Of all the traits that have impressed the Seahawks, the one that keeps circling back is Lockett’s decisiveness. Like an explosive running back, he makes one cut and goes.
It was only a cut, and not even one that led to many yards, but it was informative in its certainty.
In the first quarter, on his second kickoff return in a Seahawks uniform, rookie receiver Tyler Lockett shot upfield for 46 yards. Near the end of the run, the kicker cut off Lockett’s path outside, so in one swift, decisive move Lockett faked like he was going outside before cutting inside.
He was wrangled down a few steps later, but the fluidity of the cut stuck with Seahawks special-teams coach Brian Schneider.
“There was no hesitation or anything,” Schneider said. “He’s going full speed and naturally making his cut with no hesitation.”
Of all the traits that have impressed the Seahawks, the one that keeps circling back is Lockett’s decisiveness. Like an explosive running back, he makes one cut and goes. He doesn’t dance. He doesn’t hesitate.
“The guys who hesitate with their feet in the hole are the ones who always get tackled,” Schneider said. “You never want them to chop their feet or slow down their feet, and a lot of returners do that when it gets cloudy in the hole.”
The Seahawks had a similarly explosive return man in Percy Harvin for a few games the past two seasons, but they’ve often relied on players who haven’t looked comfortable in the role.
The Seahawks ranked 30th in the NFL last year in average kickoff returns. Lockett’s 46-yard return in the preseason would have been the second-longest return of last season, to say nothing of his 103-yard touchdown. The Seahawks have returned one kickoff for a touchdown in the past two seasons.
The Seahawks wanted to get more explosive in that department, so they uncharacteristically traded up in the draft to get Lockett.
He is a natural returner. He did it throughout college and was one of the country’s more dangerous special-teams players. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared on draft night that Lockett would be their returner this season.
“He was for sure my No. 1 returner and one of the best I’ve seen in a long time,” Schneider said.
It starts with the way he fields kicks. He looks smooth, at ease, and he catches kickoffs mid-stride with forward momentum. The good returners make that look like second nature.
Once the ball is in Lockett’s hands, Schneider wants him to trust his instincts and creativity. He needs to know the blocking scheme — whether they want him to go left or right, for one thing — but the Seahawks don’t want to restrict him.
“The biggest thing is being able to see the reads,” Lockett said. “I want to continue to be able to see reads. Some returners have great vision, and I believe that you can work on your vision.”
One small example: While watching film of opposing return teams, Lockett wants to look at returns that didn’t go for any yards and see if he can notice an opening the returner might not have seen.
“Even when things don’t go the way they’re supposed to go,” he said, “sometimes bad things end up being something good.”