FOR SEAHAWKS FANS, there’s never been a ride like this before with a physically dominant wide receiver who can absorb blows, dish out his own and make the opposition look helplessly overmatched and overwhelmed in 1-on-1 scenarios.
To boil it down to its essence … it’s delightful.
In his first two seasons, DK Metcalf, all 6-foot-4, 229 pounds of him, is putting up numbers that are Steve Largent-like in their largeness. But as crafty and determined and as great a route runner as Seattle’s first Pro Football Hall of Famer was, he didn’t have the combination of Metcalf’s physical attributes and the unlikely chip that has formed on Metcalf’s impossibly broad shoulders since a neck injury and a rough draft combine workout knocked him down to a second- round selection in the 2019 draft.
Monday night, Eagles defensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz sought out Metcalf before the game and told the budding superstar that he had coached Calvin “Megatron” Johnson when he was with the Lions, but that Metcalf “wasn’t there yet,” in terms of matching Johnson’s abilities.
Metcalf took offense to what Schwartz defended postgame as a compliment, scorching Philadelphia for a career high in receiving yards with 177 on 10 catches.
Schwartz had a tendency to run his mouth on and off the field with Detroit, a 2010 incident with then-San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh nearly resulted in the pair coming to blows as they came off the field, so it’s a good idea to take anything that Schwartz says with that in mind.
But how about the comparison of Metcalf to the similarly-sized, prematurely retired Megatron?
It’s apt so far. With five regular season games remaining in his second season, Metcalf is on pace to pile up more receiving yards, more touchdowns, a higher catch percentage (percent of receptions divided by targets) than the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Johnson compiled in his first two years in the league.
Metcalf is at 116 receptions for 1,939 yards and 16 TDs through 27 games with contests remaining against the New York Giants, New York Jets and a 49ers squad he already lit into for 12 catches, 161 yards and two scores. It’s not exactly an outrageous bet to think he passes up Johnson’s initial two-year total of 126 receptions, 2,084 receiving yards and 16 TDs.
Of course, Metcalf has a future Hall-of-Famer in Russell Wilson throwing him the ball while Megatron was surrounded by the Island of Misfit Toys in Lions’ QB’s Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and the last gasps of Daunte Culpepper.
And Metcalf needs to limit his dropped passes. There’s been a couple of certain TDs that fell incomplete this season, including a fourth-quarter play in the end zone that would have been all the Seahawks needed to salt the win away earlier Monday night against Philly.
But to match (or better) the statistical output of Megatron, a player who could control a contest at wide receiver, is a great path to be on, a path that also ends up in Canton, Ohio.
Metcalf’s play inspires the confidence that he’s going to catch every deftly placed jump ball Wilson throws to him, just as I thought Randy Moss would come down with every deep bomb Culpepper or later Tom Brady threw him in his career. Metcalf’s speed and size make that possible.
Metcalf partnering with Wilson to work out during the offseason, including moving in with Wilson and his family in Los Angeles, put a smile on my face this summer in anticipation of the production bump that Hawks fans have so far enjoyed.
We’ve been treated to Wilson’s dogged desire to win since 2012 and having Metcalf attach himself so readily is a sign of maturity. He knows he can get better, and Wilson can help him to do it.
That willingness to put in the work to get better reminds me of the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice, who was renowned for his training regiment of running 2.5 miles uphill every day in the offseason (save for a two-week respite at the end of each season) at Edgewood Park and Nature Reserve near San Francisco, and then cooling down with 10 100-yard “easy strides” up the first section of the steep hillside park. Rice never, ever seemed to tire late in ball games. Neither does Metcalf, who despite persistent pass interference on the play, made a critical snag on the sideline late to push Seattle to a 20-9 advantage.
Metcalf also has made moves off the field, donating $25,000 to Swedish Hospitals in Seattle for COVID-19 efforts and $25,000 to feed the needy back in his hometown of Oxford, Miss., back in April.
A wide receiver with skills and abilities comparable to Johnson’s physicality, Moss’s explosiveness, the work ethic of Rice and a growing commitment to charity like Largent, a longtime supporter of Seattle Children’s Hospital and spina bifida research, is something to behold.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].