Cardinals Confident they can Defend Seahawks WR DK Metcalf
The Cardinals have faced some talented receivers this season from Detroit’s Kenny Golladay to the Dallas trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.
Arizona's pass defense has fared well, allowing just 6.7 yards per pass attempt. But on Sunday, it will have to defend perhaps the league’s most productive duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, the only teammates who both have four touchdowns this season.
Second-year pro Metcalf is a particularly unique challenge as someone who is 6-foot-4, 229 pounds and can run a 4.33 40-yard dash. Only Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins has gained more yards per game than Metcalf this season, although the Seahawk is the only receiver in the NFL averaging more than 20 yards per reception.
"He's definitely becoming the go-to guy for (quarterback) Russell (Wilson), running all those great intermediate routes, taking the top off of defenses as well," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said Thursday. "You can just tell he has gained a ton of confidence throughout the offseason, between the first year and then going into the second year. So we're going to have our hands full. We know what they are, what their offense is capable of, what they love to do. They love to take those shots, but also keep you off-balanced at the same time by running those slant routes and doing those screens to the back."
NFL.com ranked Metcalf the best second-year player in the NFL on Thursday, with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray behind him at No. 2.
Metcalf had a productive rookie season, gaining 900 yards. However, he did not have much success against the Cardinals.
He caught one pass for six yards in Week 4. In Week 15, after Peterson returned from suspension, he shut the rookie down, holding him to one target and no receptions.
On Wednesday, his head coach Pete Carroll told the Arizona media that Metcalf has grown in "his work ethic and his toughness" as a second-year player. He said that he and quarterback Wilson have been "clicking and communicating" well.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has seen the growth in Metcalf’s game, but still feels like his team can hold him again.
"We have a good plan to take care of Metcalf," Joseph said. "He's having a great year. You watch him last year as a young guy; he's big, he's fast. He had trouble catching a ball last year. He was an average route-runner last year. But you're watching him now, he has been big-time catching the ball with his hands. His route-running has improved 80 percent in my opinion, and he is making big plays every single week. So, it's going to be a challenge to get him covered. It won't be one person's job, it is going to be the entire defense's job to contain this guy, because if we don't, there's going to be points scored. So we're excited about playing him."
The Cardinals pass defense has also been much improved this season. They are top-11 in the NFL in opposing passing yards per game, completion percentage and yards per catch. Cornerbacks Byron Murphy Jr. and Dre Kirkpatrick along with safety Budda Baker combined for two interceptions and four pass deflections on Monday night.
The Seahawks provide a challenge being in the top four in the league in each of those three categories. Wilson is the Vegas favorite for league MVP. Metcalf is arguably the Cardinals' toughest cover so far this season given his improvements, physical traits and the quarterback throwing him the ball. He has yet to have a mediocre day this season, gaining 90 or more yards in every game.
Still, Peterson is still eager to face the task.
"They're No. 1 in the league for a reason," Peterson said. "Those guys have a lot of weapons. Russell is playing unbelievable football. The back (Chris Carson) is playing great complementary football as well. So, these guys are definitely rolling high right now as a team. This is definitely going to be a great challenge for us.
"And I think that we're definitely ready."