Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has long been cemented as one of the very best signal-callers of this era in the NFL. The unlikeliest of stories, Wilson has continued to prove critics wrong to essentially change the stigma of sub 6’0” quarterback fortunes around the league. Players like Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Arizona Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray owe a debt of gratitude for paving the path to professional football.
Wilson has transcended a stereotype, reshaping the way we all think of how the game has been played. Early on, Wilson was afforded the ultimate quarterback friendly supporting cast… a strong running game and a dominant defense.
You don’t have to speak much on Marshawn Lynch and the “Legion of Boom” defense to know there was something truly special happening in Seattle. As time has rolled along and the blueprint for success in Seattle has altered, we have seen an evolution in Wilson’s game as the team has become much more dependent on accentuating his skills in their quest for victories.
Wilson’s security blanket is gone
An under the radar common denominator that served as a security blanket for all of Wilson’s tenure up until this season was former undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin. Coming into the NFL from the University of Stanford, Baldwin was a long shot to make a name for himself on the professional level.
That, of course, would not stop Baldwin, who would become one of the most accomplished wide receivers in Seattle Seahawks history not named Steve Largent. Over his eight seasons with the club, he would record 6,563 receiving yards and 49 touchdowns on 493 receptions. What can not be quantified is just how important Baldwin was in the development for Wilson from dynamic facilitator to elite franchise quarterback.
His career catch rate of 68.3% just gives you a glimpse into his status as Mr. Reliable. Baldwin represented the perfect momentum turn. When a catch was needed, he’s got you. When you needed a huge play, he’s also got you. When leadership is lacking, look no further than Doug Baldwin.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 16, 2018
This past off-season, at just thirty years old, Baldwin made an unexpected career decision. The two-time pro bowler stepped away from the game, choosing retirement and life after football. For the first time in Russell Wilson’s career, his main targets came heavily into question. While Wilson will ultimately be Russell Wilson, the question of who will take the reins as top pass catcher begs to be answered.
Expected to take over the role was fifth-year pro Tyler Lockett. Lockett gained some obvious momentum during the 2018 season. With Baldwin suffering through an injury-riddled campaign, Lockett was able to establish himself as the big-play threat the Seattle Seahawks envisioned of him coming out of Kansas State in the 2015 NFL Draft.
On just 70 targets in 2018, Lockett managed to record 57 receptions for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns. That was good enough for an astounding 81.4% catch rate, establishing him as the consistent playmaker Wilson needed in the absence of Baldwin. Perhaps the more incredible statistic, the Wilson to Lockett connection recorded a perfect passer rating of 158.3. I think we should all take a second to sit back and appreciate that number. The duo was considered perfect from football standards with Lockett on the receiving end.
Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett to … Floyd Mayweather.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 11, 2018
If that doesn’t demonstrate a sure target, I am not sure what will.
Clearly Lockett was a player who would be counted on by Wilson heading into 2019. He was the only established playmaker amongst the receiving core heading into the year. Through two games, he has continued to make big plays.
Surprisingly, however, he has not been the clear cut first option that I envisioned during the preseason. The Seahawks have instead established a dynamic duo that is worth monitoring the rest of the season.
That second in this dynamic duo is rookie phenom D.K. Metcalf, who currently is leading the Seahawks in receiving yards after two games. If you are familiar with draft twitter, it should be of no surprise the success experienced by young DeKaylin Metcalf. Blessed with an absolute freakish physical profile, Metcalf fell victim to a huge slide on draft day that saw him not selected until the sixty-fourth overall selection. Several NFL teams were worried about durability due to a history of injuries during his freshman (foot) and redshirt sophomore season (neck) while at Ole Miss.
Poor agility testing during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine also put Metcalf’s evaluation on notice. A narrative that is largely left unjustified for a player who wins on a vertical stem, as opposed to horizontal route concepts.
Metcalf has been off to a fast start over his first two games, pacing the Seahawks with 150 yards, on 7 receptions and 1 touchdown. With a body that appears to be chiseled by a god, Metcalf has the frame (6’4” 229 pounds) and straight-line speed (4.33 40 yard dash) that profiles perfectly to the X wide receiver position. With his ability to be a physical mismatch, the X position does well to present defensive backs challenges in one on one coverage to the boundary of the field.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 15, 2019
His style also perfectly fits with the style of play Lockett brings to the table. As a smaller receiver, Lockett does his best work moving around the formation. He is not a player you will often see tasked to work against press coverage. Instead, he takes the majority of his reps at the Z position. There, short motions and movement can be created for him to create matchups both on the inside and outside. He is used to manufacture touches and create space.
This creates the perfect combination, not allowing teams to focus on in one over the other. This could very well be the next great wide receiver duo in the game. Despite the limited opportunities with the Seahawks run-heavy offense, Russell Wilson will again be Russell Wilson when their back is against the wall.
It’s early but signs are pointing in the right directions as Lockett and Metcalf combine to create the next great Batman and Robin tandem.