Despite entering the 2021 season with championship aspirations, the Seahawks lost five of their first eight games and never fully recovered, finishing in last place in the NFC West with a 7-10 record.
Dealt a bad hand - or in this case finger - by the midseason injury suffered by Russell Wilson, Seattle's passing game never ascended as hoped. Still, Tyler Lockett finished in the top 10 in receiving yardage and DK Metcalf nearly hit the 1,000-yard threshold again, leading a talented receiving corps that battled injuries, COVID, and inconsistent quarterback play throughout the season.
Looking back at the season in retrospect, how did Seattle's receiving corps perform as a unit in 2021? And what does the future hold at the position?
2021 Stats: 73 receptions, 1,175 yards, eight touchdowns
Overall Season Grade: A (90.0)
What Went Right: While Lockett didn't come close to replicating his 2020 production from a receptions standpoint, he arguably had the best season of his career considering circumstances playing with multiple quarterbacks in a new offensive system. Continuing to be one of the NFL's best deep threats, he produced seven receptions of 40-plus yards, the third-most in the league. Four of those plays resulted in touchdowns, including 69 and 63-yard scoring plays, contributing to a 16.1 yards per reception average, the second-highest in his seven-year career. He wrapped up the season as just the seventh receiver in Seahawks franchise history to eclipse 1,100 receiving yards in a single season, joined Steve Largent as only the second receiver in team history to post three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and used a late flurry to hit eight or more touchdowns for a fourth consecutive season. Most notably, he was the only player out of 26 with over 1,000 receiving yards with fewer than two drops, further illustrating his reliability.
What Went Wrong: With Russell Wilson missing three games due to injury and struggling upon his return, Lockett can't be blamed solely for his diminished production at times during the season. But he did have six games with three or fewer receptions and seven games with 31 or fewer yards, making his final numbers for the year all the more remarkable.
Closing Thoughts: During a down season for the offense as a whole, Lockett kept rolling, continuing to showcase why he belongs in the discussion as one of the elite wideouts in the NFL. Set to turn 30 years old in September, he should still have several more great seasons left in the tank and with a healthy Wilson more comfortable in Shane Waldron's offense, he should be able to pass Doug Baldwin and Darrell Jackson on the franchise's all-time receiving yards and receiving touchdowns lists in 2022 with ease.
2021 Stats: 75 receptions, 967 yards, 12 touchdowns
Overall Season Grade: B- (82.0)
What Went Right: For the third consecutive season, Metcalf increased his touchdown total, hauling in a team-high 12 scoring grabs and finishing fourth in the entire NFL in that category. He secured several team milestones along the way, passing Joey Galloway for the most receptions and receiving yardage by a receiver in his first three seasons in franchise history. He also moved into second place behind Daryl Turner for most receiving touchdowns by a Seahawks receiver in his first three seasons. He reeled in the longest touchdown grab of his career in a Week 7 loss to the Saints, going 84 yards on a fade from backup Geno Smith. Per Pro Football Focus, he displayed marked improvement eliminating concentration drops, finishing with four drops on 124 targets after posting 10 drops and eight drops in his first two seasons respectively.
What Went Wrong: For whatever reason, even before Wilson injured his middle finger, Metcalf never seemed to quite be on the same page with his quarterback. Their outstanding chemistry from the previous two seasons wasn't evident on the field until late in the season, as illustrated by a six percent plunge in catch rate compared to 2020. The two were especially off on deep balls, as Wilson misfired on several downfield throws that could have resulted in big plays, creating mounting frustrations for the receiver. He also dealt with a foot injury throughout the year that kept him from practicing regularly, which may have impacted timing with the quarterback. After breaking Largent's single-season mark for receiving yards in his second season, he failed to hit the 1,000-yard mark despite playing in all 17 games and finished with a career-low 12.9 yards per reception.
Closing Thoughts: Most receivers would have been thrilled to post the numbers Metcalf did in 2021. But given his immense physical gifts and the record-breaking statistics he posted one year earlier, the star wideout ultimately turned in a disappointing year by his standards. With that said, both he and Wilson were not fully healthy for large chunks of the season and presuming both will be 100 percent when camp opens in July, they will have a great chance to get back to toasting opposing secondaries in 2022.
