Lockett gives Seahawks extra spark in return game


Former Kansas State and current Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett returns a punt against Auburn at Snyder Family Stadium, Sept. 18, 2014, in Manhattan, Kan. Auburn won, 20-14.

The last time the Seattle Seahawks had a player take it to the house for a kickoff or punt return during the regular season was the 2013 season, in Super Bowl XLVIII, where Percy Harvin easily burned the entire Denver kickoff team for an 87-yard touchdown.

This gave the Seahawks hope that success in the return department was on the verge. Instead, it was only just a tease for the organization, as Harvin was traded six weeks into the following season. The Seahawks finished the 2014 season with a No.15 rank on punt returns and a No. 31 ranking on kickoff returns, according to Football Outsiders.

After a long stretch of poor kick returning, the Seahawks have found the solution, thanks to their 2015 third-round draft pick Tyler Lockett.

Heading into Week 4 of the 2015 preseason, the rookie wide receiver has already surpassed Harvin with two returns to the house: a kickoff return in Week 1 against the Broncos and a punt return in Week 3 against the Chargers. Unfortunately for Lockett, those returns won’t count in the stat sheet.

However, it won’t be long before he bolts past another NFL kickoff coverage team for a touchdown off a return, this time in the regular season where everything counts.

Lockett has easily been the most explosive player for the Seahawks so far this preseason. Every time he receives the ball he has the ability to take it to the house. Thanks to a high volume of speed and strong vision to see the open lane when returning kicks.

“He’s got great feel,” Pete Carroll said in a press conference after a win over the Chargers in Week 3. “He’s got all the guts that you need to be a great returner. And he’s got obviously – you saw it today – really terrific vision to use the whole field for that return.”

Though it’s only the preseason, where teams are usually experimenting and preparing for the regular season, the omens bode well for the Seahawks.

Lockett has played a career total of three games in the NFL, and he already looks comfortable returning kicks.

“I’m a believer that you can learn vision,” Lockett said after the win in San Diego. “For me, I watch a lot of kickoff returns and kickoffs whenever we’re in special teams meetings. And even when it’s a dead play, it couldn’t go anywhere, I try to make a way for it to work and for it to score a touchdown. So even if I’m in kickoff meeting and I’m watching other teams’ kickoff returns, I’m trying to see holes. I’m trying to see why they went that certain way and stuff like that. So I am a true believer that you can learn how to get vision as well.”

Lockett averaged 19.14 yards per punt return in his final year at Kansas State, leading the nation.

“We won’t always be able to hit returns like that for touchdowns and stuff,” Carroll said. “But it’s a great threat that’ll help us in many situations.”

Especially with the way the offense has played so far in this preseason, Lockett will need to be a factor in the Seahawks return department.

In the win over the Chargers in Week 3 of the preseason, the first team offense managed just two field goals and four punts on six possessions in two quarters.

Once the regular season hits, the offense should find a rhythm, but Lockett can be an important factor in that rhythm by providing better field position for the offense through quality returns.