As the season progresses, these missives may well get shorter and shorter. You know, as NFL quarterbacks get wise to the folly of targeting Seattle Seahawks rookie Tariq Woolen.
It’s already started to happen. Just six throws went his direction in the Week 7 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers; a mere three during the very public pantsing of the New York Giants “offense” in Week 8.
To the clips! Since there were only nine targets, I took the liberty of including an extra play of import, showcasing beautiful communication in the secondary.
Week 7 vs. Chargers
By way of preview, this game represents the beginning of QBs figuring out how to not get beat by Woolen. And it usually means avoiding the sideline. Justin Herbert and Daniel Jones will combine to produce five completions against the Seahawks rookie sensation. Four of those will come when the receiver breaks to the middle and escapes Woolen’s clutches. Including the touchdown, the only touchdown, the ugly touchdown that blemishes Woolen’s stat sheet but serves to remind us he has not reached his ceiling, far from it.
QTR 1, 2:54 remaining, incomplete
First target against the Chargers. He's so agile even when the play is "just" a pass defensed. Also, the timing couldn't be better. pic.twitter.com/9JiZnU426v— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
Cornerbacks of recent yore (since Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell at least) have tended to arrive either too early — flag — or too late — complete pass. Woolen’s timing is already top tier, and he angles his body enough to avoid too much contact before the ball.
QTR 2, 14:42 remaining, 14-yard completion
Probably complete even if he doesn’t slip, right?
Tariq. Don't fall, man. It's not good form. pic.twitter.com/SzYLN1j3Ju— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
The man can tackle. Again, only one missed on the season, and the form is something else, too. How is he only eight games in to his entire career? Another angle, to appreciate the recovery and takedown.
Second target from another angle, because we can. And the tackle is so pure. pic.twitter.com/qq0QRjgMr3— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
QTR 2, 11:03 remaining, 10-yard completion
Told you these types of negative plays were coming. And that’s fine. Eventually they’ll turn into tipped passes, and then the fun REALLY starts.
Receivers have figured out the sideline is not their friend in matchups with Woolen. This third target, and the upcoming TD later, are perfect illustrations. Great cut by the WR too, very ankley. pic.twitter.com/2IdoCVly0j— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
QTR 2, 10:26 remaining, incomplete
Love the communication here. Love love love it. pic.twitter.com/kIWzyE6aP1— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
Woolen and Ryan Neal are getting on the same page, as they should, and indeed, what’s not to love. Remember they’re also playing their first few games together.
QTR 2, 9:43 remaining, TOUCHDOWN
All it takes is two guys getting in each other’s way, oh so briefly, for Mike Williams to get the teensy bit of daylight, and score the first (only) touchdown on Woolen’s watch.
This TD represents the fifth target at Woolen in the first half alone vs. the Chargers. Herbert is exploiting the middle of the field, working away from Woolen's substantial strengths. It works, mainly because the crossing patters slow everyone down in the Seahawks backfield. pic.twitter.com/19ewKEuVMo— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
In the space of five minutes, Herbert targets Woolen five times. It ends happily for the Chargers star quarterback. Which is why it’s kinda weird that in the entire second half, he throws to that side only once.
QTR 4, 14:44 remaining, incomplete
This is more like what QBs should be trying against Woolen. Because it doesn't work. pic.twitter.com/9GzxwSkX3q— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
Another angle of target 6 pic.twitter.com/y5YOMfxHWQ— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
Woolen gets away with plenty of contact and a DPI call wouldn’t have been egregious. Better to be lucky and good than just lucky, I suppose.
BONUS FOOTAGE: Team defense baby
Watch Neal read the play all the way, from before the snap, run up and motion Woolen to go wide, then deny the pass. Such good communication and execution from the right side of the secondary. It’s like they’ve been playing together for years, not just month. Singular.
BONUS FOOTAGE. Teamwork. Gotta love it. And Ryan Neal is the truth. pic.twitter.com/B8XrNk11al— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
P.S. Pay Ryan Neal.
Week 8 vs. Giants
Three targets only from Jones, all in the second half.
QTR 3, 6:13 remaining, incomplete
Against the Giants, Dan Jones waits until midway through the third quarter to target Woolen. Why, you ask? Haha, you are asking no such thing. pic.twitter.com/vDBt0Qm0Xu— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
What’s not to like here?
- again with the timing
- the change of direction is elite
- what a physical presence at the catch point
- the passion afterward
Oh yeah, Woolen is pumped (and jacked) to finally make a play on the ball. Another angle:
Tariq Woolen is FIRED UP. pic.twitter.com/R48JF2l9nJ— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
QTR 3, 1:52 remaining, 21-yard completion
Like in the Chargers game, Woolen is able to hand check the receiver without drawing a flag. He hasn’t been penalized since Week 5, by the way. In fact, there’s a lot of contact while the ball sails through the air, and the receiver is as fortunate to come away with a catch as Woolen is to avoid being penalized.
There's a lot of contact on target two vs. the Giants. I like it when they let Seahawks cornerbacks play. pic.twitter.com/3GvoTrAJ84— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
I do love it when they let Seahawks cornerbacks play, though, don’t you? It’s very nostalgic, unless you’re on a different NFC West team. Then it’s more like “shit not this again dammit.”
QTR 4, 5:04 remaining, 27-yard completion
Again, an explosive to the middle of the field. Something for Woolen to work on, helped by the defensive coaching minds that deserve effusive praise as well. pic.twitter.com/vAUHXVumzR— John Skellingt n Fraley (@johndavidfraley) November 5, 2022
Three observations about this particular explosive pass play:
A) The desperation tackle is almost funny. But it works! That’s what’s important!
B) Watch Woolen hesitate and consider helping the WR who’s crossed over into the open space he vacated. Woolen sticks with his man, a good decision in the end, but the poor angle gives Jones a little more room with which to work.
C) Lot of time for the QB + well-run route makes any corner’s job nearly impossible.
Dear reader, we are all caught up, You’ve seen all the targets, all the big plays, all the evidence of a learning curve being climbed swiftly by a massive talent.
By way of conclusion, un update on Woolen’s stats, courtesy of the fine folks at pro-football-reference, without whom I would be completely lost.
18-34 for 250 yards
1 TD allowed
47.1 passer rating against
7 passes defensed
1 (one) missed tackle
Congratulations to the Defensive Rookie of the Month. He earned every pixel of that award.