Week two is in the books, and the emotional roller coaster that is Seattle Seahawks football is in full swing. After a confident win over Indianapolis in week one, Russell Wilson and co. were set to return to Seattle to take on the Titans — a team who had just suffered a blowout at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. And after three quarters, it looked like another blowout was in the works. Until it wasn’t. After a wild finale to the game in which resulted in extra minutes, the home team was left shaking their heads and heading to the locker room, looking to regroup before they hit the road to take on the Vikings in Minnesota next week.
About the only consistent bright spot on the Seattle offense in an otherwise soul crushing OT loss at home was the always phenomenal Tyler Lockett. The player affectionately known to fans as “No-E” is as consistent as they come, and he once again put on a show. The final stat line reads 8 receptions on 11 targets for 178 yards and a touchdown. But even that doesn’t tell the full story. While the game at large is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many-a Washingtonian this week, fans can never feel too bad when we get to watch a player as consistently exciting and game changing as #16 on a weekly basis. For these reasons, No-E is my no-brainer pick for Seahawks Player of the Week. So let’s take a look at what makes him so uniquely unguardable, focusing on his two biggest plays of the game.
The First Play
This first one is obvious. Tyler Lockett was selected by Seattle in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft at 69th overall. In what was at one point considered a fairly loaded receiver class, names that were selected ahead of the former Kansas State Wildcat include Kevin White, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Devin Funchess. Of all the pass catchers picked before him, only DeVante Parker remains with his original team (the Dolphins). Amari Cooper, the fourth overall selection, is the only player drafted above Lockett to have more career receiving yards, but the two are currently tied for 40 career TDs each.
Now on his second extension with Seattle, Lockett has gone from speedy return specialist extraordinaire to one of the NFL’s most fearsome and consistent threats in the league. And he does so by attacking every level of the defense. As ferocious of a possession receiver as he is a deep threat, Tyler is the consummate professional on and off the field who is a model of never, ever taking plays off. So when @TDLockett12 caught his first pass, fans were elated, but hardly surprised that this was the result:
In this play, Lockett and Metcalf are the only players getting out into designed routes. Running out of 12-personnel, Chris Carson sneaks out of the backfield as a safety valve right as Wilson uncorks, but the Hawks are going protection heavy and keeping eight players in to block, including their pair of talented tight ends in Will Dissly and Gerald Everett. Juxtapose this with the Titans, who only rush four initially, with a delayed rush/spy coming from the second level. This means that two wide receivers are taking on six players in coverage. While Metcalf pulls up his route around the fifty, Lockett runs an uncanny deep pattern that leaves former teammate Bradley McDougald playing catch-up. As Tyler takes the top off the entire Titans defense, leaving both safeties in his dust, Wilson puts some patented air under his otherworldly deep ball and finds his streaking receiver near the Tennessee twenty. Of course, this play doesn’t go off if Lockett doesn’t make an absolutely marvelous in-step adjustment to safely corral the ball as he goes to the ground, securing a 51-yard gain for the offense and setting up the teams first score of the afternoon — a Jason Meyers field goal. But of course, No-E wasn’t done for the day.
Then there was that touchdown...
Words really don’t do justice to the footwork, vision, and acceleration that Lockett put on display here, so rather than try to hype this one up any more than it has already been hyped, here is the jaw-dropping 63-yard go ahead score that put in motion a flurry of TDs for the Seahawks at the end of the first half.
Once again, first-year Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldron runs a protection-heavy scheme that only sees three players getting out into routes. This time, second year player Freddie Swain gets in on the action, as well. Out of 11-personnel, both Will Dissly and Chris Carson stay home to block, the Titans once again rush their front four and bring some delayed pressure out of the second level. Swain finds the sticks and runs a short hook, while Metcalf runs a shallow cross over the middle. As you can see above, three players stick with D.K. while the corner hangs with Swain. This leaves Tyler Lockett to deal with safety Bradley McDougald and nickel corner Elijah Molden. And words can hardly describe the beautiful collision between these two teammates that unfolds as they try in vain to bring down #16.
After the catch and as soon as Lockett starts to break towards the endzone, starting at the 30, you can see Pete Carroll at bottom of the screen raising his arms to signal “touchdown” as he watches Tyler sprinting upfield with nobody in front of him. What really impresses me the most about this play is the savvy that the Seattle receiver demonstrates in his route, as he battles through Molden’s contact well past the line to gain and ultimately leaves him eating his dust, several steps behind. He locates the soft spot in the coverage and hauls in the catch. This level of rapport between QB and receiver is a rare sight to behold. But then what happens after the catch is the *chef’s kiss* finale to an already spectacular play. If he had simply gone to the turf at this point, nobody would have been disappointed. But instead, he stays on his feet, makes a lightning quick adjustment, and turns toward daylight. This is a sequence that I imagine only a small handful of receivers in the NFL would have a realistic chance to replicate, and it is plays like this that have helped turn Tyler Lockett from a fan favorite into a household name.
Taking a step back for a moment, what has made the career of Tyler Lockett so impressive to me is his ability and willingness to grow as a player and a team leader. In his original NFL draft profile, he was evaluated as a “good backup who could become a starter.” If that is not the understatement of the century, consider this: drafted as a speedster who ran a 4.4 forty and was considered a return specialist with some offensive upside, the diminutive receiver made an outsize impact from the get go with his impressively mature route running and angelic hands that are equally skilled at finding seemingly every football thrown his way as they are at crafting poetry. But then, just as quickly as his career got going, it fell into jeopardy as he suffered a catastrophic injury in a late season loss to the divisional rival Arizona Cardinals, fracturing both his Tibia and Fibula in his right leg.
An injury this severe to a player who makes a living using these very legs to outrun the competition could have had serious ramifications. And in a way, it did, but not as one might expect; since his recovery, Lockett has put together nearly 4,000 yards as a receiver, caught more than 30 touchdowns, and has dominated just about every advanced metric that analyzes wideout performance. Among these accolades, he famously helped his QB Russell Wilson post a perfect passer rating when targeting him in 2018 — on 70 targets! Not to let this be his pinnacle, he went on to set the team record for catches in a season with an even 100 receptions in 2020. And after two weeks of play in 2021, he is looking every bit of a player who is set to outdo himself yet again.
While the season is young, and the Seahawks have taken the unenviable position of being the only team in their division who currently has a loss on their record, many games lie in wait for the franchise and their newfangled offense. With Tyler Lockett leading the way, I have every confidence that the Hawks will not only rebound, but will look good while doing it. And with Shane Waldron calling plays in Seattle, #16 looks to be jumping on the fast track to adding yet another career-defining season to his already impressive resume.