The last few weeks were predictably ugly—and they were. This could be the turnaround game the Eagles need and that starts with trying to put the clamps on Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf when the Eagles visit the Seahawks on Monday night.
Now with Darius “Don’t call me Darius” Slay out, due to arthroscopic knee surgery last week for a clean out, head coach Nick Sirianni confirmed, corralling Metcalf just got more difficult. Against Slay, the Eagles’ best cover corner in 2020, Metcalf had a career game with 10 catches for 177 yards in a 23-17 victory over the Eagles, averaging 17.7 yards a catch, the longest for 52 yards, though curiously, he was held out of the end zone.
The season before, Metcalf burned the Eagles in their NFC playoff game with seven receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown.
As a team, the Eagles are among the worst in the NFL against the pass. They currently rank No. 28 in the league, surrendering 3,379 yards passing this season, giving up an NFL-high 179 first downs passing and are last in the NFL in giving up third-down conversions, with an NFL-high 48.07% that has ballooned to 61.22% the last three games. Over the last three games, Seattle and Arizona (and former Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon) is nearest giving up third-down conversions at 52.78%.
In 12 games this season, Metcalf has caught 51 passes on 93 targets for 864 yards and seven touchdowns, which is tied for No. 6 in the NFL. He averages 16.9 yards a catch, which is No. 3 in the NFL is a nightmare matchup.
He has the size of a tight end at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, with the obvious speed of a wide receiver.
This is a desperation game for the Seahawks. They’re carrying a four-game losing streak and playing for their postseason lives here. In that stretch, Metcalf was held to 16 catches on 31 targets for 312 yards, averaging 78 yards receiving a game. San Francisco did a particularly good job with Metcalf, holding him to two catches for 52 yards.
A looming problem is if Geno Smith starts. He has practiced this week with the intention of playing against the Eagles Monday night.
Who covers Metcalf? Probably James Bradberry. The other cringe-worthy possibilities include Eli Ricks, Josh Jobe, or rookie Kelee Ringo. The Eagles seem to have lost some confidence in Ricks and Jobe, manifested by the big chunks of playing time Ringo and rookie linebacker Nolan Smith received against Dallas. Both were awfully exposed, though Smith has his moments. If linebacker Nicholas Morrow was bouncing off Deebo Samuel a few weeks ago, imagine what Metcalf will be able to do down field against the Eagles second- and third-tier level defense that has had problems tackling. Overall, if the Eagles give Metcalf added attention, which is understandable, tiny Tyler Lockett also poses trouble. Lockett has caught a Seattle team-high 65 passes for 711 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think our defensive backs are looking forward to the challenge, and we’ll do a good job of holding up against that,” Eagles’ (former) defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “Both those guys are professionals and have such different traits how they get open. It was good to be able to see them in person and how they’re being coached and what they’re being taught.
“DK is big, fast, physical and can have a big catch radius and win a lot of different ways on the field. Tyler, I said this when I got there, to me he was one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league. Really savvy in terms of how he can run routs and win to his leverage. He’s got a good catch radius for his size and quickness and speed as well.
“Those guys are really good, professional receivers and they do a good job at their craft. We will have a good challenge ahead of us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.