Following a long offseason - okay, compared to the nightmare that was 2020, the past several months have been a breeze - the Seahawks will officially usher in the 2021 season by reporting to training camp on July 27.
Continuing our camp preview series, here's a close look at the state of the receiver position, including the depth chart, a key question that must be answered, and a bold prediction for the upcoming season.
2020 In Review
Emerging as one of the NFL's most dangerous receiving duos, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett turned in historic first halves with each player on pace for over 1,300 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. While the two players cooled off considerably along with the rest of Seattle's sputtering offense over the final two months, each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns while breaking multiple team single-season records. Behind them, David Moore caught a career-high 35 receptions for 417 yards and six touchdowns, while Freddie Swain caught 13 passes for 159 yards and a pair of scores as a rookie.
Despite posting career numbers in 2020, the Seahawks opted not to bring back Moore, who signed a multi-year contract with the Panthers in March. To replace him, Seattle invested a second-round pick in speedy Western Michigan receiver D'Wayne Eskridge, who is expected to compete for significant playing time on offense and special teams right away. The team also signed a pair of intriguing undrafted free agents in former South Dakota State standout Cade Johnson and ex-Sumner High School star Connor Wedington.
Starters: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D'Wayne Eskridge
Building off a sensational rookie season, Metcalf got off to a roaring start catching passes from an MVP front-runner in Russell Wilson. In the first eight games, he caught 43 passes for 788 yards and eight touchdowns, including three scores of 38-plus yards. After posting four 100-yard games in that span, he only eclipsed the century mark once in the final eight regular season games, but he still broke Steve Largent's franchise record with 1,303 receiving yards and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors. Just 23 years old, he still has yet to come close to reaching his potential.
While Metcalf torched opponents, Lockett also turned in another fine season on his own accord. He finished with a franchise-record 100 receptions and hit the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season. Interestingly, he produced 15 receptions for 200 yards and three scores in an overtime loss to the Cardinals and scored three of his 10 touchdowns in a win over the Cowboys. Taking those two games and a 90-yard, two touchdown outing against the 49ers out of the equation, he produced 664 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. With a new extension in tow, the Seahawks will hope to see more consistency from him in Shane Waldron's offense.
Bringing different elements to Seattle's offense as a complementary weapon to Metcalf and Lockett, Eskridge should see action early working out of the slot and lined up outside. A former high school running back and track star, he led the nation in all-purpose yards per game as a senior and can beat opponents in a number of ways, including downfield as a deep threat with 4.38 speed and creating big chunks of yardage after the catch. Waldron should also be able to incorporate him into the Seahawks' ground game with jet sweeps and bubble screens.
Reserves: Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Cody Thompson, John Ursua, Aaron Fuller, Darvin Kidsy, Cade Johnson, Connor Wedington, Travis Toivoven
Selected in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Swain exceeded expectations as a late day three pick, seeing over 300 offensive snaps as a rookie and contributing both on offense and special teams. Along with his 13 receptions, he recovered a fumble on a fake punt in the season opener and also returned six kickoffs for 137 yards. The arrival of Eskridge may prevent him from moving up the depth chart, but with the ability to run routes from the slot and outside along with returning kicks, he should still be in line for extensive playing time.
Headlining a group of returning veterans vying for a roster spot, Hart surprisingly made the team out of camp last August and appeared in 13 games, recording four tackles on special teams and recording one catch. Impressing throughout Seattle's offseason program and continuing to develop a strong rapport with Wilson, the former Georgia State standout looks to have an edge on Thompson, Ursua, Fuller, and Kidsy, who all spent time on the practice squad during the 2020 season.
In terms of dark horses who could make the 53-man roster, the Seahawks landed a potential sleeper in Johnson, who amassed 2,872 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons starring for the Jackrabbits. The crafty route runner also turned in a strong week at the Senior Bowl in January. Wedington could also be in the hunt for a roster spot given his versatility, as he can line up in the backfield and out of the slot and also excelled as a return specialist at Stanford.
Who will emerge as a viable third playmaker behind Metcalf and Lockett?
There were a number of reasons why Seattle's offense stalled over the final two months last season. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer struggled to make necessary adaptations to what defenses were doing against them, Wilson became indecisive and held onto the football too long, and opponents were able to key on taking away Metcalf and Lockett as deep threats due to the lack of a third quality option behind them.
The Seahawks hope they were able to fix all three of those issues this offseason, including adding additional playmakers to take pressure off of Metcalf and Lockett. In the perfect scenario, Eskridge will step right into the starting lineup and provide another home run hitter who can take the top off of defenses with elite speed while bringing a different dimension to their offensive attack with his ability to break tackles and turn short passes into chunk plays. If that happens, theoretically, opponents shouldn't be able to live in two or three deep coverages as they did late last season.
But adjusting to the NFL can take time for rookie receivers, so it's not guaranteed Eskridge will hit the ground running in Week 1. Luckily, Seattle has some other intriguing candidates for Wilson to lean on if he needs time to get acclimated, including athletic tight end Gerald Everett as well as Swain and Hart. Johnson may be the wild card to watch given his college productivity and route running savvy. With a strong preseason, he could put himself in the discussion for game day reps as well.
Continuing his ascent towards elite status, Metcalf will become the first Seahawk in franchise history to surpass 1,600 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season.
Considering how dominant the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Metcalf has been during his first two NFL seasons, he still has ample room for development as a receiver, which is a scary proposition for opponents. Drops have still been an issue for him at times and improving as a route runner continues to be a top priority for him. The arrival of Waldron should help with the latter, as Metcalf himself has said the new coordinator brought "different kinds of routes" with him to Seattle. After eclipsing 1,300 yards and finding the end zone 10 times last season, he told reporters his sights were on catching Calvin Johnson's NFL single-season record. While climbing to 1,964 yards could be an insurmountable task, if he's able to clean up those weaknesses in his game and continues to stay healthy, there's no reason he can't push for 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns, especially with a 17th game added to the schedule.