The Eagles chose not to draft DK Metcalf so now it’s up to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to bottle him up. It’s been tough sledding through two games, particularly in last year’s wild-card playoff game when the Seahawks star hauled in seven balls for 160 yards. His electrifying 53-yard touchdown changed the complexion of the game.
Everyone knows the story by now. The Eagles selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over Metcalf in the 2019 draft. There are no re-dos or DeLoreans for sale. The hulking Mississippi product — a chiseled 6-foot-4, 229-pound game-changing wide receiver — has morphed into one of the best players at his position.
He has 48 catches for 862 yards (sixth-best) and nine touchdowns (fourth-best) in 2020, plus 18.0 yards-per-catch (fifth-best). He’s also averaging 19.5 yards-per-catch in two career games (10 catches, 195 yards) versus Schwartz’s defense.
“It’s a great challenge for us. It’s not just getting him covered, it’s tackling him,” Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday. “You have to defend every inch of the field with a guy like that. They can just throw a zero hitch to him, zero meaning it’s a zero-yard route, and just get him the ball and he’s hard to handle. He’s strong and fast and he’s like a linebacker, so you have to get him tackled on that stuff. He also has the speed to be able to go deep.”
The Eagles might have Metcalf’s kryptonite when the two teams meet this time. His name is Darius Slay. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, the shutdown cornerback may have the size and length to contain him.
“Slay has generally been good handling guys like that,” Schwartz said. “I mean, you name it, A.J. Green or any of these other guys that he’s been matched up on. He has those long arms and he can poke balls away and things like that.”
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Improved WR on Seahawks Scramble Drills
One of the biggest areas where Schwartz credited Metcalf for improving was in terms of improvisation, or when the play breaks down. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a magician at creating outside the pocket and Metcalf has learned how to anticipate and get open during those impromptu scramble drills. Their chemistry has grown by leaps and bounds since last year.
“I think he’s a much-improved player in working with the quarterback and understanding Russell Wilson’s scrambles and how to get open versus scrambles because it’s not just about running your route,” Schwartz said. “When it does break down and you have a quarterback that can scramble, it’s about being on the same page with him and knowing what spots you want to get to.”
It’s something the Eagles’ defense will be self-scouting in practice. Greg Ward played the role of Wilson in game-planning for those situations in 2019 but Schwartz will likely turn to dual-threat rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts to simulate those looks this time around. Hurts has a lot of Wilson in his own game, including an extra two inches and 15 pounds.
“You have to keep track of him at all times,” Schwartz said of Wilson. “I’m sure Jalen will give us a good look at that. That’s in his skill set. We have had a lot of different guys that have gone and given us that. It’s different in practice because you’re not hitting anybody, and there’s not the immediacy of getting hit if you’re out there in practice so it does go a little bit more.”
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