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The curious role reversals of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf

Tennessee Titans v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf seem to have exchanged places.

Maybe. Hopefully?

Lockett and Metcalf, the elite one-two punch for the Seattle Seahawks, are currently performing each other’s traditional role in 2021.

That may turn out to be in the best interest of the team.

Playing as well as ever, landing them once again as arguably in the NFL’s top three for a wide receiver duo, Lockett and Metcalf have completely flipped a few stats from years past, and last year in particular.

Take a look:

DK Metcalf three-year span

Tyler Lockett three-year span

First thing to notice is the target share - dead even through eight games. This is good and proper, and even follows up on something they themselves spoke to multiple times last season. They are individually feared enough that opposing defenses have frequently tried to neutralize one or the other, resulting in the occasional monster game.

Next up is yards; a truly misleading statistic in nearly every regard except for when I analyze it. Metcalf’s on pace to drop 140 yards from last year’s number, while Lockett is on pace to break his career high.*

*dear reader, at this point the author is interested that you understand he is aware this is a 17-game season. He is making this, and all subsequent such claims based on 16-game numbers.

After that we find ourselves examining touchdowns. Lockett, who had been a prolific scorer in an offense that had Pete Carroll saying “Russ was great, let’s run more” after every game (not a real quote), has found the end zone infrequently this year. Lockett had scored 10, 8, and 10 touchdowns from 2018-20, while now he has only three.

Meanwhile Metcalf, mighty since he entered the league, is just two shy of his career best after only half a season. He’s second in the NFL with eight until some people probably pass him during the bye week.

Similarly, Lockett’s yards before catch are far above his per-game career best, and would give him 100 more YBC. His yards after catch are similar to last year, but lower.
As hopefully the intelligent reader might expect by now, Metcalf is the opposite. His 365 yards before catch is a world different than his 940 pace set last year, but he’s well ahead of his YAC from last season.

The receivers have both received the same three-game Geno Smith treatment, so we can’t blame any of this on the quarterback - with one exception.

Smith threw three touchdowns to Metcalf and none to Lockett.

And yet...

In Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, Lockett was 4/100/2. Metcalf was 4/60/1
In Week 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lockett was 12/142/0 (almost one). Metcalf was 6/43/2.

So which one’s real? All three of Lockett’s scores came in the first two games. While he’s been good from Week 1, it took Metcalf a while to get going this year. Put under fire, Geno Smith immediately felt more comfortable going to Metcalf in big situations, but the Jacksonville game felt like the best the offense has looked since the first half of Week 2. Yes, it’s the Jaguars, but that game plan and execution was simply better.

Is the current trend of Lockett as the new yard eater and Metcalf the TD monster a mirage, or the way the offense should best function?

Poll

What’s the best use of Lockett and Metcalf?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Give Lock the ball, give DK the endzone
    (220 votes)
  • 16%
    All big plays all the time
    (172 votes)
  • 34%
    This question is useless
    (357 votes)
  • 7%
    Too hard to tell with Geno
    (73 votes)
  • 20%
    Give DK more targets, give Lock the deep shots
    (208 votes)
1030 votes total Vote Now