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Geno Smith Stresses Importance of Seahawks Secondary Receivers Contributing vs. Lions

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will continue to be Smith's go-to weapons and receive the majority of Seattle's targets in the passing game. But if the team learned from watching Minnesota's comeback win last week, other receivers should have a chance to do some serious damage on Sunday.

RENTON, Wash. - Understandably, the lion's share of quarterback Geno Smith's passes through the Seahawks first three games have gone in the direction of star receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

Two of the most productive wideouts in the league, Metcalf and Lockett were the only tandem from the same team to each produce 200 receptions, 3,100 receiving yards, and 25 touchdowns over the past three seasons. With such impressive production as Russell Wilson's primary weapons, it shouldn't come as a surprise Smith has been looking for them early and often in his first year as a starter under center.

Through 12 quarters of play, 37 of Smith's 79 completions (46 percent) have gone to either Metcalf or Lockett. Interestingly, with the veteran signal caller distributing the football a bit more to tight ends and running backs than his predecessor, that's more than 10 percent less than Wilson targeted the pair of former All-Pro talents in 2020.

Still, Lockett and Metcalf account for roughly half of Seattle's passing game output and as Smith indicated prior to Wednesday's practice, "We know the ball is going to go to 16 and 14."

But as the Seahawks look to snap a two-game losing streak on the road this weekend, they will be facing a Lions squad that ranks among the NFL's leaders in man coverage. While that will present chances for Metcalf and Lockett to win plenty of their own one-on-one matchups, double teams with two-deep safety looks have been effective for coordinator Aaron Glenn's defense taking away elite receivers.

Case in point? Last week, with third-year cornerback Jeff Okudah playing press man coverage against him and safety help over the top, Pro Bowl receiver Justin Jefferson finished with season-lows in receptions (3) and receiving yards (14). Two weeks earlier, Eagles receiver Devonta Smith didn't register a single catch often facing similar bracket coverage looks.

Taking notice of the schematic execution by Detroit against Jefferson a week ago, Smith said, "They played great coverage on Justin. He's a great player and we have great players, so we expect to see the same things. If it works, they're going to try it again until we can solve it, so we can expect some doubles and man coverage and we just have to go out there and be ready to win."

From a game planning standpoint, as Metcalf himself pointed out on Wednesday, the Lions accomplished exactly what they hoped to do a week ago. By ensuring one or two extra defenders were ready behind Okudah, who played stellar coverage against Jefferson in his own right, they were able to take the budding superstar out of the picture for the most part.

But by dedicating so many resources to slowing down one player, Detroit also opened up excellent opportunities for Kirk Cousins to torch the secondary with other receivers in advantageous one-on-one matchups. Opposite of Jefferson, dependable veteran Adam Thielen reeled in six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, while slot K.J. Osborn came wide open against a busted coverage late in the fourth quarter for a game-winning 28-yard touchdown grab of his own.

After seeing Thielen and Osborn do damage at the expense of Jefferson being doubled and sometimes triple-teamed, Smith recognizes the importance of getting other receivers more involved this week.

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"It's really important to get those guys going," Smith said. "Get Noah Fant going, get Colby Parkinson going, get Will Dissly going, as well as Marquise [Goodwin] and Dee Eskridge... We have complimentary guys, they're just great players in their own right who can get open, get the ball, catch and run, and it's my job to get the ball in their hands."

So far this year, Fant, Dissly, and Parkinson have been utilized more frequently in the passing game than recent seasons. With Smith prioritizing getting the ball to them, the trio has produced three of Seattle's four receiving touchdowns and they have all produced more receiving yardage than any receiver not named Metcalf or Lockett, with Parkinson averaging a whopping 21.8 yards per reception.

On the other hand, continuing a recent trend, no other receiver on the Seahawks' current roster has caught more than four passes so far this year. Goodwin has produced 53 yards on four catches and turned two of those into first downs, coming through a couple of times in clutch situations. Eskridge, a 2021 second-round pick, has been a relative non-factor, playing just 23 offensive snaps and catching two passes for six yards.

Considering Detroit will be starting a sixth-round pick in Malcolm Rodriguez at one of the two inside linebacker spots and will be without safety Tracy Walker, who tore his Achilles tendon last week and will miss the rest of the season, tight ends may very well be a focal point in Seattle's offensive game plan this week similar to Week 1 against Denver. Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has been using extensive two and three-tight end sets this season for a reason.

The Seahawks will also likely lean on their ground game against a defense that ranks 27th in rushing yards allowed and dead-last in rushing touchdowns given up.

But against the NFL's worst scoring defense, especially a Detroit squad that ranked second among 32 teams in man coverage percentage through the first two games per Pro Football Focus, speedy receivers such as Goodwin and Eskridge could be featured with hopes of creating quick separation on shallow crossers, slants, and dig routes and racking up yards after the catch underneath. Once Seattle connects on such concepts a few times, the home team may need to adjust, opening things up for Metcalf and Lockett to do what they do downfield.

If executed properly, coupled with an effective, punishing rushing attack, that could be a recipe for great success for Smith and his counterparts to get the Seahawks back into the win column and pull back even at .500.

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