When Doug Baldwin walked away from the Seahawks this offseason he left more than a legacy.
He left his protege with the lessons he needs to take Baldwin’s jobs. On the field, and off.
“The biggest thing that I learned when it comes to Doug is, you have to be yourself,” Tyler Lockett said this week of Baldwin, who agreed to have the team end his contract this spring so he can retire following three offseason surgeries.
“I have to be able to understand who I am as a leader,” Lockett said, “and what I bring to the team as a leader.”
That’s because Seattle’s second-round draft choice in 2015, not exactly ancient at age 26, is now the dean of the team’s remade wide-receiving unit. Heck, Lockett is one of the few leaders remaining on the Seahawks’ entire offense who has been here more than a couple years.
Coach Pete Carroll said last month he’s already noticed a more demonstrative, vocal Lockett during the team’s offseason workouts that end next week.
Lockett has a strong platform from which to become the Seahawks’ newest leader.
He is coming off a career year: 57 catches, 965 yards (a gaudy 16.9 yards per reception, sixth-best in the league) in 2018. Lockett’s 10 touchdown catches were tied for fifth-most in the NFL.
“Tyler, monster year last year, he’s going to lead the charge,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Tuesday.
Baldwin retiring after eight seasons with Seattle leaves Lockett, quarterback Russell Wilson and center Justin Britt as the only players on the Seahawks’ offense who have been there since the 2015 season.
There are eight other starters and dozens of guys competing for jobs that don’t have nearly the experience in Seattle’s locker room Lockett does.
And nobody on the Seahawks, not even Wilson, the franchise’s leader, learned more intricately than Lockett did from Baldwin.
“The things that he brought, I was able to learn from that, and I was able to see that. But he also taught me how to be myself,” Lockett said, “because if I can’t be myself, everybody else won’t be able to accept the message that I’m trying to allow them to be able to receive.
“So I have to be able to speak from a willing heart. I have to be able to speak genuinely, allowing to meet everybody where they’re at. You can’t really speak to somebody in a place where they can’t understand it.
“So I have to almost become in the same place that they’re at, to be able to drag them, or reel them, to where or what it is that we’re trying to accomplish.”
Sounds like he’s already a dad.
Lockett is also replacing Baldwin’s paternal presence and lead-by-example persona on the field. This offseason he is learning routes and moves off the line of scrimmage from the slot, moves that are mostly new to him. Lockett did some work last season when Baldwin had knee, shoulder and groin injuries inside at slot receiver when Seattle went to three- and four-wide receiver formations. But that was otherwise Baldwin’s domain from 2011 until, well, now.
To accelerate his learning and comfort with slot receiver, Lockett is spending extra time on the field well after practice during organized team activities that end Thursday working with Wilson, rookie receiver DK Metcalf and veteran backup Keenan Reynolds on routes and timing.
There’s one lesson Lockett didn’t need Baldwin to teach him. It’s one he first learned while breaking his father’s receiving records at Kansas State through 2014.
And it’s a lesson he had reinforced to him in a gruesome, unforgiving way in December 2016; he broke his tibia and fibula on Christmas Eve in a game against Arizona. The injury was so scary Baldwin and Wilson prayed over him on the field. It took Lockett until last season, well over a year and a half, before he felt all the way back from the broken leg.
“I’ve learned when I was in college how to protect myself,” he said of his actions after receptions. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes you have freak accidents, like when I broke my leg.
“But other times, you .... catch the ball and get what you can get. Get down, live to fight another play. You don’t have to take a hit if you don’t need to. Get up, go to another play.”
Wilson plays by the same philosophy. His uncanny ability to get down and not absorb a direct hit is why he hasn’t missed a game in his seven years in the NFL, since Seattle made him its starting quarterback in week one of his rookie season of 2012.
“It’s all about durability,” Lockett said. “And it’s all about being able to do what you can while you’re on the field and while you’re playing. So that’s the approach that I take.
“Last year I really didn’t get hit that much, and I was in a lot. And so that’s just one of the things I try to work on is knowing what hits to take, knowing what hits not to take. If it’s third and long and I got to go get it, I’m probably going to get hit. But if it’s first and 10 and I get a good play, I’m probably going to fall.”
Good idea. Lockett needs to stay in games this coming Seahawks season.
He’s suddenly the longest-tenured, most-accomplished receiver they have left.