Off to Historic Start, Tyler Lockett Finding 'Freedom' in Shane Waldron's Offense

Fresh off the hottest two-week stretch of his NFL career, Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett has earned the respect of his peers to play the game his way.
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RENTON, WA — With a team-high eight receptions for 178 yards against the Titans, Tyler Lockett continued to etch his name into the history books. His 278 receiving yards over the first two weeks of the year is the most any Seahawks wideout has ever recorded to start a season, surpassing Hall of Famer Steve Largent's previous franchise record of 215. This comes after setting the team's single-season record in receptions with 100 in 2020. 

Those numbers, however, are nowhere near the forefront of the oft-reserved Lockett's mind. But now more than ever, he finds himself directly under the national spotlight and it's become hard to ignore. 

"I never really played for records," Lockett told reporters on Wednesday. "Then, you know, when you start hearing people talk about records, it makes you start wanting to play for records. I never played for stats, I never played for catches. And then, you start looking at all this other type of stuff and you start realizing you doing a lot of the stuff that you never cared about."

Lockett simply wants to enjoy playing the game he loves and avoid any unnecessary distractions. Citing stat-based contract incentives as one of those main distractors, he's tried to keep his head down to the best of his ability. But in a league dominated by stats and fantasy football, the numbers he's put up will naturally attract unwanted attention. 

"As soon as you start doing great," Lockett continued. "Now you start getting social media attention, everybody start trying to post stuff about you, talk about you. ... It makes it harder to find that 'me time' to be able to get away from that stuff."

This year, Lockett is dedicating his season to his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma and those who inhabit it. And so far, he's given them plenty to root for. 

On the NFL leaderboard, he's second in receiving yards (278), tied-second in touchdown receptions (three) and first in receptions of 20 yards or more (five). Per Pro Football Focus, quarterback Russell Wilson has a near-perfect passer rating (156.3) when targeting Lockett. And a quarter of the receiver's 12 catches thus far have gone for 50 or more yards, including two touchdowns that both eclipsed the 60-yard threshold. 

But as Lockett notes, explosive plays, while exciting, can also have a negative effect on a team. Offenses can become over-reliant on them and lose their rhythm—something he feels happened to the Seahawks this past Sunday.

"Well, I think on offense you want to be as explosive as you can, but you want to be able to do it at a steady pace," Lockett expressed. "It's good to be able to have those plays that we had because we know that we can be able to have those short drives and have success. ... Like, those are all the things that we're gonna need as the season progresses. But being able to control the game, being able to control the tempo, move the sticks on 1st and 10—all those different types of things, those scenarios, we gotta be able to get better at that."

The Seahawks lost all sense of control against the Titans, blowing a 15-point halftime lead while scoring just six points through the entire second half and overtime. They possessed the ball for just three minutes and 36 seconds on their final four drives of the game while their defense played 42 minutes and 33 seconds against Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and the rest of Tennessee's high-powered offensive attack.

"I think sometimes we can get so caught up in, like, we had so many explosive plays," Lockett explained. "It's like once you start seeing so many explosive plays happening, you want to keep doing it. I mean, eventually they ended up taking away all those explosive plays and they wanted us to play short, and that's something we'll love to do—that's something that we want to do."

Lockett points to penalties as the reason the Seahawks were unable to take advantage of what the Titans' defense gave them. In the second half, two penalties were accepted against them: an offensive pass interference called on DK Metcalf and a false start from Damien Lewis that derailed a 4th and 1 situation in which the team lined up to go for it. 

Overall, it was a failed deviation from what made Seattle so successful in Indianapolis the week prior, most notably featuring less pre-snap motion and utilization of tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly. Wilson and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron struggled to find their groove and, as a result, the Seahawks ran more than four plays just once in the final three periods of play. 

"Tennessee did a great job of being able to stop us," Lockett admitted. "Just being able to move the ball and controlling the clock down the field. They were doing that to us. You know, and we were doing that early on, but we kinda got sidetracked and we lost it. So, I think it was just a good way for us to be able to learn. Luckily, it was in the second game of the season and not something where it could have been detrimental." 

Team struggles aside, Lockett is personally thriving in Waldron's new system. He's been allowed to move about the offense and has split out wide at a 64.6 percent clip—the third-highest mark in his career, 26.2 percent higher from his total last year and the highest since 2016. 

"For me, I feel like I'm back to how I was at [Kansas] State," Lockett revealed. "When you go to a certain team coming into the league, you don't know what type of philosophy a team has, you don't know what type of route running they want you to do. So there's a lot of stuff that, like, people, fans, coaches, whoever don't see that players have because that player has to be able to put it on the side, because he has to be able to do what the team wants him to do."

Only a very select few receivers in the NFL are afforded the freedom of expression and individuality in their play. In most situations, receivers have a set role with guidelines to abide by and Lockett had been no exception through his first six years in the league. But now, with Waldron at the helm, the three-time All-Pro has been given the nod to operate to his liking and it's paid big dividends for the Seahawks.

"I just felt like I've been given a little more freedom to be able to do a lot of the stuff that I did back in college," Lockett added. "I haven't had that freedom like I used to [at Kansas State], so now I'm just more comfortable in being able to do the stuff that I used to do 'cause that's how I always played."