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Mind games. Trash talk. Seahawks' DK Metcalf seeing it all from foes. Now, he must adjust

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 9/23/2021 Gregg Bell, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Sep. 23—RENTON — DK Metcalf is letting opponents get into his head too much with trash talking.

So says DK Metcalf.

If self-realization is the first step to growth and improvement, the 23-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver is about to take a giant stride for the Seahawks (1-1) Sunday at Minnesota (0-2).

While teammate Tyler Lockett is coming off a 178-yard day with touchdowns of 69 and 63 yards in each of Seattle's first two games, Metcalf has the fewest yards receiving (113) through two games than in any of his previous two pro seasons.

Metcalf also leads the NFL in penalties, with five.

Thursday, he was asked: How have teams defended you different so far this season?

"Just talkin' sh—. That's it," Metcalf said.

He smiled.

Last season, it was Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz playing Megatron mind games with Metcalf before a game in Philadelphia, to try to get in the young wide receiver's head.

This season, Metcalf says opposing defensive backs are trying to bait him into taking him out of his Seahawks record-setting receiving game (1,303 yards) from 2020.

"Oh, yes sir, for sure," Metcalf said.

"They can't stop me any other way, or stop Tyler any other way. So the best thing they can do is try to talk stuff to me."

Coach Pete Carroll said this week his prodigy needs to balance his need to play with emotion with not going too far jawing at opposing defensive backs. Foes are fueling a NFL-wide reputation that Metcalf can perhaps get taken out of his unique game by extra woofin' during and after plays.

"He's finding out the boundaries to play within," Carroll said. "He's so physical that he finds himself in situations where he's overwhelming a guy at times, so he needs to know how the officials are calling it and when to throw his hands up.

"I'm OK with what he's trying to do. He's battling and competing. But, we have to do it within the guidelines."

Metcalf said it's about "knowing myself and knowing that they are trying to get to me to cross that line. There's a bigger prize at the end of the tunnel, so not just falling into the trap knowing that I play for a team and not just myself."

Has he fallen into the trap of being too emotional so far this season?

"Last game I did," he said, "yes, sir."

Of his coach's comments about the need for emotional balance on the field during games, Metcalf said: "He's completely right. I'm a competitive person. I play with a competitive edge.

"I'm not trying to lose anything, whether that's an argument or a route or anything. I'm just going to compete my butt off.

"But...get close to the line. Don't cross it."

Metcalf has crossed the line the league has drawn this season with its new emphasis on taunting penalties. The NFL has called 10 of them through two games, per That's as many as officials called all last season. Seattle has 20% of the league's taunting penalties this season, while 24 of the 32 teams have zero.

In Seattle's opening-game win at Indianapolis, Metcalf was penalized for taunting as teammate Gerald Everett was finishing a 9-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the middle of the field. Metcalf was for woofin' at Colts defensive back Khari Willis on the left sideline of the end zone, about 20 yards from the play. Metcalf slapped Willis' hand away from his as Everett crossed the goal line. Away from the Seahawks' celebration of the score, Metcalf talked into the ear hole of Willis' helmet.

He also had a false-start penalty in the first half of that opener. Last weekend in the Seattle's loss to Tennessee in its home opener, Metcalf was twice penalized for holding on screen passes outside. He got called for pass interference for blocking — and holding — on the same play early in the fourth quarter, before Russell Wilson's screen pass arrived to teammate Chris Carson.

Metcalf also got into the faces of Kristian Fulton and other Titans defensive backs following multiple plays.

"The game is evolving. So I've got to evolve, too," Metcalf said.

Wilson said he's addressed with Metcalf toning down the emotion and trash talking.

"DK and I have talked," Wilson said Thursday. "He's an ultimate competitor. He wants to battle. He's got a fierceness to him, and you don't want to take that away from him.

"I think the biggest thing is keep bringing his A-game, keep making the plays. His play will always do the talking, but also playing with an edge, too, is what people fear of him. There's a perfect balance of that. Playing to an edge, but not going off the edge is key for any player. That's one of the things that I know he knows he'll do.

"He's already focused on it."

Metcalf says he's matured from his rookie season of 2019 to now knowing what opponents are tying to do — in lieu of them being able to run and jump with him for Wilson's passes.

"Knowing my self, and knowing they are trying to get to me and get me to cross that line," he said. "But there's a bigger prize at the end of the tunnel.

"Not just falling into the trap and knowing I play for a team, and not just for myself."

Other challenges

When Carroll hired Shane Waldron to be his new offensive coordinator in January, Metcalf became the Seahawk likely to have the most different 2021 from 2020.

That's what we are seeing through two games.

