Is there room on the Mariners’ packed playoff bandwagon for a 6-foot-4, 235-pound wide receiver?
Doesn’t matter. DK Metcalf is already on board.
The big-man receiver wore a (very large) Mariners T-shirt with caricatures of Julio Rodriguez, Ty France, Mitch Haniger and J.P. Crawford to his Seahawks media availability Wednesday. It was two days before the Mariners begin their first Major League Baseball playoff series in 21 years, Friday afternoon at Toronto.
Metcalf will be at Seahawks practice when the first game of the best-of-three American League wild-card series begins (1:07 p.m.). But something says he will be in the locker room after practice watching the Mariners and Blue Jays as soon as he can.
And when Game Two of the Mariners’ series plays Saturday afternoon, Metcalf will likely be watching between team meetings at the Seahawks’ hotel in New Orleans. That’s the day before his team (2-2) plays the Saints (1-3) there.
The 24-year-old Metcalf says he and Rodriguez, Seattle’s 21-year-old breakout star about to be named the American League Rookie of the Year, have become modern friends this baseball and football season.
“Yeah, he texted me after the game,” Metcalf said.
“Yeah, we talk every now and then, just through text and social media.”
He’s has had a good of a week as Rodriguez.
On the same weekend Rodriguez and the Mariners clinched their first playoff berth in two decades, Metcalf had 149 yards on seven receptions in 10 targets from quarterback Geno Smith in the Seahawks’ 48-45 sprint past the Detroit Lions.
“I think we’re just continuing to build. It’s now a couple games in, and we’re continuing to develop our chemistry, all the guys out there,” Smith said.
“So really, DK’s a special player.”
It was the third-most yards in a game in Metcalf’s four-year NFL career. He repeatedly beat Detroit’s top coverage cornerback Jeff Okudah one on one. The Lions blitzed and blitzed Smith — and got burned and burned, for 320 passing yards and two touchdowns.
The league and most of the Pacific Northwest are shocked at Smith leading the NFL in completion percentage, being fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating. His 77.3% is the highest completion rate through the first four games of a season in NFL history.
People are surprised Smith was named the NFC player of the week Wednesday, given he hadn’t been a full-time starter in eight years until last month. Many have noted Smith is outplaying Russell Wilson, whom he backed up in Seattle the previous three seasons before the Seahawks traded Wilson to Denver in March.
Metcalf has said for months he believed Smith was capable of this.
Where did his expectations come from when almost no one else had any of Smith?
“I would say last year when Russ went down (missing three games with a broken finger into November),” Metcalf said. “I knew he was going to be great from the moment he got his chance. He just needed the opportunity.
“Now he’s just showing everybody what we already knew. I know I keep saying that, but everybody kept writing him off and he just never had a fair shot to just be who Geno Smith really is. And we are all seeing him come into his own and be a quarterback leading a franchise, leading an organization, how he wants it to be.
“It’s just exciting to just see him be more vocal after the games, during the games, and how he interacts with the younger players and everybody else.”
Man to man on DK Metcalf
In Seattle’s first two games Denver and San Francisco played shell coverage against Metcalf beating them on long passes. They often bracketed the 2020 Pro Bowl wide receiver with a cornerback short and a safety deep.
Atlanta and especially Detroit the last two weeks have defended Metcalf and the Seahawks with more man-to-man coverage.
Metcalf and Smith have feasted on that. With improved protection by a remade offensive line featuring stud rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas on each edge, Smith has the league’s best passing numbers against man to man. He’s completed 21 of 31 passes for 292 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 137.4 versus man coverage.
“Teams really just haven’t done man coverage so blatantly like they have in these past couple of weeks,” Metcalf said. “I know in the past they tried to hide it and we have seen more two-high shells, cover 4, and cover 6, but now that teams want to stop the run or pressure Geno.
“I guess it gives us more opportunity on the outside to defeat man.”
Sunday, Metcalf figures to get more man coverage from Marshon Lattimore, the Saints’ best cover cornerback. Last October when New Orleans beat Smith and the Seahawks in Seattle 13-10, Metcalf beat Lattimore for an 84-yard touchdown pass from Smith early. But Metcalf had only one more catch the rest the game, for 12 yards.
The two jawed at each other and pushed and shoved after plays that day. The NFL fined Metcalf $10,815 and Lattimore $6,949 for that.
Asked Wednesday if he thought Lattimore tried to “get into his head” in that game last Oct. 25, Metcalf said: “No, I don’t think so.”
DK Metcalf, run blocker
Months after signing his $72 million contract extension with the Seahawks, Metcalf is all for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron calling more....running plays?
He loved blocking for Rashaad Penny while the lead back rushed for 151 yards and two second-half touchdowns that sealed Seattle’s second win in four games.
“Anytime we call a run play, I’m not going to be mad about anything,” Metcalf said. “Because I’m looking to maul somebody.”
At the end of Penny’s 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Metcalf stepped hard, lowered his shoulder and faked a block in the open field. Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone staggered and stumbled to the ground near the goal line without getting hit. Penny raced past into the end zone.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 5, 2022
“I like physically trying to dominate somebody,” Metcalf said. “I think it scares a corner when I come out there and try to pancake him like an offensive lineman.
“It’s just a mind game that I play with them. ...If it is a run play then I can go up to them, throw my helmet into their helmet — and try to knock them on their ass.”
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 6, 2022
He’s a fan of a Dodger, too
Like many younger M’s fans in the Pacific Northwest, his love for baseball and the Mariners is relatively new.
Growing up in Mississippi, “no, I didn’t like baseball,” he said.
He got into it recently because of Gavin Lux, the second baseman for the playoff-bound (again) Los Angeles Dodgers.
So a Mariners-Dodgers World Series would have Metcalf all kinds of fired up.
“I have a best friend that plays for the Dodgers, so I’ll watch him every now and then in the offseason,” Metcalf said.
“My agent is his brother-in-law.”