Fun fact that doubles as a bizarre fact: The Seattle Seahawks are 2-2 when Tariq Woolen records an interception but 3-1 when he doesn’t. It’s so selfless how he doesn’t do it every game. Team over individual stats, we always say.
I joke, but Weeks 5 and 6 give us a pleasant little look at the rest of his four-game pick streak, which was the longest by a rookie in, well, ever.
Week 5 vs. Saints
QTR 3, 5:04 remaining, INTERCEPTION
Andy Dalton, a man of experience and game-managerial caution, avoids Woolen like a Home Depot associate dodges you when all you need is the right ring to fix your kitchen sink’s U-trap. (Yes, that’s oddly specific. Don’t ask.) So no targets for Woolen until after halftime. And wouldn’t you know, as fate would have it, his first test of Tariq —
Pick time! The third of Woolen's career. So many more to come. Dalton really should've put this ball a little more toward the sideline. Oh well pic.twitter.com/xrKXYcsoeS— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 2, 2022
Dalton has to throw that ball to the outside shoulder. Good on Tariq to come away with the ball still cradled in his hands rather than just defensed to the turf. This seems like a good spot to re-mention the oftest-mentioned fact about Woolen: did you know he was a converted wide receiver?
QTR 4, 11:38, 4-yard completion
Congratulations on your four yards, Saints. pic.twitter.com/XjFkjaz5xR— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 2, 2022
You’re going to give these short plays up, as an NFL corner. I think we’ll trade an interception for four yards any day, right? Especially since these represent the only two official Woolen targets of the game.
And even then he doesn’t concede them willingly. He’s ready to tip away an imprecise pass, jar the ball loose with a hard hit, and if neither of those succeeds, a sure tackle completes the job. Woolen is such an accomplished tackler already. He’s only missed one all year. It’s in this series somewhere.
QTR 4, 10:08, defensive holding
That's it for throws at Woolen in the Saints game. He gets dinged for a defensive holding here (the correct call). I include this one because he hasn't been flagged since. pic.twitter.com/qK1soU2pE2— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 2, 2022
This is actually the most recent penalty called on Woolen. He won’t draw a flag in Weeks 6-7-8. Either he’s getting the respect owed an established corner, or he’s picking up some tricks to disguise contact, or he’s learning how to hand-fight better... or all three. Receivers had better hope it’s not all three. (But it’s probably all three.)
Remember how Woolen drew eight penalties in his first four games? That’s not happening anymore, even on bang-bang contact like we’ll see later against the Chargers and Giants.
BONUS MATERIAL: QTR 4, 5:33, oh what could’ve been
The Seahawks didn't lose in New Orleans because of this play exclusively, but man, with less than six minutes left, it was a gut punch. Watch it again, only maybe with your eyes on Tariq Woolen this time. pic.twitter.com/Jx479dX1EW— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 2, 2022
Woolen gets blown up, relatively, on the initial block, and almost has enough juice to catch Taysom Hill in the open field anyway. Which would’ve set him apart from his flummoxed teammates. Very, very nearly a DK Metcalf-Budda Baker moment. Woolen’s top gear is Formula One material.
As Hill crosses the 40 he’s got a five yard lead. By the 30 it’s down to three hashes and by the 10 he’s only a step ahead. At the 8 Woolen’s arm smacks into the ball. I like to think Hill has a “wtf” moment before instinctively relying on his momentum to stumble across the pylon.
Next time, Taysom. Watch your back.
Week 6 vs. Cardinals
The Arizona Smallbeaks have traditionally ruined one Seahawks home game every year. The better the Seahawks are, the more upset-minded the Cardinals get. Not this time.
QTR 1, 15:00, 3-yard completion
The Cardinals open with a series of short passes, some directly at Woolen, some to the other side, and some in his general vicinity: pic.twitter.com/ucPY1T59y9— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
Pretty iffy to assign this coverage solely to Woolen, but as detailed in the methodology earlier, I’m going to include every play that an observer could reasonably assign to him, whether conclusive or not. Plus, this way we get more clips, too.