2021 Stats: 25 receptions, 343 yards, four touchdowns
Overall Season Grade: C+ (79.0)
What Went Right: Emerging as a viable complementary receiver alongside Lockett and Metcalf, Swain doubled his production across the board compared to his rookie season and only dropped one pass. Adding a different dimension to his game, he reeled in three catches of 30-plus yards, including a 68-yard touchdown reception against the Titans in Week 2 and a clutch 32-yard scoring grab against Washington in Week 12. He led all skill players on the team with more than 15 targets with 8.2 yards after the catch per reception and the combination of Wilson/Smith posted a 126.3 rating when targeting him. On top of his receiving contributions, he ran the ball five times for 32 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry running jet sweeps from the slot.
What Went Wrong: Swain played well on offense, but his extended run as a punt returner on special teams proved to be an adventure at times. While he did average 8.6 yards per return and had seven returns of 10-plus yards on just 22 attempts, his decision making on when to fair catch punts was questionable much of the time. There were several occasions where he opted to call for a fair catch when he had ample room in front of him to operate, limiting potential starting field position for the offense, and he also muffed a punt as well.
Closing Thoughts: Overall, Swain had a solid second season in Seattle, proving himself as a capable third or fourth receiver who Wilson trusts on the outside or out of the slot. His ability to run jet sweeps fits well into Waldron's offense as well and should allow him to get plenty of touches in 2022. If he can take another step forward on offense and improve on special teams, he may be able to start playing himself into the conversation for a second contract with the organization.
2021 Stats: 10 receptions, 64 yards, one touchdown
Overall Season Grade: C- (71.0)
What Went Right: After struggling to get acclimated to a new offense and missing two months with a concussion, Eskridge picked a great time to turn in the best game of his young career in a Week 13 win over the 49ers. Though he finished with only 39 receiving yards on the afternoon, he picked up two first downs and scored his first career touchdown on three receptions. As a running threat on jet sweeps, the former Western Michigan star showed off his wheels rushing for 59 yards on only four attempts, including a 30-yard scamper against the Bears in Week 16.
What Went Wrong: Battling injuries from the outset, Eskridge missed most of training camp with a toe injury and then suffered a severe concussion in the season opener, forcing him to miss the next seven games. By the time he returned, the rookie receiver was behind the eight ball and didn't see many snaps in losses to the Packers and Cardinals. Thanks in large part to minimal field time, his chemistry with Wilson remained a work in progress and he caught only three passes for 17 yards in Seattle's final five games. Viewed as a dynamic deep threat at the college level with sub-4.40 speed, he didn't record a single reception of more than 20 yards and also never got a chance to show off his skills as a return specialist either.
Closing Thoughts: In terms of disappointment, Eskridge's rookie season couldn't have fared much worse with multiple injuries preventing him from making much of an impact. With center Creed Humphrey becoming an instant star for the Chiefs, the Seahawks decision to pass on him and select the receiver instead will be under heavy scrutiny for the next several seasons. While that choice looks like a major mistake now, with a clean bill of health and another offseason to master Waldron's playbook, the Bluffton, Indiana native has a chance to be a breakout candidate on offense and special teams in 2022.
2021 Stats: Seven receptions, 59 yards
Overall Season Grade: C (76.0)
What Went Right: Dressing for all 17 games, Hart made the most of limited chances to play on offense for the Seahawks. Seeing 142 snaps as a receiver, he caught seven passes on 12 targets and picked up three first downs. Where he truly excelled, however, was on special teams, where he finished third on the team behind Nick Bellore and Cody Barton with 11 combined tackles.
What Went Wrong: With Eskridge missing seven games, Hart had an opportunity presented to him to carve out a bigger role on offense, including being utilized occasionally as a runner on jet sweeps and out of the backfield. Unfortunately, that never materialized, as he didn't get a single carry and had three games where he didn't receive a single target even with the rookie sidelined.
Closing Thoughts: Respected by teammates and coaches, Hart plays the game the right way and has now dressed in 30 games over the past two years due to his special teams ability. He may never be much of a factor on offense with the talent and depth in front of him, but he should once again be in the thick of the competition for a final roster spot in camp next summer thanks to his versatility and tackling skills on kick and punt coverage.
Seahawks 2021 Positional Report Cards
Tight End - Coming 1/22/22
Offensive Tackle - Coming 1/24/22
Guard/Center - Coming 1/27/22
Cornerback - Coming 1/23/22
Safety - Coming 1/26/22
Specialists - Coming 1/28/22