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Tyler Lockett moves up Seahawks’ depth chart, delivers career game

Tyler Lockett caught seven passes for 130 yards, both career highs, and a touchdown in Seattle's win. (AP)

Tyler Lockett moved up the Seahawks’ depth chart this week, supplanting Jermaine Kearse as their No. 2 wide receiver. Then he promptly showed everyone why.

Lockett was the offensive star for the Seahawks in their 24-3 win over the Rams Thursday night, catching seven passes for 130 yards – both career highs – and hauling in a long touchdown reception in the latest indication that he’s all the way back to full speed. The way he’s produced of late following a knee injury that slowed him earlier in the season is part of the reason why Seattle’s coaches decided to make a switch this week, going with Lockett and not Kearse as the second receiver along with Doug Baldwin in two-receiver sets.

Lockett played 38 (of 61) snaps on offense, one more than Kearse as the two essentially switched roles.

“I just wanted to see more,” coach Pete Carroll said when asked what led to the decision to promote Lockett. “He’s been so good, and we just wanted to see more of him to see if he could continue to create impact and he certainly did. So it’s a good decision.”

Some would contend that it was overdue given how relatively ineffective Kearse has been this season. He entered this game with 35 catches for 429 yards and no touchdowns. Those numbers are all down from last season while his targets have already surpassed his 2015 total, which means Kearse has been producing less this season despite more opportunities.

There’s also the fact that he’s been flagged for offensive pass interference a whopping five times and that his down season is coming on the heels of a three-year, $13.5 million contract extension he signed in March.

Carroll didn’t give a definitive answer when asked earlier this week if he was considering replacing Kearse in the starting lineup given his struggles this season. Turns out he was. Kearse was Seattle’s third receiver Thursday night. He finished without a catch on two targets.

Lockett was the other half of that decision. He gamely played through a knee sprain he suffered in Week 2, which zapped his burst, forced him to wear a brace for three weeks and limited his effectiveness.

But he’s come on strong of late, beginning two weeks ago against Carolina when he caught five passes for 63 yards and outraced the Panthers’ defense on a 75-yard touchdown run. With four catches in Green Bay and seven more Thursday night, he has 16 over the last three games, which was his total over the nine games following his knee injury.

“He could play and he was safe to play and all of that, but he was not 100 percent,” Carroll said of how the knee injury impacted Lockett. “We just worked our way through it and used him accordingly, and the trainers and everybody worked with him and he had a great attitude about it. He was not going to miss a game. When he returned to full speed, we’ve tried to get him more engaged in the action and tonight was a good illustration of that.”

The Seahawks didn’t use Lockett on the fly-sweep play that has become more prevalent in recent weeks, but they got him the ball behind the line of scrimmage on bubble screens and also deep down the field. He caught a 29-yard pass near the sideline to extend a first-quarter drive that resulted in Seattle’s first touchdown and he scored one of his own from 57 yards out early in the fourth.

Lockett lined up on the right side of the formation and ran by cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who appeared to be counting on safety help over the top. But Kearse ran a post route from the other side of the field that held up Cody Davis. Lockett outran both to the end zone after catching Russell Wilson’s pass in stride.

Plays like that are further confirmation of what’s been evident for a few weeks now: Lockett is back.

“Obviously nobody plans on getting hurt through their whole entire season, but like I said two weeks ago, it could have been worse,” Lockett said. “There’s a lot of people here that are out for the season and stuff like that, and for me, I was able to play through injuries. But at the same time, it was frustrating, but I had to lean on my faith. I had to continue to embrace this opportunity that I do have.”

Looks like he’ll have more opportunities than before after moving up Seattle’s depth chart.