SEATTLE, WA - As the proverb goes, "Time heals all wounds." No other organization may relate to that more than the Seahawks. Receiver Tyler Lockett certainly can, having entered the league immediately after Seattle's heartbreaking and divisive loss in Super Bowl XLIX. Now in a similarly fractured state following an unexpected early playoff exit this past January, Lockett believes the organization can move on once again by not dwelling on past mistakes.
"You can't take what happened last year into what's going on this year," Lockett told reporters in a nearly 37-minute press conference with reporters Tuesday afternoon. "You have to learn how to evolve, you have to learn how to adapt."
Adaptability was a key theme in Lockett's media appearance. It's a word that could be perfectly applied to each and every single one of the topics the Kansas State alum covered, from reflecting back on his season-ending leg injury suffered in 2016 to the ways in which the NFL and its personnel continue to operate amidst a global pandemic. It's been a big area of focus for Lockett heading into his seventh season, in which he'll learn to adapt under the third offensive coordinator he's had in his career: Shane Waldron.
Coming over from the Rams, the Seahawks and their players are very familiar with Waldron's work. His offensive philosophy, crafted under the direction of head coach Sean McVay, has become one of the most sought-after commodities in the league. It's one that has consistently stumped Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and his staff for years, helping drive his team out of the playoffs in the wild-card round this past season.
Seattle's downfall in that game, however, has ultimately - and correctly - been attributed to an offense exposed by its struggles to adapt. After imposing their will on opposing defenses through the first half of the 2020 season, Lockett says the Seahawks were challenged to modify their offensive approach once the league adjusted to what they were doing.
“When you look at the first half of our season and see the way that we played, I mean, why would we stop playing like that?” Lockett explained. “It worked so good to where we didn’t have to really worry about adjusting. We made everybody adjust to us. ... It wasn’t until the second half of the season where we truly faced with having to learn how to adjust.”
The Seahawks' offense appeared more dysfunctional as the weeks went by. Eventually, it all came to a head at the worst possible time against defenisve tackle Aaron Donald, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and the rest of the Rams' top-ranked defensive.
The loss had severe ramifications for the franchise. Over the months that followed, their star quarterback, Russell Wilson, made headlines for publicly airing out his frustrations with the organization and toying with the idea of forcing his way out of the Pacific Northwest. Brian Schottenheimer, who took over as the team's offensive coordinator for Darrell Bevell in 2018, was fired despite his offense setting several franchise records this past season.
Lockett notched one of those records, eclipsing the team's single-season mark for receptions with 100. Working in tandem with star wideout DK Metcalf, who also set a record of his own with a franchise-high 1,303 receiving yards, Lockett is excited to see what Waldron cooks up in his first year in Seattle after witnessing him help the Rams take the league by storm.
"They did a lot of great things, they utilized people in a lot of great ways," Lockett analyzed. "And just with the opportunity to be able to have Shane come in, I think there’s a lot of things that we can learn."
Waldron, of course, was the benefactor of Schottenheimer's departure. He also carries the unique perspective of being front and center for the Seahawks' offensive meltdown as a member of the team that caused it. If anyone on the outside looking in is qualified to get Seattle back on the right track offensively, it would appear to be him.
Lockett is of the same belief, working with the expectation Waldron will be able to add a new dimension to the Seahawks' offense perhaps he, his teammates, and coaches haven't seen before.
"There’s a lot of things he brings to the table which may be new to not only us but maybe coaches and other people who, you know, have coached throughout the years or players who’ve played throughout the years."
But can these new elements be successfully implemented into an offense that, as mentioned, has struggled to adapt in the past? Lockett believes so, as long as he and the team remain open-minded.
"For us, I think we have to go into it with a mind that’s able to accept and listen and understand and not act like we know everything."
When the Seahawks hired Schottenheimer, their offensive philosophy remained fairly intact. As he explained upon his arrival in 2018, Seattle planned to carry over about '70 percent' of the concepts it utilized under Bevell. That won't be the case with Waldron, who will attempt to maintain some familiarity for the players while installing his more modern offensive scheme.
While he doesn't know how it will all specifically work out, Lockett is excited by the change he expects to come, especially for himself.
“They've seen me for three years play inside. They’ve seen me for three play in the slot," Lockett stated. "So now, they’re at a place where they can kinda move me around and see what fits, whatever it is they’re trying to get me to do, whether for the season or throughout each game.”
Throughout his first six years in the NFL and even dating back to his days in college, Lockett has played every single role a receiver can—a contradiction to the notion he's always been a "slot guy."
"In college, I started as a slot but then I went to the X and played the X the whole time. You know, my rookie year in the league, Doug [Baldwin] was the slot, Jermaine [Kearse] was the X, I was the Z. In my second year, I was still in the same spot and then they moved me to X before I broke my leg. Then all of a sudden, I went back to Z because Paul [Richardson] was at X [in 2017].”
Lockett believes Waldron will take advantage of his versatility—something the new Seattle play-caller has experience with designing a passing game revolving around stellar receiving talents such as Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks. If it was up to Lockett, this would be his preference.
“I would love to move around more.”
This may include involving Lockett in the run game, using him on the jet/fly sweeps the Rams have finely executed for years. Lockett has some moderate experience running variations of these plays, most notably taking one for a 75-yard touchdown against the Panthers in 2016.
For Lockett, however, it's not just about football when it comes to building a relationship with his new offensive coordinator. He and Schottenheimer were able to establish a personal connection almost immediately from the days Schottenheimer's father, Marty, coached Lockett's father, Kevin, in Kansas City and Washington.
Lockett and Waldron have met once in passing, when the former arrived at the Seahawks' training facility to sign his new four-year contract extension. While it won't be as smooth of a transition as it was to Schottenheimer, Lockett is anxious to get to work with Waldron and learn more about him.
"I’m just looking forward to being able to play, being able to get to know him, get to know his family. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that football is about relationships," says the three-time All-Pro. "And not only is it about relationships on the field, but it’s about having those long lasting relationships even when you’re done playing, because that’s what matters as well at the end of the day."