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Gallant: DK Metcalf created buzz and lived up to it — can young Seahawks defenders do the same?

Second-year DB Ugo Amadi will take over at nickelback with Marquise Blair injured. (Getty)

Sports reside in a world of hype. Glimpses of athletic greatness are enough to make yappers like myself believe we’re seeing something others don’t. It even leads to us saying ridiculous things like “We’re witnessing the second coming of (insert legendary athlete X)!”

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Unfortunately for we pundits, the reboot is rarely as good as the original, let alone better. So when you read or hear a juicy take like above, take a deep breath and remember what our friends Public Enemy told us: “Don’t believe the hype.”

That being said, after a strong close to his rookie year – not to mention seemingly ridiculous comparisons to Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones – it was hard not to breathe in the DK Metcalf buzz. And through two games of the Seahawks’ 2020 season, he’s delivered on that hype.

DK’s size and speed make him the football equivalent of a trebuchet, a massive medieval siege weapon capable of shocking devastation from long range. It’s not the most accurate weapon, but when it hits, it’s capable of reducing the strongest of walls into the saltiest salt. DK’s been a demoralizing deep threat, averaging 23.4 yards per catch (second in the NFL) thanks to TD receptions of 38 and 54 yards against the Falcons and Patriots, respectively.

In the Seahawks’ 35-30 win over New England on Sunday night, we saw a Swiss army be a battering ram on slants, after the catch, and even when blocking. He looks like a superstar in the making, and has helped turn Seattle’s aerial attack into a monster.

It’d been a while since we’ve seen hype attached to a homegrown Seahawks defensive player, however. At least until the last few weeks, when Marquise Blair went from being a safety who’d never played nickelback to one of the surprise stories of training camp. Sadly, his season came to an end Sunday with a torn ACL. Making matters worse, veteran strong side linebacker and pass rusher Bruce Irvin suffered the exact same injury.

The Seahawks’ defense is clearly Seattle’s weak point, no matter Jamal Adams’ impact. They’ve struggled to get off the field on third downs, to get after the passer, and to hold competent quarterbacks in check. And to they avoid dying the same death as last year’s defense, at the hand of back-to-back third and long conversions, they’re going to need at least one of these young players to generate their own buzz:

LB Jordyn Brooks

The Seahawks’ top draft pick showed off his speed, size, and physicality during training camp. He hasn’t been able to do that in the regular season though, playing just 15 snaps over two games.

Given Brooks’ film at Texas Tech, where he showed off impressive downfield speed and a knack for shooting through gaps in the offensive line, I think he has more potential to generate “hype” than anyone on this list. But with no preseason, it’ll take time to flash.

How long?

DE L.J. Collier

Last year’s first-round pick was a non-factor as a rookie. After badly spraining his ankle in 2019 training camp, Collier found himself behind the 8-ball. He never caught up, recording just three tackles and zero sacks over 142 snaps. Even worse? He was a healthy scratch six times.

Collier said he was eager to prove the doubters wrong this offseason. And to his credit, he’s had some memorable moments over 71 snaps in the last two games. He forced a Matt Ryan intentional grounding in Atlanta, deflected a pass and made the game-saving tackle for a loss against New England, and has even drawn the praise of veterans like K.J. Wright.

Defensive ends who play 5-technique like Collier are unlikely to stuff the stat sheet, and through two games he has just two tackles. At the very least these first two games have proven he can be a rotational piece, though. But can he be more than that?

CB Ugo Amadi

It seemed like Amadi lost the nickelback battle with Marquise Blair very quickly. I’m curious as to why. Was it because of his lack of size? Because Blair hits harder? Was Blair more trustworthy in coverage? It certainly wasn’t because of his speed, which flashed in Sunday’s win over the Patriots. Amadi had eight tackles, including one for a loss on a reverse, after filling in for the injured Blair.

I’m pretty optimistic about Amadi going forward, but I wonder about him in coverage. He was called for an illegal contact penalty on Julian Edelman, though he was able to stay stride for stride with the veteran Patriots wide receiver, and he gave up a critical completion against the Packers last year that led to the Seahawks’ playoff exit.

DE Alton Robinson

We heard a lot of great things about Robinson, a 2020 fifth-round pick, during training camp, and I want to give this guy every benefit of the doubt given that he went to my alma mater, Syracuse. But this was not the rookie that was supposed to give Seattle’s pass rush juice in 2020. That was Darrell Taylor, the second-round pick who’s been trying to recover from a stress fracture in his shin.

Where you’re drafted ultimately doesn’t matter in the NFL. But expecting Robinson, a healthy scratch the first two games on a team with major pass rush issues, to be a contributor in his rookie season? It’s asking a lot.

Follow Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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