Again, the tackling, on point, with no hint of hesitation. This is where it helps to consistently have a few inches and pounds on the receiver.
QTR 1, 10:27, incomplete pass
If you keep trying him he’s going to catch one. Not this one, but one one.
Including this incompletion where Murray looked out of step with his receivers pic.twitter.com/Wv1bLsFJyT— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
Kyler Murray wasn’t having his most accurate day ever at Lumen Field last month, and he heaved plenty of passes to the left side, toward whoever happened to line up there. Mostly Marquise Brown. Which makes me very eager to watch Woolen match up with the no-longer-suspended DeAndre Hopkins very shortly.
One facet of Arizona’s game plan appeared to be overloading the left side with receivers and forcing the young Seattle DBs to pass them off cleanly and communicate like veterans. It didn’t work this time for the Cards, but let’s just call that “foreshadowing.”
QTR 1, 4:18, 7-yard completion
Arizona nets seven hard-fought yards on this play. It's one quarter and already Murray has thrown left three times. Catches Woolen a little flat-footed honestly. pic.twitter.com/HQpZLGsgjx— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
This is one of Woolen’s worst snaps of the entire four-part series. And it’s not that bad, which says something. He’s caught leaning backwards, in a rare moment of indecisiveness, when the ball comes out. He recovers, of course, but you can see how the continuing motion of Rondale Moore (4) creates space for Brown to sit down in the zone in between three defenders. Nice play design.
QTR 2, 5:59, 24-yard completion
Forcing Woolen to pass off a receiver and hope he loses track is one way offenses have tried to manufacture explosive plays. Like so: pic.twitter.com/lbBYMA9vb7— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
This explosive against Woolen is one of very few times he is ever beat near the boundary, and it comes with the caveat that he’s almost certainly expecting safety help back there. You can see him choose to stay with Moore in the flat when he could have followed the WR along the sideline, and Murray takes advantage of the decision, which may or may not have been dictated by coverage duties.
BONUS MATERIAL: QTR 3, 2:32, FUMBLE IS MINE
Bonus footage: you weren't using this were you Kyler? Ok I will pounce pic.twitter.com/BpFOJ6rzQX— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
In addition to his four picks and blocked kick, Woolen has two fumble recoveries. All that’s missing is a sack on a corner blitz. Please, Clint Hurtt, save that jewel for the Niners game. We’ll probably need it.
QTR 4, 6:40, 7-yard completion and QTR 4, 6:10, 6-yard completion
Seven more yards on this quick hit. Pretty good throw, pretty good reaction, pretty good wrapup tackle. Good football all around. pic.twitter.com/3AsxTNYYay— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
After this 6-yard completion, Murray is 5-6 for 47 yards throwing at Woolen. Not sure how long he can keep this up. (We know exactly how long he can keep it up.) pic.twitter.com/oKGnjzamqX— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
No YAC for you!
I’m gonna theorize that these two positive plays are what gave Murray the stupid confidence to launch a couple deep ones against Woolen later. They should not have given him such ideas.
QTR 4, 4:04, incomplete
One more deep shot in the Woolen zip code, although not delivered exactly to his front porch pic.twitter.com/ck7Dk28Jrx— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
Murray lets it fly. They’re down 19-9, now or never.
QTR 4, 3:59, INTERCEPTION (so, never)
Welcome to the Tariq Woolen era, Kyler Murray.
You fuck around long enough, you find things out. This athletic pick extends Tariq Woolen's interception streak to four game. Everyone tried to warn you, Kyler. pic.twitter.com/DEWpHf3x0P— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 3, 2022
Obviously Woolen does just about everything right here. But can I point out the rightest thing he does? Watch again, and make a mental of note of when he turns his head back. See what I mean? The awareness is off the charts.
The games against the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants will expose a small, but correctable, flaw in Woolen’s game, and he’ll actually give up his first touchdown (NO! Michael Scott .gif NO!) in the next installment of this series. But we’re looking at the rawest Woolen will ever be. The first half of his first season is as bad as he’ll ever look, and it’s the polar opposite of bad.