Earlier this week, Mookie took a look at DK Metcalf’s concerning start to the season. Indeed, his yards, receptions, and average Depth of Target (aDOT) are all down from where they were Week 2 of 2020, and the general sense of dominance that he exuded throughout last season seems to be lacking as well, replaced by a fiery but unchecked temperament that has seen him become a laundry magnet for the refs. But as we are only getting into week 3, Metcalf has many games left to prove that he is still the DK that we all grew to love last season.
While I was going through Tyler Lockett’s game film, I noticed how much Metcalf’s role has looked different in Waldron’s offense for the first two weeks of 2021, relative to Schotty’s vertical scheme from the season prior. And this certainly relates to Mookie’s point about the decreasing aDOT, as we have seen him on the receiving end of far fewer deep passes and moon balls than at the dawn of last September. Obviously, his teammate and the ‘Ice to his Fire’ Tyler Lockett has had no issue reclaiming the deep territory of the defensive backfield as his own, averaging a gaudy 23.2 yards per catch which — for comparison — would be the highest YPC since Devery Henderson averaged over 24 in 2008 (he also averaged 23.3 in 2006, but only did so on 32 receptions in each season). Not just this, but Lockett’s aDOT is 16.9, which is easily the highest of his career and nearly double what he recorded last year, so it isn’t like his yards after the catch (which are also up) are just inflating the first stat too heavily.
With this in mind, I set out to do a bit of an analysis on how Metcalf’s role has shifted in the first couple weeks of the season. More specifically, what kind of targets is he seeing, and with what frequency by quarter and by game situation (down and distance, mostly). Along with this, how has DK performed with the targets that have gone his way?
Below is a table listing every one of the passes Russell Wilson has thrown towards DK Metcalf so far, along with the game situation, the result of the play, and the result of the drive (punt/TD/turnover/field goal/etc). The quarter of play is also included, and we will revisit that again later. Also following this table is a video of each of these targets compiled into one clip.
As you might have already noticed, far more of Metcalf’s targets this season have come on short routes, as opposed to his relatively limited share of deep throws (11 short, 5 deep, more than a 2:1 ratio). While I don’t have the statistics in front of me, I feel fairly confident that these numbers would have been much closer together, if not flipped entirely, in Schottenheimer’s offense. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at the rate at which Metcalf is currently producing, it may be. What bothers me more than the first item is that — from what I can tell — DK has only been targeted more than once on the same drive twice! Both happened in the Titans game, which is surprising given that Seattle seemed to sustain drives with more frequency during week one. I find this disconcerting, as it indicates that either Waldron is not scheming Metcalf into as big of a role as he had last season, or DK himself is failing to get open like he was last year. I find the latter hard to believe, given that he made a name for himself by essentially being uncoverable, with his focus drops being the only thing preventing him from housing almost every pass Russ sent his way. But after reviewing some film, I am starting to think it is a combination of the two. Check out the following clip for some visual confirmation of this assertion.
Video of every DK Metcalf target through two games. The good news is that DK is still heavily targeted. The bad news is that he hasn’t pulled in any deep balls yet. Hopefully that will change as defenses start keying in on Tyler Lockett more pic.twitter.com/aOBwqW53DF
— Parker (@ParkerLewes) September 22, 2021
Judging from the footage above, DK definitely seems to be getting targeted on routes that are designed to set him up for yards after the catch with a pretty decent frequency. On his limited share of deep targets, he has yet to come up with a signature grab, although he has been close on a few occasions. With a player like Metcalf, a certain amount of volatility in output should be expected (not everybody can match Lockett’s uncanny efficiency regardless of where he is on the field). But if he wants to get back to being one of the league’s premiere pass catchers, he will need to start converting some of these.
We’ve all seen how the Seahawks offense at large has struggled in the second half of both games thus far, and this can be supported by the eye test and confirmed by statistics. Per Michael-Shawn Dugar of the Athletic,
“Seattle on offense has been Jekyll and Hyde through the first two weeks of the season. The Seahawks in the first halves of their games rank first in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, second in points per game and first in points per drive. In second halves they rank 23rd in EPA per play and 29th in points per game and points per drive. A two-week sample isn’t enough to make any definitive conclusions but that’s still quite the drop-off in production. No team with championship aspirations should suddenly become one of the league’s worst offenses after halftime.”
With this in mind, I wanted to take a look specifically at DK’s target breakdown by quarter. Below is a table listing his targets, catches, yards, and TD accordingly.
As you can see, DK has received at least three targets in each quarter of play (not including OT), but has easily been the most efficient in the 4th quarter. Of course, this is inflated by his play in the Indy matchup, as he only took one pass for seven yards last weekend in the 4th. I am hesitant to draw too many conclusions, but I do feel like it is okay to express some tempered concern; the Seattle offense needs to have its top two options performing at a high level, regardless of scheme or coordinator, and Metcalf will need to rise to the occasion.
This being said, I am not overly worried at the moment. DK is a big-time playmaker, and sometimes even the best go through slumps of inconsistency. I am hopeful that what we are witnessing is a player who is still acclimating to his first coordinator change since coming into the league as one of the most hyped second round picks I can ever remember. And, as such, he is adjusting to being a player that every defensive coordinator in the league studies and plans for. He certainly is not lacking for talent, but in a world where he will consistently face double (or even triple coverage, as I found on a few of Lockett’s deeper completions), he is going to need to make defenses pay every chance he gets. Going up against a Viking squad that has allowed at least one 100+ yard receiver in each game so far, along with 661 total passing yards through the air (not adjusting for sack yardage lost), Metcalf will have another opportunity to loosen up and flex his receiving muscles in front of a hostile Minnesota crowd.