With Seahawks training camp set to kick off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 12 of the team's most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2020 season. Today we look at special teams and whether or not the Seahawks will take Tyler Lockett out of the return roles, and on Monday we'll turn our attention to running back and how free-agent signing Carlos Hyde might fit into the offense.
With Tyler Lockett stepping into the No. 1 receiver role last year, there was speculation that the Seahawks might take away his job as the team's kick and punt returner, not because he isn't still an elite returner, but because of his value to the offense.
Yet when the season opened, Lockett was still the primary return man, right up until a Week 10 leg contusion that caused him to be hospitalized overnight. Lockett somehow didn't miss a game despite that injury and a serious bout with the flu, but the Seahawks did remove him from return duty for most of the rest of the season, with David Moore taking over the punt return job and rookie Travis Homer handling kick returns.
The question now is whether the Seahawks go back to Lockett in 2020 when he's fully healthy, or decide he should just focus on his job at receiver while perhaps letting him handle the occasional return in a big moment.
It might seem like a no-brainer to take an elite receiver off of special teams duty, but the Seahawks could be hesitant to do so, not just because of Lockett's big-play ability, but because of his sure hands and decision making, which are particularly a factor on punt return duty. For a coach like Pete Carroll who preaches "it's all about the ball" on a daily basis, a returner who puts the ball on the ground is a non-starter, and Lockett never puts the ball on the ground.
So if Lockett is going to give up return duty—and based off his comments last season, he'd prefer to keep doing it if coaches let him—the Seahawks will need to feel comfortable about whoever is replacing him. Moore and Homer both showed some good things last year in those jobs, and most importantly they took care of the football. And the Seahawks also drafted two players this spring who had return experience in college, running back DeeJay Dallas and receiver Freddie Swain.
Dallas saw most of his action as a returner in 2018, returning 17 kicks for 367 yards and 11 punts for 191 yards and a touchdown. Swain returned 39 punts over four seasons in Florida, including 36 in his final two seasons, one of those for a touchdown, and general manager John Schneider noted after the draft that he could be an option there immediately.
"He's a very good punt returner," Schneider said. "I would say from a special teams standpoint, he's going to be a guy that's going to be in the mix right away."
The Seahawks love what Lockett brings in the return game, but this year more than ever thanks to what they saw from Moore and Homer last season, and after the addition of Dallas and Swain, they might be in good position to take those jobs off of his plate if they think it is the best move for him and the offense.
Check out photos of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson from throughout the first nine seasons of his career.