“He’s like a semi, you know?” said Eskridge, laughing. “He moves with a whole lot of velocity.
“I’m definitely going to run that race, although I’m not going to say he’ll beat me.”
It’s on, people. A celebration of acceleration.
A party poop like Pete Carroll will probably call off the race, fearing hamstrings going up like window shades. Then again, he could wait for a game and order up a double go route, and let the opponents’ bug-eyed secondary sort out which Olympics-caliber sprinter Russell Wilson is aiming for.
The Seahawks made a statement Friday night with with their lone pick, 56th overall, in the first two days of the NFL draft: They had a need for speed.
Could have taken a quality center. Good cornerbacks were abundant. Pass rushers were still in supply. Could have permitted general manager John Schneider to follow his instinct to trade back until he had blown through the seventh-round barrier and into the void of space/time.
But no. The Seahawks held the spot and filled the roster’s No. 3 wide receiver position with a 5-8, 190-pound half-caff Metcalf from Western Michigan. Hey Russell: Aaron Rodgers wishes he had this kind of love from the Packers.
For the record, Metcalf two years ago moved his imposing, 225-pound self during the scouting combine at 4.33 seconds in the 40. At his pro day in March, Eskridge, a sprinter and long jumper for little Bluffton High School who was voted Mr. Track and Field for the state of Indiana, was timed at 4.38. So we’re talking a difference of chin whiskers.
Obviously, straight-ahead speed is the easiest measurement and says nothing about ball-playing skills, especially in the less competitive Mid-America Conference. Carroll seems to have seen enough to offer the possibility that Eskridge will be on the field for lots more three-receiver sets than the Seahawks used last season.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) May 1, 2021
If you recall the offensive problems from mid-season on, after defenses realized the Seahawks’ receivers beyond Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were minimal threats, they began using two-high safeties. Searching for the deep throws that had worked earlier, Wilson sometimes held the ball, sometimes forced things. As Metcalf said post-season, “We never adjusted.”
That’s partly because third receiver David Moore and TE Will Dissly were barely ordinary. But Moore is gone, and the Seahawks hired in free agency TE Gerald Everett, as well as his immediate boss with the Los Angeles Rams, passing-game coach Shane Waldron, now the offensive coordinator.
The adjustments are underway. Finally.
“We first started talking schematically about the offense having three legitimate threats,” Carroll said, “so in passing situations, the defense can’t get lock you down. It was one of the reasons that Gerald was such a big get for us. We always want to have three guys out there that (defenses) have to contend with, so they just can’t double guys up and take them out of the offense.
“We’re counting on D’Wayne being a factor.”
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) May 1, 2021
Carroll is basically saying that since they can’t beat the Rams, they’re joining them.
“We want real versatile guys,” he said. “If you look back at the Rams system, with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, they stay out there because they can do a little bit of everything. Our guys have to block. We use them in splits, in motions and all kinds of positions more than we have in the past. They’ve got to recognize fronts, who’s at linebacker and DB, as they carry out their assignments.
I think you’ll see, in time, D’Wayne do all that. He’s a physical kid and he’ll be able to be a well-rounded player.”
In his 44-game collegiate career, he averaged 18.5 yards on 122 catches. In 2020, his 34 catches averaged 23.1 ypg. As a senior, in which he had just six games in the covid-shortened MAC schedule, he returned kicks and finished first in FBS in all-purpose yards (213 ypg), averaged 27 yards on kickoff returns and was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. Western Michigan used him as a gunner covering kicks.
In 2019, he even played defense in addition to offense, and became the Broncos’ best cornerback until a broken clavicle cut short his season.
Now you know the origin of his Twitter handle: @allaroundplays.
Here’s what Pro Football Focus had to say:
Since the start of the 2018 season, Eskridge leads all of college football in yards per route run (3.36) when aligned out wide. The speedster is famous for creating chunk plays from the perimeter, which is reflected by his No. 1-ranked yards per reception mark (21.6).
There’s a ton of upside in his profile but also a lot of question marks due to the competition level in the MAC, along with his ball skills and physicality. Not to mention, Eskridge didn’t break out until he was 21 years old; he’s now already 24.
Yes, Eskridge is grown man, a year older than Metcalf. Just as fast. Maybe less bashful.
Asked how he would describe his playing style, he said, “I would definitely say aggressive, explosive and dynamic. I can do multiple things on the offensive and defensive side. And I can also perform well on the special teams.
“I just bring a whole other juice.”
Enough so that the Seahawks have two guys who can run down Budda Baker from behind.