Last week in this column, I wrote about a potential Stephon Gilmore matchup in the guise of DeVante Parker. Despite Parker picking up an injury, I think he had the better of the Patriots Defensive MVP with 4 catches on 4 targets for 47 yards, before a re-occurrence of his hamstring injury.
This week, the matchup that most intrigues me is another potential Gilmore matchup, this time its sophomore wide-receiver DK Metcalf. Looking at Metcalf’s production last year, I think he surprised many. He was seen more as a “workout warrior” with insane measurables in the vein of Darrius Heyward-Bey, so lots of teams turned their noses up at him in the draft, where he eventually fell to the Seahawks in the third round.
The 2020 season told a different story though, as Metcalf showed a side of himself that many draft analysts had said he would struggle with in the NFL; the ability to get open through his running of crisp routes. Metcalf proved he is the real-deal, and not just a physical specimen.
Looking at his 2019 game log there are two games that stand out as outliers in the negative category for Metcalf and that was both of the Cardinals games. In these games he managed a combined total of 1 reception from 4 targets for a total of 6 yards. For context, in the other 14 games Metcalf averaged 4 catches a game from 7 targets for 64 yards. It looked like the Cardinals predominantly used a combination of the diminutive Kevin Peterson, and Budda Baker playing slightly off man coverage to counteract Metcalf’s physicality. Rather than engage, the defensive backs just turned and ran with him. Wilson rarely looked in his direction.
Another point to note is that on running plays, despite his size, Metcalf is kept on the sideline (in the snaps that I watched). Despite his physical prowess, it looks like the Seahawks offensive staff don’t seem to trust him in the running game just yet.
With all that being said, Metcalf had an outstanding season for a rookie. Overall he had 58 catches for exactly 900 yards, averaging 15.5 yards a catch with 7 Touchdowns. He then stepped it up in the playoffs with a huge performance against the Eagles where he had 7 catches for 160 yards and TD – an NFL record for a rookie Wide Receiver in the playoffs.
It is clear Metcalf can play, but he can also be marginalised from a game too. I think Gilmore will follow him all over the field as Tyler Lockett will most likely lock-up with Jonathan Jones or JC Jackson. Last week against the Falcons, Metcalf lit up the scoreboard again with a big performance. I think Russell Wilson is sensible with the ball and will know where Gilmore is at all times. If that means he’s in the same vicinity as Metcalf, don’t expect much in terms of targets for the Ole Miss alumni.
–Luke O’Brien is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @lukeobrienNFL