Seahawks should have Tyler Lockett return kicks in 2019

With the retirement of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett has become a lot more important for the Seahawks. Should he still returns kicks and punts going forward?

Tyler Lockett is a valuable member of the Seahawks. He was drafted to be a speedy option at receiver and to return kicks. Lockett was an incredible kick return in college at Kansas State and Seattle needed more of that. This is the main reason Seattle chose Lockett in round three of the 2015 NFL draft.

Lockett did not disappoint as a returner with Seattle. He made first-team All-Pro in his rookie year as a return specialist, according to the Associated Press. In 2016 and 2017, he made the AP’s second-team. Lockett was great in an NFL that was increasingly trying to do away with kick returns specifically.

Due to rule changes, Lockett’s kickoffs returns went from 37 in 2017 to just 19 in 2018. Lockett had a far less effect on the game than he did previous, but that could be said for every return specialists in the NFL. While Lockett still averaged 25.9 yards a return, with a long of 84 yards, he was simply neutralized because of safety fears by the NFL.

Lockett did have 25 punt returns in 2018, but this was still the fewest of his career. And because NFL punters are taught more and more to angle punts rather than just kick the ball as far as possible, punt returners have fewer chances to make an impact.

Therefore the question is, should Lockett continue to return kicks? In 2018, Lockett and Russell Wilson had a perfect quarterback rating when Wilson targeted Lockett. Doug Baldwin, Wilson’s most trusted receiver, was released due to a failed physical. Wilson’s most trusted target – by far – is now Lockett. But Lockett got just 70 targets last season even though he played in all 16 games. Seattle should have used Lockett more and now with Baldwin’s forced retirement they will have to feature Lockett.

Imagine, if you will, a world with no Baldwin and no Lockett for the Seahawks. That would be incredibly awful and terrible for the offense. We know Baldwin will not be involved. But should Lockett be injured on a meaningless kick or punt return, then Seattle would be without both.

The question is whether Seattle should still have Lockett returning kicks and punts knowing he is so valuable as a wideout? The answer is, simply, yes. Lockett may not have a lot of opportunities to make an impact in the return game, but the opportunities he does have he may be able to make the most of. Seattle is a team with little room for error and a productive kickoff or punt return by Lockett might make the difference between winning or losing.