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Jaxon Smith-Njigba continues to be a bright spot on struggling Seahawks offense

Slowly but surely, JSN is showing why the Seahawks took him at No. 20 overall.

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San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We need to have a little bit of positivity and excitement through these past few weeks of Seattle Seahawks football. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has thankfully stepped up to the plate and is showcasing why he was the first receiver off the board in this year’s NFL Draft.

After injury and a generally slow, screen-heavy start to his rookie season, Smith-Njigba is steadily getting more downfield looks. Not all of them are connecting, but they’re exciting as hell when they’re working.

The longest offensive play from either team in last Thursday’s lopsided Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers contest came courtesy of the former Ohio State star. This one-handed dive (after either he turned the wrong way on his route and/or Geno Smith overthrew him) is, as Mike Tirico said on the NBC broadcast, a “5-star” grab.

This happened just one play after DK Metcalf’s brutal drop forced them into 3rd and long to begin with, so the stark contrast was only magnified within that game. JSN does have five recorded drops (per PFF) to DK’s three, so let’s not paint Metcalf’s performance last week as indicative of a regular problem.

Personally, as cool as the one-handed effort was, I’m much more hyped up about him high-pointing this ball in double coverage against the Los Angeles Rams. Jordan Fuller and John Johnson III are the two safeties in coverage, and JSN is able to adjust to Geno’s pass and make the hands catch instead of trapping it against his body.

Even in garbage time against the Baltimore Ravens, JSN was able to beat 1-on-1 coverage against Arthur Maulet for one of the few successful plays the Seahawks had all game. Didn’t matter for the final score but did matter for long-term reps.

And while the multitude of failed screens were annoying to start the year, there seems to be a payoff. Sometimes, you might just score a game-winning touchdown.

Since the bye week, Smith-Njigba is:

  • Tied for 6th among all rookie wide receivers in receptions (26)
  • 5th in receiving yards (344)
  • 5th in first downs made (15)

The fellow rookies ahead of him during that span are Tank Dell, Jordan Addison, Puka Nacua, Rashee Rice, and Zay Flowers. Only Dell doesn’t lead his team’s wide receiver group in receptions. In other words, the other receivers listed here are either WR1s by design, or (in Addison and Nacua’s respective cases) WR1 due to injuries to the actual WR1s.

It hasn’t all been perfect or smooth even through his post-bye week stretch. There have been some bobbles/drops and some route miscommunications, but he’s a rookie and I don’t expect perfection. What he’s provided so far as a 3rd down target and a yards after catch option is encouraging, and we’re starting to see the playbook open up for him.

In the long-term, whether Geno Smith, Shane Waldron, or even Pete Carroll are here in the next few years, Smith-Njigba should soon become the team’s No. 2 if not outright No. 1 option. Right now, he’s one of the few bright spots on a maddeningly inconsistent offense.