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Seahawks passing offense is missing Tyler Lockett’s explosive plays

Seattle’s perennial big-play threat has scarcely had explosive moments in 2023.

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks offense has largely disappointed this season. We’ve seen the passing game play to its potential against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, but we’ve also witnessed disasters versus the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams. Forget about week-to-week consistency, the Seahawks show wide variance in performance from quarter-to-quarter.

We’ve discussed to death the offensive line injuries and subsequent lackluster performances, the questionable decision-making at times by Geno Smith, the weekly miscommunications between quarterback and receiver, and the curious play-calling by offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.

One area where Seattle has noticeably dropped off is explosive pass plays (20+ yards) from one of its greatest ever receivers. Tyler Lockett has been an outstanding receiver whether with Russell Wilson or Geno Smith as his quarterback. He has excelled as a deep threat in the passing game, with over half of his 58 receiving touchdowns coming on explosive plays.

This year is different. Lockett is tied for the fewest yards per reception of his career, his yards per target is a career-low 7.1, and his YAC per reception is just 2.6. The explosive plays have almost completely disappeared.

The Seahawks have 36 pass plays of 20+ yards, which through 12 games is right in line with their previous three seasons—38 in 2022, 37 in 2021, 39 in 2020. What has changed is Lockett’s involvement, or lack thereof. Half of Lockett’s explosive plays in 2023 came against the Cincinnati Bengals, nearly two months ago. DK Metcalf is the team leader in explosives (12), followed by Noah Fant and Jaxon Smith-Njigba with 5 apiece.

Passes to Lockett 20+ yards downfield are just 3/19, the worst efficiency of his career by a mile. Metcalf deep shots are 8/24, which is almost identical to his 2022 rate, and an improvement from his sub-30% completion rate in 2021, so his efficiency hasn’t suffered.

It has to be acknowledged that Lockett has missed several practices throughout the season due to a lingering hamstring injury. Other than the broken leg at the end of 2016, Lockett has been one of the most available players on the Seahawks roster. His only missed games aside from his leg injury were for COVID-19 in 2021 and a busted finger in 2022.

Of course, Lockett is also 31 years old and in that age range where receivers start to decline. I believe his hamstring problem is affecting his performance and ability to separate down the field, but I also can’t rule out that Father Time is catching up with a franchise legend. It’s not like the Seahawks have struggled to get him the ball downfield behind worse offensive lines. Lockett is still the team leader in 3rd down conversions and he is the go-to option in that 10-19 yard window, but that classic long ball connection is just not clicking this year. I suspect this is doing more damage to Seattle than realized.

All of this is to say... I see this as more reason to get first-round rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba more involved in the offense down the homestretch of this season.