Skip to main content
Publish date:

Tyler Lockett, Russell Wilson Offer Differing Assessment of Seahawks' Third Down Struggles

Mirroring the team's struggles on the field, Wilson and Lockett aren't exactly on the same page when analyzing what has gone wrong for Seattle offensively this season.

Entering the 2021 season, the Seahawks looked poised to boast one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. With Russell Wilson returning at the helm running hand-picked offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's scheme and elite weaponry headlined by Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf around him, expectations couldn't have been higher.

Unfortunately, with everyone from Wilson to Waldron to coach Pete Carroll sharing some of the blame, Seattle's offense has stunningly been putrid most of the season and face-planted in tremendous fashion in Sunday's devastating 23-13 loss to Arizona. In the process, the team extended its streak without scoring a touchdown to an incredible 20 drives, the longest such streak in the league in more than a decade.

As has been the case all season, the root of the Seahawks issues revolved around poor third down play. Going into Week 11, Waldron's unit ranked 30th in the NFL in third down conversion percentage and they didn't do anything to help those numbers by converting only two out of 10 third down opportunities against the Cardinals. As a result, they ran 30 fewer plays and held the ball for 20 minutes less than their opposition, a problematic trend behind their unbelievable 3-7 start.

Following the game, a flustered Carroll didn't have any answers for the lingering third down ineptitude and eventually walked out of his press conference early. To his credit, he did return later to face the music and field additional questions, though he still didn't have much to offer up on the inability to sustain drives.

"I'm disappointed," Carroll said. "I don't have any new answers for you in similar situations. That's a real challenge for this staff. We have to find our ways to get our guys to execute better so that we're not in the same situation. It's like the same story, and that can drive you a little batty."

While Carroll may not have had any new thoughts on the recurring issue, receiver Tyler Lockett opened up the curtain a bit, revealing the Seahawks have consistently been seeing different coverages and scheming from opponents than they have prepared for during the week.

“Honestly, all of these teams are not playing what they play on film," Lockett remarked. "They are literally not, so it’s hard to be able to get ready. Every time you get ready to go against a team, they might play man-to-man their whole entire 7-8 games, and then they play us, and they don’t play man once."

As emphasized by Carroll, Lockett, and several players on Sunday, the Seahawks have been happy with what they've accomplished on the practice field leading up to games in recent weeks. But that hasn't translated to game action and Lockett's comments suggest part of that may be due to game planning complications with other teams changing things up when they play them.

But in a copycat league like the NFL, Seattle should be expecting opponents to run similar coverages and defensive looks that have worked effectively against them, regardless of what Arizona or any other team has put on film. And when opponents do switch things up, a quality coordinator has to be able to make adjustments quickly and the players have to execute those adjustments on the field.

"When you look at what teams are doing consistently week in and week out, nobody is doing that against us, so we have to, like I said, I keep saying adjust because we have to understand what teams are doing," Lockett continued. "Once we finally figure out the game plan, that’s when we are able to get moving. That’s the thing that we are all trying to figure out and learn because teams are just throwing out different coverages. When you’re getting ready for a week and you see what they are doing consistently, and they aren’t playing any of the stuff they normally do, you have to be able to figure things out faster.”

Unfortunately, this isn't a new phenomenon for the Seahawks, which makes their current plight all the more damning. Long before Waldron arrived in January, in-game adjustments haven't been a strong point for Carroll's coaching staff regardless of the play caller.

Early in the 2020 season, with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calling the shots from the sky box, Wilson and the Seahawks looked unstoppable. The star quarterback was on pace to break Peyton Manning's single season touchdown record during a 5-0 start and through the first eight games, they averaged nearly 35 points per contest. Nothing could slow them down except themselves.

Read More

But soon thereafter, opponents began primarily running two-deep safety looks to take away the deep ball from Wilson and the offense hit the skids with minimal adjustments being made. While Seattle still finished with a 12-4 record and won six of its final eight games, the team did so in spite of its offense, which scored 20 or fewer points four times during that span.

Then, Wilson and company laid an egg in a 30-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the wild card round, ultimately costing Schottenheimer his job. Lockett admitted on Sunday that he sees parallels in how the Seahawks haven't been able to adapt fast enough when opponents have changed things up schematically from what they expected to see.

“Yeah, they did that last year. That’s the thing, teams play different ways," Lockett elaborated. "That’s why I said the biggest thing for us that I have learned as a player is that you have to be able to watch your film and know what teams try to play chess and figure out what can stop you and what teams are doing to try to stop you. That way you can have an idea of what we can do to make things better because we can be able to have a great week of practice and know what defense they will play, but we also have to be able to understand that in the game, what we are seeing, if it is different than we know as players, we have to be able to adapt to what it is they are showing us.

"That is the biggest thing with us being able to convert 3rd downs and being able to move the ball forward. It’s just being able to see what they are playing and what we need to do to be able to beat it. If we can learn that as players faster in the first or second quarter, then the whole entire game will be different.”

When asked about Lockett's remarks during his Monday press conference, Carroll didn't concur, initially responding, "You're assuming that he's right."

After pausing for a second, Carroll took a step back to avoid calling out his own player, saying opponents do tend to play the Seahawks using a different defensive strategy than they would against other teams based on Wilson's mobility and their personnel. But as far as being prepared is concerned, he didn't agree with Lockett's premise that the Cardinals threw wrinkles at them they weren't ready for.

"That's nothing new for us at all. We didn't have any problem knowing what they were doing," Carroll added.

Interestingly, when asked for his opinion on the Seahawks' third down issues, Wilson also seemed to disagree with Lockett's take and shot it down. While the Cardinals may have presented a few different coverages from what they game planned for, he didn't see anything from them that surprised him, telling reporters they played Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4, Cover 6, and a "good amount" of match-man coverage.

Instead, as he said after a shutout loss in Green Bay one week earlier and several times after earlier losses this year, Wilson felt Seattle hurt itself with poor execution more than anything else. Negative plays, including a pair of sacks on the opening drive and a botched toss play to running back Alex Collins in the second quarter, continued to put the team into third and long situations that couldn't be overcome.

"Honestly, we had a few funky things in the first half that just are uncharacteristic of our football team I felt like," Wilson stated. "We were moving the ball, and something happens, and it's like, shoot, you know, now it's a minus play. We can't have those minus 5, 10, 15 yard plays. Just can't happen. When you go against a good defense, you can't do that."

Ultimately, Lockett and Wilson both make valid points. Seattle hasn't adjusted well enough to what opponents do against them defensively during games and execution hasn't been anywhere close to where it needs to be for them to win against playoff-caliber teams. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know they have failed in both aspects and that's why they have the second-worst record in the NFC.

But while acknowledging these issues is a good first step, Lockett and Wilson have touched on these topics before and the fact both players as well as Carroll don't seem to be on the same page is revealing in itself. Again, this isn't new. It's one thing to admit you have a problem, it's another to actually do something about it, and week in and week out, the same problems keep derailing this football team without any solutions arising and everyone seems to have a different opinion on how to address i

Based on how the past 19 games have played out with two different coordinators, it's worth wondering whether or not the Seahawks coaching staff - and Wilson and his teammates for that matter - have what it takes to fix an increasingly dysfunctional offense. Even if they do, already with seven losses in the record books, it may be too late to salvage a lost season that could usher in seismic organizational changes next spring.