Seahawks Training Camp Primer: Receivers

Corbin Smith

Over the course of the next four weeks, we will be breaking down each of the Seahawks positional groups as we slowly creep towards the start of training camp.

Set to be one of the most competitive position groups on Seattle's entire roster, let’s take a closer look at a new-look receiving corps featuring an intriguing blend of returning veterans and high-upside rookies.

Projected Starters: Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown

As Baldwin played through multiple injuries, Lockett posted career numbers across the board in 2018 and emerged as the Seahawks new go-to receiver. Running routes from the outside and the slot, he wrapped up his fourth NFL season establishing new career-highs in receptions (57), receiving yardage (965), and touchdowns (10). Even more impressively, quarterback Russell Wilson registered a perfect 153.8 passer rating when targeting him and Lockett caught over 80 percent of those targets. Topping some of those numbers may prove difficult in Seattle’s offense, but the team will need even more from him now that Baldwin has retired.

Brown only caught 14 passes in his first season with the Seahawks, but coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have made it clear on numerous occasions this offseason that the team didn’t utilize him enough offensively last year. He made the most of his minimal opportunities, quickly earning Wilson’s trust and becoming one of his favorite red zone targets while catching five touchdown passes. While other receivers on the roster may have more upside, Brown enjoyed an outstanding offseason program and will have an excellent shot at earning a starting role due to his reliability as a receiver and blocker on the outside.

Reserves: David Moore, D.K. Metcalf, Gary Jennings, Amara Darboh, Keenan Reynolds, John Ursua, Jazz Ferguson, Terry Wright, Malik Turner, Caleb Scott

Finding consistency will be the name of the game for Moore heading into his third NFL season. He showed flashes of brilliance last year, including a seven-game stretch in the middle of the season where he caught 20 passes for 374 yards and five touchdowns. But he also disappeared down the stretch for Seattle, catching only four out of 16 targets during the month of December and barely playing in a 24-22 Wild Card loss to Dallas. To help push his game to the next level, the former East Central star has added versatility to his repertoire by working out of the slot this spring.

Due to concerns about his route running and durability, Metcalf slipped to the end of the second round of April’s draft before Seattle selected him with the No. 64 overall pick. While he may need some refinement as a route runner, he showcased his elite speed, size, and hands during offseason workouts and these skills alone should be more than enough for him to become an immediate impact player for the Seahawks aerial attack. Look for him to instantly become one of Wilson’s go-to weapons in the red zone.

Unlike Metcalf, Seattle didn’t get to see much from Jennings after drafting him in the fourth round due to hamstring issues. But he’s another big-bodied, athletic receiver who also offers prior experience working from the slot at West Virginia, which should bode well for his chances to carve out a role in Seattle’s rotation. He and Darboh, who will be entering his third season on the hot seat after missing all of last year with an injury, should receive ample opportunities working at multiple spots in training camp.

After suiting up for a couple of games on the active roster last year, Reynolds will look to take the next step towards a permanent role on the Seahawks this season. Last summer, he received extensive reps out of the slot when Baldwin missed training camp with a knee injury and also returned a few kickoffs in exhibition games. He and Ursua, a seventh-round selection out of Hawaii, may be competing for the final receiver spot, depending how many players Seattle chooses to retain at the position. Special teams value will be crucial if either wants to make the team.

Ferguson and Wright both impressed during offseason activities, but with three draft picks at the position as well as the trio of Lockett, Brown, and Moore returning, it’ll be hard for either undrafted signee to earn a roster spot without an injury or two. Along with Scott and Turner, who each participated in camp for Seattle a year ago, both players could be in the mix for practice squad consideration.

What to Watch: The Seahawks won’t be able to replace Baldwin with one player – he was one of a kind on the field and in the locker room. But they have to find a way to replace his production, particularly in the slot where he dominated opponents for eight seasons. Figuring out how reps will be divided up at the slot position without him will be one of the team’s biggest story lines heading into the season. Lockett should expect a slight uptick in snaps out of the slot by default, but Moore has also been learning the position and Jennings, Reynolds, Ursua, and Darboh all have plenty of prior experience in the slot as well. Seattle should have plenty of options to choose from and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a by-committee approach there.

Stat to Know: As further proof Seattle didn’t use him adequately, Pro Football Focus credited Brown with 14 catches on 18 targets for 166 yards and Wilson posted a 121.5 passer rating when throwing to him.

X-Factor: While some assume Metcalf, Jennings, and Ursua are all safe to make the final 53-man roster because they were drafted, the receiver position may be the most competitive on the entire roster and several returning veterans may have something to say about that. Most notably, Reynolds appears to be hovering under the radar again after drawing praise from multiple coaches and players this offseason. The former Navy quarterback has continued to harness his craft running routes from the slot and given his background running the option in college, he’s a threat with the ball in his hands after the catch. Last year, he also made a few tackles during the preseason on special teams, and if he’s able to make his mark on kick and punt coverages again, he’ll have a great chance to steal one of the final roster spots.

Prediction: While the competition at receiver will be must-see entertainment during training camp, Lockett, Brown, Moore, and Metcalf all look to be pretty safe bets to be on the opening day roster in Week 1. If all four of those players are locks, then eight players will be left to battle for one or two spots at the bottom of the depth chart. Though the Seahawks haven’t always kept fourth-round picks out of training camp (Chris Harper, anyone?), Jennings should be the presumed favorite to win the fifth receiver spot thanks to his versatility. Seattle will have to determine whether or not to keep a sixth receiver, but if past history is any indication, they may only retain five, which would leave Ursua, Reynolds, and Darboh on the outside looking in. Assuming they’ll keep a sixth player for this prediction, I think Ursua edges Reynolds for one of the final roster spots.