As Russell Wilson has continued to pile up historic passing numbers to start the 2020 season, some observers have wondered why it took the Seahawks so long to unleash him the way they have this year.
That assumes, of course, that the Seahawks are really doing anything differently.
Interestingly, as Wilson has thrown for more touchdowns in the first three games of an NFL season — 14 — than any quarterback in history, Seattle’s coaches have insisted that their overall offensive approach is the same as ever.
“Our philosophy has not changed,’’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Thursday when he talked to the media via Zoom. “… At some point, we will have those big days rushing the football.’’
The numbers, though, are what they are so far, with the Seahawks passing it 59.5% of the time this season compared to 54.34% last year — and just 47.6% in 2018 — despite having the lead most of the time.
And for all the understandable attention on Wilson, one reason the Seahawks have both been willing to throw more — and been able to do it successfully — is the play of receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Maybe that’s no real revelation.
But it’s worth remembering that heading into each of the last two seasons, there were some questions about Seattle’s receiving corps.
In 2018, Lockett was coming off a horrific leg injury suffered at the end of 2016 that he’d played through in 2017, while Doug Baldwin was missing much of training camp due to a knee issue and would end up enduring an injury-filled season that turned out to be his last in the NFL (and in which he also missed three games, the first time he’d missed any games since 2012).
It might have been a nice thought to want to let Wilson heave it a lot more that year, but it was also hard to know who would catch all those passes, especially when free-agent signees such as Brandon Marshall (remember that experiment?), Ed Dickson and Jaron Brown didn’t really work out.
Entering last season, the receiving situation was still a little hard to read.
Metcalf — for all of his obvious talent — was an unproven rookie, and there was the understandable question of how the passing attack would look without Baldwin to draw constant attention.
But entering 2020 — with Lockett proving he could thrive as a No. 1 threat and Metcalf disproving any question any draftnik had about him — the Seahawks knew they had a receiving duo that could handle as much as Wilson could throw at them.
Instead, the question most had entering 2020 was if each could produce more than a year ago and maybe they both could surpass the 1,000-yard mark, which happened only once in Seattle’s previous 44 years as a franchise — Joey Galloway (1,039) and Brian Blades (1,001) did it in 1995.
It’s early, but through three games, each is on pace to not just get 1,000 yards but well past it. Metcalf is currently projected for 1,584 yards and Lockett 1,381.
And while it seems hard to fathom the Seahawks could really continue on their current pace — Wilson is on track for 75 touchdowns — Lockett said Thursday he doesn’t see much that opposing teams can do to slow down Seattle’s passing game.
“I think a lot of teams (last year) were going to see what he could do first,’’ Lockett said of Metcalf. “Now that everybody was able to see what he could do, I think the second season he’s already showing, like, ‘Y’all better pick your poison. Like do whatever you want to do — if you’re going to try to stop both of us it’s still not going to work. If you’re going to try to stop one of us the other is going to ball out.’’’
And then there are days like last Sunday against Dallas, when both “balled out.’’
For the second time in their 19 games together, each topped the 100-yard mark against the Cowboys, doing so in the kind of fashion that seems to best define their games right now.
Lockett, while always capable of the spectacular, was almost continuously able to get open, making nine catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns, his third straight game with seven or more receptions.
Metcalf, meanwhile, had just four catches but they went for 110 yards, continuing an early season propensity for the big play.
Through three games, the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Lockett is tied for fourth in receptions with 24, while the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Metcalf is second in yards per reception at 24.8.
They’re sort of a receiving equivalent of thunder and lightning, but with thunder able to turn into lightning — and vice versa, if that’s possible — at a moment’s notice.
“I think that’s allowing both us to feed off one another where teams don’t really know what to do,’’ Lockett said. “We play one team and they play man-to-man, and now all of the sudden the next team plays zone, and you still see we’re figuring out ways to be successful.’’
Lockett and Metcalf don’t seem to care who gets the targets and the credit.
Schottenheimer said Thursday he thinks the offense has “a special chemistry.’’
That seemed evident in a tweet Metcalf sent out Thursday declaring “Tyler Lockett is the MOST UNDERRATED WR In the NFL.’’
Asked about that tweet, Lockett laughed and said, “I’m going to get on DK when I leave.’’
The Seahawks know, though, that more important than labels are numbers — receptions and touchdowns but most importantly wins.
“Whether it’s a catch or whether there’s somebody making a block we’re literally trying to put the fear into people that we play against,’’ Lockett said. “And we’re not only doing that by playing with a mindset of you can’t stop me but we’re also having fun.’’