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New Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald wants to make DK Metcalf ‘a moving target for defenses’

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When DK Metcalf entered the NFL out of the University of Mississippi, there were concerns about how he would translate to the league. Metcalf operated almost exclusively as a boundary receiver, running slants, hitches, and go routes. And when he posted a poor three-cone time at the NFL Scouting Combine, those concerns reached a fever pitch. 

Metcalf ended up slipping to the end of the second round, where the Seattle Seahawks snatched him up with the No. 62 overall pick. And Metcalf quickly made the pre-draft concerns look rather silly. His outrageous athletic skill set and monster-sized frame allowed him to succeed in the NFL in ways that he hadn’t been asked to in college. 

Through his first five seasons, Metcalf has reeled in 372 catches for 5,332 yards and 43 touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl twice as well as an All-Pro Second Team. He’s also collected at least 900 yards and at least six touchdowns in every season, a feat matched only by A.J. Green and Randy Moss.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Metcalf’s new coach — former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald — has a strong desire for Metcalf to be heavily involved in the offense this upcoming season, and in a bit of a different way than he was in the past.

“I can tell you this: We want to get DK the ball a lot, too,” Macdonald told NFL Media. “It feels different now when 14 is out there. He is a big, imposing, fast, powerful receiver. We’re really excited about it. We’ve talked about it since we got here in February — plans for him and Tyler [Lockett] and Jaxon [Smith-Njigba] and Noah [Fant] and our backs. And what it would look like and how we can move guys around and make DK a moving target for defenses, where they have to account for him at all times but it’s gonna be hard to find him.”

Moving Metcalf around more often would be fairly new. The table below shows Metcalf’s alignment (left wide receiver, slot, or right wide receiver) in each of his five seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. As you can see, he’s had a very heavy lean toward the left side of the field, the same way he did at Ole Miss. And he’s rarely moved into the slot.

SeasonLWRSLOTRWR% LWR% SLOT% RWR
201964211427862.1%11.0%26.9%
202054717131852.8%16.5%30.7%
202148315817859.0%19.3%21.7%
202260114520163.5%15.3%21.2%
202351010620961.8%12.8%25.3%

Metcalf has not been particularly effective during his career when lined up in the slot. According to TruMedia, he has had only one season north of 1.5 yards per route run when operating on the inside, and he’s had two seasons (including 2023) where he’s averaging less than a yard per route. On the outside, though, he has averaged at least 1.81 yards per route run every season of his career, and has exceed 2 yards per route twice — including 2023, when he hit a career-best 2.28 yards per route from the perimeter.

Of course, Metcalf will now be playing in a much different offensive system than the one he has been in for much of his career. The Seahawks’ offensive coordinators during his time in Seattle have been Brian Schottenheimer and Shane Waldron, who often used run-first approaches under coach Pete Carroll, and they operated on the slower side of the spectrum in terms of offensive pace. New coordinator Ryan Grubb’s teams at the University of Washington had one of the highest pass rates in the country over the last two years, and they operated at a much faster pace. 

Perhaps a change in system will also yield greater effectiveness for Metcalf when he does move inside; there are plenty of big-bodied players who have had a great deal of success in the slot. But given his body type and skill set, it might be best for Metcalf to remain mostly on the perimeter, but with a more even split in his left-right alignment and a more diverse route tree than what he’s gotten used to in his career to date.

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Author: Jared Dubin
June 14, 2024 | 3:50 pm

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