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Seahawks film: Breaking down all 6 of Tariq Woolen’s interceptions from his rookie season

Can the second-year corner repeat his ball production this season?

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Tariq Woolen was arguably the biggest breakout star in the NFL last season. The Seattle Seahawks 2022 fifth-round pick out of UTSA burst onto the scene, flashing promising skills in preseason which led to a Week 1 starting role. He parlayed that into a six-interception rookie season which was good enough for a third-place finish in the DROY voting behind winner New York Jets corner Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner and runner-up Detroit Lions pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Part of what made Woolen’s rookie year so impressive was his ball production, which is something that he did not show in college (with just two interceptions at UTSA). That sudden jump in ball production does raise the question of how sustainable is his rookie year total on a year-to-year basis? There are multiple ways to evaluate that but one of the easiest is to break down all of his interceptions to determine were they a product of luck or high-end plays on his part.

Interception #1

There really is not a whole lot to the interception. With the clock running down Seattle was in prevent mode to keep everything in front to prevent a big play. Drake London ran a 15-yard curl to Woolen’s side and Woolen read the eyes of quarterback Marcus Mariota which allowed him to come up and make a play on the ball. Mariota was late on this throw, which certainly helped the then-rookie corner make the play, but it is nonetheless good route recognition and transition speed on his part.

Interception #2

As is the case with a lot of Tariq Woolen plays, Seattle is in Cover 3 zone here with Woolen occupying the defense’s right side. Woolen does a good job of understanding the coverage assignment on the play as he carries the receiver to the inside and opposite side of the field despite being in zone defense. With the opposite side receiver running a go, which is effectively a clear out route, Woolen has to quickly recognize that. Had he not it would’ve resulted in a massive chunk play and potential touchdown for the Detroit Lions. Instead, Woolen stays with T.J. Hockenson step for step, reads the eyes of Jared Goff and undercuts the throw for the pick 6. Woolen is the beneficiary of some fortune here as Jared Goff was badly late on his read here and had a very easy completion to Hockenson in the first two windows of the route. However, you cannot take away Woolen’s ability to stick with the tight end and undercut the route.

Interception #3

Out of Woolen’s six interceptions from last season, for me this is his most impressive. On an island in Cover 1 man, meaning he has to protect over the top and underneath, Woolen gets his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage which allows him to read the quarterback in the early part of the route whilst allowing him to transition up field if needed which was on this play. Once he recognizes where Andy Dalton is going with the ball he sticks his feet in the ground, maintains his balance for the most part and is able to make a play on the ball.

Interception #4

Honestly, on this play I can’t really tell what Seattle is in. Pre-snap it looks like man coverage, but there are also some zone tendencies during the play which leads me to believe it is a mixture of prevent and Cover 3, and it should be noted this was 4th down. Regardless though, it is an extremely impressive play by Woolen because of the poise he shows. Poise is traditionally a term used to describe a quarterback, but it is the perfect way to describe Woolen. Despite having to guard one of the league’s top speedsters in Hollywood Brown, he stays patient, does not bite on any movement early in the route and does not run through the receiver which we see on so many underthrown deep balls. Instead, he slows down, reads Brown’s movement and gets his head around which allows him to make a play on the ball for the INT.

Interception #5

There is not a whole lot to say about this one because honestly, I hope just about everyone reading this article would be able to make this interception. On what was a completely botched trick play by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Woolen is tasked with guarding Tom Brady and defending a throw from Leonard Fournette, a sentence prior to this game I thought I would never write. A Brady slip and Fournette badly underthrown ball makes this potentially the easiest interception he will have in his career.

Interception #6

I can watch this play a thousand times and I will still have zero idea as to what John Wolford is doing here. There is nothing open on Woolen’s side but he still decides to throw it anyways which results in an easy pick. Woolen does keep his eyes on Wolford as he is in a deep third zone and he does remain somewhat patient on the misdirection, but honestly, there was little he had to do on this one as it was almost gift wrapped for him.

Overall thoughts

There is a certain level of randomness to interceptions for cornerbacks, which makes it a very unreliable stat to judge a player off of because so many times they are a product of other people’s mistakes. I think we can say without doubt, the final two interceptions are gifts for Woolen. However, the other four are impressive plays which cannot be discounted. It is a little difficult to imagine another six-interception season for him in 2023, but four is certainly not out of the question.