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A terribly perfect game for DK Metcalf’s development

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Star receiver DK Metcalf caught his first touchdown of the 2022 season in Week 3. It was a difficult throw from Geno Smith, coupled with elevation and maintaining the catch through contact.

In short, it’s everything a team expects from a player with $58 million guaranteed.

So, can we expect more of that?

Good question.

In this regard, Geno Smith is an interesting dude. For that matter, so is Metcalf. One piece of Smith’s play that kept the fans and the team engaged last season was the occasional huck-and-prayer to Metcalf, that occasionally (twice, by my memory) results in really cool touchdowns.

It also results in bad stats. Geno Smith, who has the highest completion percentages in the NFL this season, was 32/44 on Sunday but only 5/12 when targeting DK Metcalf.

What gives? Geno was perfect targeting seven other receivers, but under half his throws made it to the team’s top target.

A lot of growth to be had, here. Some of it will be the natural result of Smith hoping for the best, but not putting the ball in a place that even Metcalf can get it. The first attempted touchdown pass was such. From 3rd and 3 on the 14-yard line, Smith threw a short go to the left side that Metcalf was unable to make a real play and AJ Terrell had it covered.

The second attempted touchdown pass was similar. Out the back of the endzone to kill a 70-yard drive, Metcalf caught the ball but wasn’t able to get either foot in bounds, nor was it possible.

The third attempted touchdown pass was the same. Smith threw a fade that was a few yards beyond Metcalf and defender.

But there are others. Officially, Metcalf is credited with one drop. Twice in the game, the ball was deflected - once it should have been intercepted, and Metcalf wasn’t able to haul in either pass.

This game, with Lockett going 9-of-11 for a whole bunch of clutch first downs, also serves as a microcosm of a good Metcalf season. Geno Smith seems determined to throw impossibly difficult passes his way. He has to use his body; he has to use his hands. He also gets to practice coming down with true #1 WR catches. The endzone miss, the deflected drops, and there was one more that stood out: an underthrown go route earlier in the game.

Pete Carroll was directly asked about this by Brock Huard last week. If officials are going to continue to throw flags for contact on bad passes, if the receiver turns to make an attempt and the defender never looks, why not take more shots with your top pass-catchers?

Carroll said yes.

Yet one such pass occurred on Sunday and Metcalf did not cut back to the underthrown ball, running step-for-step with the corner.

And so, at the end of the day, though Metcalf made some spectacular catches and one of the team’s two touchdowns, he leaves with a 5-of-12 line.

It’s a window of opportunity more than anything else. Smith treats Metcalf like a true number one. Many of the attempts won’t be catchable, but they also present one of the final things Metcalf can continue to grow in for future seasons. He’s going to get the contested looks, the superhuman “my ball or nobody’s ball” opportunities, and can work on the elite details - like drawing pass interference - that Lockett has mastered so well.

It may not be fair, and anyone who watched last year noticed that Metcalf hates losing as much as anybody else, but he simply has to get better. It won’t come easy for him this year, but it is an opportunity to emerge with a whole season of adversity under his belt.

I’m here for it.