It is so great to see Seattle Seahawks rookie Dee Eskridge back in the lineup and getting opportunities to produce. His electric talent was apparent as he put up a career day last Sunday, hauling in all 3 of his targets for 35 yards and a TD. While this statline is respectable, it only tells part of the story; after a scary concussion kept Dee sidelined for much of his rookie season, he looks to be settling in quickly. In limited action he has displayed the speed, acceleration, and run-after-the-catch abilities that made him such a coveted prospect coming out of Western Michigan.
So how did Shane Waldron get Eskridge involved in his most extensive action of the season thus far? Let’s roll the tape.
Dee Eskridge and the “Hank” Concept
Basic diagram of the Hank as the Seahawks ran it. pic.twitter.com/KVVjQp5Uyg— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 11, 2021
I love the play design on the first catch, particularly. Classic West Coast Offense concepts at play here; this is a simple variation on the the cover-3 beater “Hank Concept.” It is designed to beat the exact defense that the Niners were showing, and it worked like a charm.
Essentially, this is just a fancy WCO term for a scheme that gets all five players out into routes quickly (as many do), with the number 1 and 2 (Lockett and Metcalf, obv) lining up on opposite sides and each running a 12-yard hook. The Tight End settles down over the middle, and the running back/slot receiver get out into the flats.
Eskridge makes the catch in the short flat, but then most impressively turns it upfield, absorbing a hit from Josh Norman, who has a good size advantage on the rookie. Dee shakes Norman and picks up another chunk of yards after the catch. Easily the biggest knock on Eskridge coming out of college outside of not playing in a power conference was his size; this is why I am particularly glad to see him demonstrating this fearless but intelligent physicality at the next level.
And the touchdown. Dee Eskridge is as badass as advertised, and not just for his speed. He's tough too, shaking bigger dudes Norman and Lenoir when he could have gone down/gone out and avoided contact. pic.twitter.com/IlhW3Y95M3— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 11, 2021
Another fun scheme at play here; DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are stacked on the right, with Eskridge flanking them out wide. Basic Hi-Lo concept, which the Niners actually defend pretty well, as neither Lockett nor Metcalf have a wide open look. Gerald Everett runs a clearout corner that manages to temporarily occupy three defenders, leaving Travis Homer somewhat open as he runs out into the flat, but Russell Wilson never really had a chance to look his way, given how the blocking materialized. Russ tries to look off the defense with a quick turn towards Everett, but he seems to pretty quickly lock in on Metcalf and Lockett, who are the apparent designed reads on this play. At this point, most of the San Francisco 49ers defensive backfield is clustered between the “A” and the other “A” (as in SeAhAwks) in the endzone.
This leaves Deommodore Lenoir matched up one-on-one with Eskridge. Wilson steps up and throws a dart, and Dee does his part to shake Lenoir and find the endzone for the first time in his young career. Great to see from Eskridge as he settled into a soft spot in the zone and gave Wilson an outlet. Also awesome to see Russ quickly go through his progression, and after seeing his first and second read covered, stepping up in the pocket and finding the open man. This looks like a QB shaking off the rust and getting back into his element.
Dee Eskridge: Man Coverage Mismatch
I thought this was Tyler Lockett at first when I was watching live. He and Eskridge are stacked on the right which forces the defense to make a series of lose-lose decisions in man coverage. Dee's speed over the middle is impossible to defend for Dontae Johnson out of this set. pic.twitter.com/LwXurSx2JE— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 11, 2021
So we’ve seen Eskridge beat the zone, but how does his electric speed look in man coverage? Even better. In the play above, we can see Eskridge and Lockett stacked on the right with Colby Parkinson inside. Metcalf is wide left, facing off with Josh Norman. The Niners bring pressure off the edge, as DB Talanoa Hufanga thinks he has a clean shot at Wilson before Rashaad Penny absolutely destroys him. Major credit to Penny for his improved pass protection, without that effort this play likely goes down quite differently...
The Niners go with a single-high safety, with linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (who is talented but playing out of position due to Fred Warner’s injury) hanging out around the short middle. Lockett goes deep, and Eskridge runs across the formation. This is a great exploitation of the 49ers alignment, as Dontae Johnson never has a chance to catch up with the young speedster. Linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles drops back but doesn’t arrive in time to make a difference, leaving Eskridge wide open on the crossing route. Good play call, good execution.
Pairing a first-time Offensive Coordinator with a couple of playmakers like Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and then adding an explosive chess piece like Dee Eskridge seems almost unfair. Apparently, the universe agreed and kept this powerful triumvirate of pass catchers apart for much of the 2021 season. Hopefully, however, with the renewed health of Eskridge and the return to form from Wilson, we will be seeing more and more highlights like this on a weekly basis. Heading down south to take on a Houston Texans team that has been better at defending the passing game than they have at doing literally anything else this season, Waldron may need to get creative on how he gets Eskridge involved this week. Whether this means more touches out of the backfield against a vulnerable run defense or simply reaching deep into the playbook again with the route combos, I look forward to seeing if this offense can build some momentum and chemistry over the remaining stretch.