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How other Seahawks rookies could have a bigger impact than DK Metcalf in 2019

NFL: MAY 04 Seahawks Rookie Mini-Camp

Prediction: Every 2019 Rookie (almost) will see more significant play time than DK Metcalf

Expectations are high. Many fans pegged DK to be the #2 receiver from about fifteen seconds after he was selected this year

The reality of his late 2nd round availability is that Metcalf was hurt every other year in college, which is the status he currently enjoys while recovering from recent knee surgery. He’s missed every preseason game and the situational scrimmage the team held before that.

As our own John Gilbert recently highlighted, the week 1 optimism of Pete Carroll may be just that - optimism.

DK will see the field this year. He’ll make a few splash plays and have some stupid OBJ-like touchdown on a fade that sends the greater PNW into a frenzy. But the stars are aligned this year for most of the rookie class to have a more consistent impact for the team in all phases of the game this upcoming season.

Reason one is fairly simple: he is an injury concern. Metcalf sustained separate season ending injuries in 2016 (foot) and 2018 (neck). He has yet to gain any real momentum this year with various tweaks, and his ability to play the season opener remains unclear.

Reason two is more complex: he’s a rookie wide receiver, and though he is the type of receiver who can see early success in the NFL, it’s still very rare.
AJ Green serves as a reasonable comp here. Green is 6’4”, caught 65 targets his rookie year for 1,000 yards and the highest average in his career (16.3). He then improved in each of the the following two seasons before starting to struggle with some injuries.

Metcalf has a vertical and 40 time even better than Green, but is not lauded as the refined route-runner that AJ was coming out of college. In addition, it generally takes time to let the mental part of a rookie’s game catch up to their physical abilities. Seattle’s own Golden Tate, himself a second round pick, took a full three years before he ever sniffed a 900 yard season.

So what’s in store for the team’s favorite rookie in a decade? It’s anyone’s guess, really, but I see a likely scenario wherein a large part of this rookie class has a bigger impact this year than Metcalf.

What you’re about to read is one part analysis, one part best case scenario projection on behalf of the other rookies.
Let’s break it down:

LJ Collier is returning while Metcalf is still towards the beginning of his surgery recovery. At this point it’s safe to assume he’s about as close to seeing the field in the first game as DK. Collier also plays a position of unique need on this year’s team, and will quickly rise to be neck-and-neck with Jacob Martin as the most dependable DE behind Ansah*. Rasheem Green in working their way into the defensive line rotation.
*May have written that first bit before the events of Saturday transpired.
So, LJ now finds himself maxing out as the third Seahawk coming off the edge, but will be a constant in the rotation based on packages, Clowney learning the system, and the team working to ensure Ansah stays healthy.

Speaking of which, while everyone hopes Ansah’s surgically repaired shoulder holds up, it won’t be a surprise if he ends up missing games due to injury, whether it be the shoulder or something else. He’s at the age where injuries seem more likely to occur, and any injury to Ansah or Clowney could see Collier end up on the field more.

Marquise Blair. The fellas over at ESPN Seattle believe he’s got the most secondary upside they’ve seen since the 2012 days. Blair fits a definitive need on this team. That’s not to say that DK does not, but if Metcalf hits his rookie ceiling he’ll get the second most targets per game, and if Blair hits his ceiling he’ll be the every down strong safety. At that point he’d easily see more tackles per game than Metcalf gets receptions.

Cody Barton & Ben Burr-Kirven. Here’s something you DON’T do with a 6’4”, injury-prone receiver with big play ability and 1.9% body fat: put him on special teams. I mean this was a nice cuddly PR move, but it’s unfathomable we’ll see the most fragile player at the most fragile position group chasing down either Jason Myers or Michael Dickson kicks. Meanwhile, Cody Barton sees the field in very limited LB capacity, pretty much exclusively to give KJ Wright / Bobby Wagner some breathing room for their knees. However, Barton and BBK will develop into staples on what becomes the second best unit on this year’s team. Seattle, who was 24th last season in Special Teams DVOA, has the potential to climb to a top-5 team thanks to the rookies of this class and a kicker who’s not handing games away.

Speaking of rookie special team stars, Ugo Amadi not only has the potential to develop into a top-level gunner but could also overtake the competition to become the starting slot corner. Obviously, the surprise cuts of Jamar Taylor and DeShawn Shead open that door even further for Amadi. Pete Carroll said after game one that Amadi’s work “covering kicks and stuff was obvious” which is Pete for a fantastic job indeed, good sir. And we all know about his punt coverage destruction of a returner against the Minnesota Vikings during the preseason, a hit so beautiful the NFL decided to feature it as picture-perfect tackling.

Gary Jennings is exception #1. It’s completely reasonable to have doubts about Jenning’s deservedness over Jazz Ferguson or Terry Wright. He has been significantly less impressive than his lower-round competition for what turned into a wide open receiver room. However, Jennings did miss time during the offseason with an injury, and has shown flashes in practice in recent weeks, so if things start clicking and Jennings gets things going, watch out.

With Phil Haynes starting the season on the PUP, he will be eligible to return for Seattle’s seventh game, which is possibly the same week that DJ Fluker and Mike Iupati could begin rotating injuries. Neither has a reputation as extremely durable, and with Jordan Simmons landing on injured reserve for the second consecutive season, it won’t be any kind of surprise to see Haynes wind up playing a lot of snaps.

At running back Travis Homer has the talent to land himself the role of third running back or if his pass blocking proves superior to that of Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise gets unexpectedly hit by the injury bug, Homer could wind up as the third down back. Homer likely won’t get many touches early in the year, but his team-topping burst and situational usage could see him take playing time from those who are currently in front of him. Add in the potential to be involved as a kickoff returner, and the fact that he could find himself joining Burr-Kirven and Amadi in playing large roles on special teams.

DeMarcus Christmas is exception #2, evidenced by the fact that most of you just said “I forgot they drafted that guy this year”. He’s not yet on the active roster, however, once he’s healthy and able to pass a physical, he could find himself worked into the rotation at defensive tackle.

And lastly, the golden child of the 2019 preseason, John Ursua. The Hawaiian Doug Baldwin has done four times what DK Metcalf has did only once during the preseason: catch a ball in a game.

He also has the ability to play in the slot as much as they want him, because despite national noise Tyler Lockett absolutely does not need to be relegated there full time. He’s too good moving around, which is exactly how Brian Schottenheimer wants it to be. That should grant as much as half the slot time to Ursua if he’s up for the task, which all signs point towards that possibility.

In any situation, for the time being, while the coaching staff may have overvalued its own decision making, Metcalf may be behind the learning curve and looking at a team of very talented young players who are hungry to make a good first impression.