turn its season around.