Tyler Lockett's 2021 season
Seaside Joe 1178: How much will Lockett's impact be affected by the Russell Wilson trade?
Russell Wilson opened and closed the season with games in which he had a perfect passer rating when throwing to Tyler Lockett. In Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, Wilson was 4-of-5 for 100 yards and two touchdowns when throwing in Lockett’s direction.
And in Week 18 against the Arizona Cardinals, Wilson went 5-of-5 for 98 yards and two touchdowns to Lockett in a 38-30 Seahawks victory.
Seattle also won their Week 1 matchup against the Colts, and the Seahawks were 6-2 in games when the passer rating to Lockett was 105 or better, compared to 1-7 when it was below that mark. Lockett missed one game in 2021, a 20-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15.
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But the Seahawks record with or without Tyler Lockett having a great game is a gray area missing a lot of important context. Here are a couple of clarifiers:
Three of those wins came against the teams that picked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd (Jaguars, Lions, Texans) in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Two of those losses came when Wilson was out, while another came during the Rams game in which Wilson was injured, and another was against the Packers when Wilson was clearly not yet ready to return.
Statistically speaking only, Lockett’s two worst games of the season came with a lesser version of Russell Wilson or Geno Smith: Against the Rams in Week 5, two passes thrown at Lockett were intercepted, one by each quarterback. That day, Lockett caught 5-of-10 targets, gained 57 yards, had three first downs, and the passer rating on throws in his direction was 27.9.
The interception from Wilson was tipped at the point of the catch.
The interception from Geno Smith happened late in the game. Seattle was only down six and Geno was attempting to do his best version of the Russell Wilson two-minute offense, but Lockett was practically nowhere to be found on the throw and the ball landed in the arms of LA safety Nick Scott.
It’s unclear if Lockett, sitting on the ground with his arms in the air, was actually interfered with or not. It is clear that no flag was thrown on the play.
In Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers, Wilson’s first game back from injury and a 17-0 shutout loss for Seattle, Lockett caught 2-of-8 targets for 23 yards and one interception. The pick was another unusual one, as Wilson has first-and-10 in Green Bay territory but tries to “make a play” by throwing a deep ball towards a double-covered and smothered Lockett in the end zone.
I think these three interceptions also lay out why “Passer rating when targeted” can be a very unfair and sometimes dishonest statistic. What did Lockett do wrong on any of these throws? Other than being a great player who Wilson may have felt he could force these throws to and hope that 16 makes a play?
The Seahawks went 5-1 when Lockett caught a touchdown last season, with the only loss coming in the 33-30 meltdown against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, a game that unfortunately set the stage for more heartbreaks to come. Lockett had 178 yards that day, the second-highest total of his career.
In fact, Seattle is 0-3 in Lockett’s three best career contests by receiving yards. Without looking, can you name the other two?
It is understandable though when the Seahawks won the other five games in which Lockett caught a touchdown: Touchdowns are worth points and scoring points helps lead to winning games. There’s really nothing scientific about it, Seattle just needs to figure out how to help Lockett score more touchdowns next season despite not having Wilson anymore.
In his most recent game, Lockett caught two touchdowns against the Cardinals, a defense that ranked 25th in passing touchdowns allowed, but fifth against the pass by DVOA.
Early in the first quarter, Wilson makes a much better deep ball decision as Lockett is uncovered against the Arizona defense, and he then runs the ball into the end zone after gaining another 11 yards after the catch.
Lockett makes himself available for another touchdown in the second quarter, this one from five yards out.
But these plays also highlight a daunting reality, which is that Wilson is no longer Seattle’s quarterback. Lockett was dominant against the Jaguars with Smith as the quarterback in Week 8 (12-of-13 targets caught, 142 yards) but don’t let your affection for the Seahawks beating a team 31-7 distract you from the fact that Jacksonville has been a joke of a franchise for far too many years.
The Jaguars ranked 31st against the pass by DVOA, 32nd in time of possession, 28th in points allowed, and 32nd in takeaways. Lockett’s old teammate, Shaquill Griffin, allowed three touchdowns all of last season and two of them came against Seattle.
I don’t think playing Jacksonville counts as a “real game” and I do know that every team is made up of football professionals. Except maybe perhaps the teams that are coached by Urban Meyer.
The Seahawks lost the three games that preceded Jacksonville and the three games the followed Jacksonville.
In the two-and-half games with Geno Smith as the quarterback prior to the Jaguars, Lockett caught 9-of-20 targets for 104 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per target. In Wilson’s first game back, Lockett caught 2-of-8 targets for 23 yards.
But then Lockett had 115 yards in a 23-13 loss to the Cardinals, followed by three catches for 96 yards in a 17-15 loss to the Commanders.
Lockett played in five more games after that and he found the end zone with much more regularity—coincidentally or not—after Rashaad Penny became the most dominant running back in the NFL last December and January; Seattle went 4-0 in those months when Lockett scored a touchdown, the lone exception being the Seahawks’ embarrassing, gut-wrenching 25-24 loss to Nick Foles’ Chicago Bears in Week 16.
Lockett caught 3-of-6 for 30 yards that day.
I wish I could tell you that there were some relevant throws between Lockett and Smith last season, something positive to examine. But the more realistic and truthful evaluation of their connection in 2021 is that there wasn’t one.
Excepting that game against the Jaguars, Smith struggled to find and accurately target Lockett in his two other starts and against the Rams.
In the first quarter of a 23-20 loss to the Steelers in Week 6, Geno Smith attempts to hit Lockett on third-and-5 in Pittsburgh territory. But not only is the throw behind Lockett, at best a completion would have only led to a fourth down decision.
For the Seahawks to have any success in the passing game next season, it will require a Jimmy Garoppolo-like uplifting of the quarterback by the rest of the players on offense: Receivers, Tight Ends, Running Backs, and Offensive Linemen. All of them working together, like the 49ers must do with Trent Williams, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel helping Garoppolo immensely on every play, in order to gain yards and move the chains through the air.
One such play can be found against the Steelers, as Smith dumps an easy screen to Lockett for a catch-and-run first down gain on the sidelines.
These are not the most exciting plays, but this 14-yard pickup did help lead to a touchdown drive. The Seahawks managed to tie the game in the final seconds and force overtime, allowing for one more completion to Tyler Lockett.
Geno Smith puts it where he needs to put it, setting Seattle up for a chance to potentially score a game-winner.
But as was too often the case in his limited stint as the starting quarterback, Smith was sacked on this drive, forcing punt. The Seahawks did get the ball back, but Smith was sacked for a fifth time, again by T.J. Watt, and his lost fumble led directly to a Steelers’ game-winning field goal.
That’s partly why Lockett may be catching passes from this guy next season:
Tyler Lockett will turn 30 in late September, making him one of the oldest starting receivers in the NFL. Not a single 30-or-older wide receiver in the entire league had more than 850 receiving yards in 2021.
However, other receivers who turn 30 this year include Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, while reigning Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp is about to be 29. I’m not saying that because of Lockett’s age that he will be any less of a player next season—Lockett’s 1,175 yards in 2021 is a career-high total—I’m only relaying to you the status of 30+ receivers last season.
And the same is basically true of 2019 and 2020.
Adams, Allen, and Lockett will look to prove those years have been a fluke and that they do not have a Julio Jones-esque career meltdown coming in the near future. Much more concerning for Lockett than his age should be the quarterback who is going to be throwing him the ball next season, but perhaps that won’t have to be a huge issue if Shane Waldron is consistently putting his best players in the best positions to succeed.
It also wouldn’t hurt to get the Jaguars back on the schedule somehow.