DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: DK Metcalf, star of Seahawks’ playoff win, blows past expectations

Jan 5, 2020, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:54 pm
Seahawks WR DK Metcalf...
DK Metcalf had 160 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks' playoff win over the Eagles. (AP)
(AP)

PHILADELPHIA – Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf caught seven of the nine passes that were thrown to him for 160 yards and a touchdown, which is actually a little bit less than I thought he’d have.

Seahawks 17, Eagles 9 | Hawks vs Green Bay | Reaction3 stars

For the whole regular season, that is, but we’ll get back to my idiocy in a second.

First, let’s acknowledge the reality that Seattle’s rookie receiver has arrived as a bona fide gamebreaking talent. He’s that tall, that fast and he was the difference in Sunday’s 17-9 playoff victory at Philadelphia, first with a 53-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and then a 36-yard catch in the final 2 minutes that sealed the victory.

On a game where Seattle’s running backs totaled 19 yards on 17 carries, Metcalf finished with almost as many yards receiving (160) as the Eagles had in their net passing (162). Not that it should be a surprise. Just last Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll characterized the rookie from Ole Miss as a “foundational” player and on Sunday night in Philadelphia he showed why.

A 24-yard catch on third-and-11 in the first quarter. A 26-yard gain on third-and-4 in the second, extending the drive that would produce Seattle’s first touchdown of the game. And all that was just an appetizer for the 53-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter in which he ran right past Philly cornerback Avonte Maddox. In the modern NFL lexicon it’s called taking the top off the defense, but really it felt like Philly’s defense was pantsed, its nether regions exposed to a nationally televised audience.

None of this should have been all that much of a surprise. Metcalf caught 58 passes in the regular season for 900 yards, third-most among all NFL rookies behind Tennessee’s A.J. Brown and Washington’s Terry McLaurin.

Those 58 passes that Metcalf caught were about three times what I expected. Not because I thought he was a poor use of a second-round pick, but because I thought he was more of a project with incredible physical traits and a spotty history of production in college.

He caught 67 passes during his time at Ole Miss and missed five games his final season there. But he’s 6 feet 4 with a physique that looks as if it were chiseled as opposed to sculpted, and when he was timed at 4.33 yards in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine – the third-fastest time of any player there – well, I figured that NFL teams would trip over themselves to pick someone that big and that fast.

Put more bluntly: I’ve learned to be highly suspicious of players whose physical traits are more impressive than their on-field statistics. And when the Seahawks coaches – including Pete Carroll – started explaining that he wasn’t asked to run a full route tree as part of Ole Miss’ offense I became downright skeptical because I don’t know of any college coaches – not even in Mississippi – who can’t think of a few ways to use those traits.

In other words, I thought Metcalf was going to take some time to develop, as many receivers do. Even when he looked great in the first week of training camp, I thought back to how much time I spent in 2010 watching Golden Tate and wondering what kind of impact he would have. Tate caught 21 passes as a rookie, and that’s about what I projected for Metcalf.

Metcalf treated that projection much like he dealt with Philadelphia’s defense on Sunday night: He blew right by it.

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O’Neil: DK Metcalf, star of Seahawks’ playoff win, blows past expectations