BUMP AND STACY

Could Seahawks’ Jaxon Smith-Njigba be a No. 1 receiver?

Jun 5, 2024, 11:17 AM | Updated: 11:19 am

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba Cardinals 2024...

Seattle Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba celebrates after a touchdown against Arizona in 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

One of the prime candidates to make a second-year leap on the Seattle Seahawks this season is wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

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After an up-and-down rookie campaign last year, the former No. 20 overall pick stood out during a couple of recent Seahawks OTA practices that were open to the media. Last week, with star receiver DK Metcalf not in attendance, quarterback Geno Smith targeted Smith-Njigba extensively, with the former Ohio State star hauling in a handful of touchdown passes during red-zone drills. Smith-Njigba also had an impressive long TD grab in the back of the end zone during Monday’s OTA practice.

Seahawks radio analyst Bryan Walters, a former Hawks wideout, attended one of those OTA practices and was highly encouraged by what he saw from Smith-Njigba.

“Just watching JSN and seeing the jump he has made already … you can just see he’s gonna be a go-to guy for Geno,” Walters said Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “Could he be a No. 1 guy this year? Maybe. I mean, the way he looked out there – I think he had three touchdowns in the little red-zone period I watched, and it was like nothing. Just great plays, smooth, effortless.

As the No. 3 receiver behind Metcalf and Tyler Lockett last year, Smith-Njigba overcame a slow start to have a decent rookie campaign. He finished with 63 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair of game-winning TDs in the final minute against the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. But he never quite had a big breakout performance, with a season high of just 63 receiving yards.

With a year of NFL experience under his belt and a new scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, there’s hope that Smith-Njigba can significantly improve those numbers this year.

“I think this year he’s just gonna hit his stride,” Walters said. “He really does look good. I loved what I saw. So I wouldn’t be surprised – and this is no knock on DK – if he is the No. 1 guy this year and he does put up the best stats.”

JSN’s skill set

Walters said what stands out about Smith-Njigba is how smooth his routes are.

“JSN is smooth, man,” Walters said. “He makes it look effortless. I always say as a wide receiver, if you want to be one of the best wideouts you can be, you’ve gotta make every route look the same. Coming off the ball, everything’s gotta look the same to that (defensive back). If you’re giving a little lean or you’re coming off a little slower than usual or coming off fast, then that’s all tips to the DB. But I feel like JSN is so smooth with everything that you can’t tell what he’s gonna do.”

Walters also pointed to Smith-Njigba’s pass-catching ability, which was highlighted by a spectacular one-handed grab against the San Francisco 49ers last season.

“JSN has got some of the best body control and hands that we’ve seen,” Walters said. “We saw him make that one-handed catch last year and a couple plays where he’s twisting and falling and still able to come up with the ball.”

Smith-Njigba put up massive numbers at Ohio State in 2021, when he finished third in the FBS with 1,606 receiving yards. That included a Rose Bowl-record 347 receiving yards and three TDs in one of the more sensational single-game performances in recent college football history.

Could that type of talent be on display more often this fall? Co-host and former Seahawks receiver Michael Bumpus also thinks Smith-Njigba has big-time potential.

“I want to see how JSN progresses,” Bumpus said, “because I think he has all the tools to be a number-one-caliber type of receiver.”

Listen to the full conversation with Bryan Walters at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Bump and Stacy airs live from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Seattle Sports.

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