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Seattle Seahawks

Recent surge could be a hint of what’s to come in 2022 for DK Metcalf and the Seahawks offense

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf carries the ball against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The question seemed buried under 50 feet of drama and disappointment.

For weeks now, folks have wondered about the future of the Seattle Seahawks while enduring the letdown of a losing season.

Will quarterback Russell Wilson be back next season? What about coach Pete Carroll or general manager John Schneider? Are we talking about a rebuild or a “retool?”

But somewhat lost amid those queries was this one: What happened to DK Metcalf?

That’s not a condemnation so much as it is pure curiosity. His stats in his third year resemble his rookie season far more than the record-setting numbers he posted in Year 2. Want the proof?

2019: 58 receptions, 900 yards, 15.5 yards per catch and seven touchdowns.

2020: 83 receptions, 1,303 yards and 15.7 yards per catch and 10 touchdowns.

2021: 70 receptions, 909 yards, 13 yards per catch and 12 touchdowns.

Yes, he has found the end zone this year more than before, but his overall impact seems to have waned. Why?

Could be a few reasons.

One is that Wilson, the eight-time Pro Bowler, was out for three games and a shell of himself for several more after coming back from finger surgery.

Metcalf’s statistics reflect Wilson’s absence. In his first five games of the season, DK averaged 76.6 receiving yards per game, a pace that would have given him 1,225 yards through 16 games had he kept it up. But later came a four-game stretch from hell: 43 yards in Week 8 vs. Jacksonville, 26 yards in Week 10 vs. Green Bay, 31 yards in Week 11 vs. the Cardinals, and 13 yards on one reception in Week 12 vs. Washington.

And don’t forget Metcalf’s would-be 62-yard touchdown catch vs. the Rams last month had Wilson not underthrown him.

But maybe it wasn’t the struggling quarterback so much as it was the missing running backs. Starting RB Chris Carson has been out most of the season. Backup RB Rashaad Penny missed several games due to injury as well. Right about when Penny came back, Metcalf’s numbers began to surge – most notably via his three-touchdown game vs. the Lions on Sunday, when Penny rushed for 170 yards.

On Thursday, Metcalf was asked how the improved running game has helped him get open.

“We’re seeing mainly a lot more one-high (safety in coverage) than we have in the past,” Metcalf said. “The running game hasn’t really been there for us. We’ve seen a lot of two-high, which is taking away the passing game.

“Knowing Rashaad Penny is able to do what he does, and then you’ve got DeeJay Dallas and (Travis) Homer coming in there and backing him up, it really just puts a lot of stress on the defense to worry about the run and the pass. It just basically has opened up a lot more for big pass plays.”

Of course, his mitigated stats could also be the result of defenses adjusting to his athleticism. There’s a reason offenses tend to slow down in the second halves of NFL seasons. Coaches are smart. They figure things out. And when a player such as Metcalf breaks Steve Largent’s season receiving yards record one year, there will be some adaptations from opposing defenses.

Plus, you never know how impactful the “Metcalf Effect” may be. Randy Moss was the greatest receiver of his era but never led the NFL in receiving yards. Not because he wasn’t the best in the game, but because defenses were so terrified of his ability that they paid extra attention to him, thus opening the field up for his teammates.

Metcalf isn’t Moss, but he’s one of the closest things we’ve seen to him in terms of pure athleticism.

So what does the future hold? Metcalf’s contract runs through the 2022 season, but Pro Bowl-caliber players in Seattle are typically offered extensions in the offseason before the final year of their deals. On Thursday, Metcalf was asked if he would sign an extension with Seattle if offered.

“Of course,” he said. “I’m not trying to leave, but we’ve got the Cardinals to focus on right now. You can hit me up later in the offseason if you need that question answered.”

To be fair, there is no way he would say “no” to that question regardless of how he felt.

But he’s made his mark in Seattle. His words seemed sincere. I’d expect him to be taken care of soon.

This season has been the ultimate “down year” for a lot of people in Seahawks jerseys. Metcalf has been no different. But given his talent, you have to think there will be a revival.

The Seahawks just hope it will come next year.