With the 2019 NFL season set to start on Thursday, and the Seattle Seahawks getting their season underway Sunday when they host the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the questions many observers have asked is how Seattle will handle the loss of Doug Baldwin. The team’s offensive production was less than fantastic in the four games which Baldwin missed or played extremely sparingly, averaging just 19.75 points per game offensively. Thus, the question obviously become how the team will perform and work to put points on the board with Baldwin out for all sixteen games since he is no longer on the team.
In any case, what Seattle fans, and opponents, are likely to see a lot of this coming season is some variation of Tyler Lockett running a lot of drive routes or deep post routes that find him on the opposite side of the field from where he initially lines up, especially off of play action. Drive routes are long developing, and play action buys a quarterback a few tenths of a second extra in the pocket, so getting familiar with these concepts will help you look smart in front of your friends, because Seattle will probably be running some variation of this over the course of the 2019 season.
To start off with, I’ll show what it looks like when you’re watching on TV, which isn’t all that great because viewers can’t really see the play develop.
Now, to break this down into pieces, here’s what the play looks like before the snap.
To lay it out, that’s Rashaad Penny in the backfield, Baldwin is the receiver at the top of the screen, with Lockett on the near side. Ed Dickson is the tight end closest to Baldwin, while George Fant is lined up at right end on Lockett’s side. The formation is showing run with Baldwin covering Dickson, and the play action works beautifully. The two linebackers both start the play with their feet on their own 45 at the snap of the ball, but are sucked in beautifully by the run action.
There’s no question those linebackers bit on play action before turning and hightailing back up the field. Up on the top of the screen, Baldwin simply performs one of his patented Baldwin triple moves and finds himself wide open, even though he isn’t targeted.
On of the things to notice in that last clip is that with Dickson giving run action initially and engaging the end, there’s a defensive back who is in the throwing lane between Russell Wilson and ADB. That means Baldwin could make a move that leaves the man covering him either on his backside or with a broken ankle, and it doesn’t make much difference if that defender just sits right under Baldwin’s route.
Thus, the quick dump route Dickson runs after he’s engaged the end drags the defender to the outside, opening up the throwing lane for Wilson to Baldwin.
On this particular play, the opening up of the throwing lane is irrelevant because Russ doesn’t go to Baldwin. Russ goes further downfield to Lockett. Here’s what the whole play looks like with all of the moving parts put together. Pay attention to Lockett, as his route running is fantastic here. He knows he wants to get into the open space that is over the top of ADB while staying underneath the safety. However, the key thing Lockett does is patiently wait for the safety to turn. As Lockett is closing on the safety, the safety is anticipating Lockett cutting across the field toward the top of the screen and begins drifting that way. Lockett continues driving on the safety straight upfield, which forces the safety to momentarily turn his head away from Lockett as he adjusts to protect the side of the field nearest to the camera.
The instant he turns around to better track Lockett, Tyler plants his right foot and cuts across to the far side, forcing the safety to turn around yet again, which buys more than enough time for Russ to get the ball to Lockett for a 34 yard gain.
Now, on that example Lockett started on the outside, which meant he was lined up against a starting cornerback. However, the Hawks like to run this concept a lot with Lockett lined up in the slot in order to create advantageous matchups. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16 Seattle ran a similar concept that saw Lockett starting out in the slot.
On that play Lockett is lined up across from number 39, who is Tremon Smith. Smith was a sixth round pick of the Chiefs in 2018, and got his first career start against the Hawks. Good luck, kid! Here’s what the play looked like.
Now, in an ideal world, this is where the Seattle insistence on running the ball can sometimes pay off. On this next play it was first and 20, which is obviously a passing down. The San Francisco 49ers come out in base personnel with four down linemen and three linebackers. With only four defensive backs on the field, if the Hawks can get the matchups they want, they can get Lockett covered by someone who isn’t a defensive back. And that’s exactly what they get. I won’t bore you with the details, but what happens on this play is that Lockett finds himself in the Niners secondary matched up one on one with a linebacker. That’s a matchup Seattle will take advantage every chance they get, and will look to exploit as often as possible this season.
I will always be grateful for the time Malcolm Smith spent with the Seahawks, but when forced to predict who wins a matchup between smith and Lockett, I’m taking Lockett every single day.