Maurice Jones-Drew has warned Russell Wilson that he faces being exposed this season following his big money move to the Denver Broncos.
After 10 years in Seattle the marriage turned sour for the 33-year-old quarterback, who signed a five-year, $245million deal, including $165m guaranteed, in Denver.
Now in the brutal AFC West, and an equally cutthroat conference, Wilson and the Broncos face pressure and serious scrutiny from the off, with their season starting on Monday night with a trip back to Seattle.
‘I think this year is gonna really show if Russell Wilson is the elite guy that we all think he is,’ NFL Network analyst Jones-Drew told DailyMail.com.
Russell Wilson has a big season ahead with the Denver Broncos, says Maurice Jones-Drew
The 33-year-old quarterback Wilson has signed a five-year, $296m deal with the Broncos
Jones-Drew believes this is the season for Wilson to show he is truly an elite player
‘It’s not to knock him because he’s done some great things. But over the last couple years, it’s kind of been a little up and down for him.
‘I think we give him a lot of the benefit of the doubt, right? Instead of watching the plan. I’ve called his games a couple of times. And there are some things that I’ve seen him do that really doesn’t warrant all the praise that he gets, so we’ll see if he can do it this year.’
Wilson took Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014, winning the former, but after finishing either first or second in the NFC West throughout Wilson’s time in Seattle, his spell ended on a sour note with a fourth-placed finish last year.
‘He’s done a great job in Seattle, don’t get me wrong, but there was a lot of like, “Oh, I need this or I need that”.
‘Well, you have everything now in Denver, right? You got a running game, you have an offensive line. You have a defense, you have young receivers.
‘But, the one thing that he was always able to do was like scramble around – and it’s going to be tough to do that in the AFC.
‘You’re talking about the defensive ends the Chargers have in Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, or Max Crosby and Chandler Jones with the Raiders, even Chris Jones and Frank Clark in Kansas City.
‘On top of that, week after week, you’ve got to go out and outscore people. He plays in the AFC West, as well. So the AFC West plays the NFC West, which is still one of the toughest divisions in football right now.
Wilson and the Broncs face his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Monday night’s game
Wilson pictured in action during a preseaon Broncos game against Minnesota Vikings
‘The Seattle Seahawks are down, but the Cardinals are still really good. The Niners are always gonna be a talented roster depending on their quarterback play. A top defence – not easy to run against. And then the Rams!’
On paper, the NFL looks particularly competitive in the AFC this season, with the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs among the bookies’ favourites.
And Jones-Drew expects competition to be high.
‘You’re gonna really see the truth about a lot of quarterbacks in the AFC,’ said Jones-Drew.
‘I mean, there’s some really good ones. I think there’s some guys that are getting more hype because of what they’ve done in their past and now what they’ve done in the last couple of years.
‘I think you’re gonna see some guys that don’t get enough credit who are playing very well, kind of push their way to the top as well. So it’s going to be one of those seasons which may definitely expose some guys and then also a season of some guys taking advantage of their opportunities.’
With the NFL seemingly stacked towards teams in the AFC, Jones-Drew gave his thoughts about the runners and riders.
‘On paper, yes. It seems like the AFC is kind of bolstered a little bit with all the trades and guys leaving the NFC and going to the AFC.
‘The AFC is tough. There’s like 13 teams, if I counted right. The whole AFC West. Three teams in the AFC East – the Patriots, Dolphins, Bills. In the AFC South you have two right now with the Titans and the Colts. And in the AFC North you have the Browns, Bengals, Ravens, and the Steelers are always gonna be good.
Wilson is one of a number of star quarterbacks competing in the AFC West and NFC West
Jones-Drew also warned there is always a team that takes expectations by surprise each year
‘But the NFC still has four or five teams that are pretty strong that you have to focus on and you still have to try to get through, whichever team it may be. There’s two guys you never count out – Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
‘There’s always a surprise team every year that kind of gets good like the Bengals last year. It gets good all of a sudden, you have to account for it.
‘The Eagles are a team we need to talk about the NFC, because they added AJ Brown, which makes them a contender right away.
‘With their ability to have a running quarterback it all kind of all falls on Jalen Hurts – his ability to run and can he be a better thrower of the football?
‘That will make them tough to deal with, real tough to deal with. And the way their O-line plays, the way their D-line plays. I think they’re kind of set up to make a run at this thing as well. Very similar to the Bengals.
‘They got that really good receiver that they’ve been needing. And now it’s on the quarterback – the quarterback kind of needs to turn this thing around and start playing better.’