This season, Waldron has greatly diversified Seattle's offense. Gerald Everett arrived with Waldron from the Los Angeles Rams to give Wilson a dynamic target who can play wide receiver, running back, wing — more places than any tight end Wilson's had before in the NFL. Waldron uses more two-tight end formations with Everett and Will Dissly. He lines up Carson and other running backs as wide receivers. Freddie Swain got his first touchdown pass of the season last week, while the Titans were preoccupied with Lockett and Metcalf underneath instead.

Point is, the Seahawks are spreading the ball around to new and more targets using more formations than they did while featuring Metcalf further down the field last season.

Waldron's scheme seeks to get the ball out of Wilson's hand sooner. That means shorter routes for Metcalf.

Last season with previous coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calling Seattle's plays, Metcalf specialized in deep, 20-, 30- and 40-yard routes. That was to exploit smaller defensive backs' huge disadvantage trying to consistently deny the 6-foot-4, 239-pound Metcalf the ball far downfield. Those patterns take four and five seconds or longer to run. Seattle's annually iffy offensive line has proven unable to protect Wilson consistently enough for such longer-developing routes to be a staple in the Seahawks' offense.

Plus, teams since the latter half of last season are defending more against Metcalf's deep routes. Seattle's opponents are playing more two-deep coverage, with two safeties providing bracket coverage over the top of cornerbacks tracking Metcalf off the line of scrimmage.

In eight games since Metcalf shredded Schwartz's Eagles again for 10 catches and 177 yards last Nov. 30, Metcalf is averaging five catches and 59.1 yards per game. He has zero 100-yard games in his last eight games.

In 11 games before this stretch of teams playing more two-high coverage, Metcalf had six 100-yard receiving games, and averaged 94.5 yards receiving per game.

The bracketing coverage of Metcalf has continued early this season. The Colts double-teamed Metcalf during the first half of this month's opener. Wilson didn't target Metcalf. He threw, wondrously, to Lockett and five other Seahawks receivers instead.

Lockett had 96 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the first half at Indianapolis. Seattle raced to a 21-10 lead by halftime, took a 28-10 lead when Metcalf broke free in man coverage for a touchdown catch in the second half and cruised to a 28-16 victory.

Lockett had eight catches on 11 targets for 178 yards with another touchdown of 60-plus yards last weekend against Tennessee.

"It has come up," Waldron said of defenses covering Metcalf with a corner short and a safety over the top. "We are expecting it.

"That's where getting a chance to move him around a little bit there, to be able to get him some touches when it's not only going to be a clean game for him. But as we go through it, it's a long season. We'll keep scheming up different things where we are trying to distribute the touches.

"Certain weeks, it's going to go one way or the other. And so far, it's gone the way of Tyler."

Metcalf says that is OK with him — and that it might not have been OK with the 2020 him.

"Last year, I was a little bit frustrated at times when I wasn't getting the ball," Metcalf said. "But when I see Tyler going for 200, or Freddie catching his first touchdown this year, that's just exciting for me. As long as the team is winning and we're winning, I don't care.

"I'm trying to win the Super Bowl.

"There's only one ball. It can only go around to one person at a time. Just have to make the most of my catches and my opportunities, when I get the ball in my hands."

That, he hopes, is part of this: "I'm 23 years old, but I don't look at myself as a 23-year-old being my third year in the league. I like to be more mature and look at the big picture of things."

Facing Peterson

Sunday in Minneapolis, Metcalf will get another, intensely personal challenge.

The Vikings this offseason signed eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson from Arizona for one year and $10 million. In two games between the Seahawks and Cardinals last season, Peterson shadowed Metcalf on 64 of 78 plays, 82% of the snaps they were on the field together. Metcalf had just three catches for 27 yards on seven targets by Wilson with Peterson shadowing him in those two games. Arizona won the first meeting, Seattle the second.

The 6-1, 198-pound Peterson is the starting left cornerback for the Vikings. But last weekend before Minnesota lost on a final-play missed field goal at Arizona, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had Peterson shadowing Cardinals top receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins lost Peterson breaking off his route in the end zone to the sideline on quarterback Kyler Murray's first touchdown pass.

"Man, I love going up against Pat Pete," Metcalf said. "I mean...I like going up against bigger corners. Just changes the game for me a little bit."

Just so Metcalf doesn't take himself out of his in the personal battle with Peterson.

Waldron faced Peterson for years when the coach was on Sean McVay's staff with the Rams.

"Obviously, Patrick Peterson has been at the top of the game for a long time...still playing at such a high level," Waldron said.

"For me, it's being smart with the play calls. I know the players take it as a challenge. They know what's going on and seeing that. It's always a good, competitive challenge when you've got a guy that's competitive like DK is and like Peterson is, if they happen to be going against each other. ...

"At the end of the day, you've got to settle in and make sure you aren't going outside the framework of what you know how to do, and not getting tied up with an individual match-up."


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