RENTON, WA - As reaffirmed by his record-setting 15-catch, 200-yard performance in a 37-34 loss to the Cardinals last Sunday, Seahawks star Tyler Lockett remains one of the toughest receivers to cover in the NFL.
Despite lacking the prototypical size associated with most top-flight wideouts, the shifty Lockett has continued to improve as a route runner and with his penchant for one-handed snags and tip-toeing the sidelines like a ballerina, he makes highlight reel receptions look routine each week.
But this weekend, with the visiting 49ers coming to town, Lockett may meet his match in a former Big 12 foe. Back from numerous severe injuries, cornerback Jason Verrett has positioned himself for Comeback Player of the Year consideration, producing three passes defensed and an interception in five games.
"We all know he's a great player," Lockett said, reminiscing about facing Verrett when they played at Kansas State and TCU respectively. "I definitely know he's a great player... and I'm looking forward to going against him again and just making each other better every step of the way."
Nearly four years ago, Lockett suffered a gruesome broken leg injury in Seattle's season finale against Arizona. He later admitted it took more than a season to fully make it back to 100 percent health, so he can relate with the tremendous adversity Verrett has endured to make it back into an NFL starting lineup.
At one point, coming off a Pro Bowl selection for the Chargers in 2015, Verrett was on his way to becoming one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. That's when an avalanche of debilitating injuries started, first with a torn ACL that cost him all but four games in 2016.
Then, after making it back from reconstructive knee surgery, Verrett appeared in just one game in 2017 before further knee problems led to another operation and another injured reserve visit. He missed the entire 2018 season as well after tearing Achilles tendon during the Chargers first training camp practice the following July.
Having played in just five games in the prior three seasons combined, the 49ers took a chance on Verrett, signing him to a one-year deal. He appeared in one game before suffering his latest setback and an ankle injury landed him on injured reserve for the fifth time in six years.
Rather than give up on Verrett, San Francisco re-signed him in April and he reported to training camp simply vying for a roster spot. He impressed on the practice field and injuries to Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Mosely led to him earning his first start since 2017 in Week 3 against the Giants.
Finally healthy following years of setbacks, Verrett has played fantastic football in five starts. He recorded his first interception since the 2016 season in Week 6, picking off Jared Goff in the 49ers 24-16 win over the Rams. Targeted 19 times, opposing quarterbacks have only completed eight passes for 70 yards against him for a 30.6 passer rating per Pro Football Reference.
Facing off the first time since their collegiate careers, Lockett will present the toughest challenge Verrett has faced since entering San Francisco's lineup. Thriving in his sixth season with Seattle, he currently ranks seventh in receptions (45), ninth in the NFL in receiving yards (542), and first in receiving touchdowns (7).
Lockett has also found prior success against Verrett. The last time the two players squared off in November 2013, he caught eight passes for 123 yards and a 74-yard touchdown with the talented cornerback matched up against him as Kansas State edged TCU 33-31.
With both players offering similar physical builds, quickness, and toughness, it's bound to be one of the most appetizing matchups in Sunday's latest matchup between two bitter rivals. While Lockett will be looking to gain the upper hand, having stayed in touch with him over the years, he couldn't be happier to see Verrett enjoy success again after such a difficult road back to the field.
"He's a really good guy and I was really excited for him to be able to get back right, being able to get himself in a position to come back and play. Kind of shows his resilience with all the injuries and stuff that he's dealt with throughout his career and he's still fighting, he's still battling, still being able to start for a team and I think it says a lot about him."