Last Saturday, former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Tanner McEvoy ended his NFL debut with a spectacular, 37-yard touchdown catch at the end of regulation. That allowed the Seattle Seahawks to then attempt and succeed with a two-point conversion -- defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 17-16 at Arrowhead Stadium.
McEvoy led the team in receiving yards and scored the only touchdown for the Seahawks’ offense. Earlier today, we chronicled the former quarterback and safety’s young journey in the NFL.
To further breakdown McEvoy’s chances with the NFC West power, we welcomed Kenneth Arthur from our SB Nation cousins at Field Gulls.
1) It was only the first preseason game of the 2016 season, but from what you've seen, what's been the players' and the fans' reactions to McEvoy's performance on Saturday?
KR: Unsurprisingly, I think fans are stoked about his play on Saturday. The Seahawks have always lacked that big receiver who you felt you could just throw it up for and you know he'd win the point of attack, and it's something they'd been searching for with Big Mike Williams and Sidney Rice and Jimmy Graham, but so far none of them have worked out consistently long-term. And then on the final drive in Kansas City, Trevone Boykin just threw up a jumpball deep downfield and McEvoy was there to snatch it out of the air, including one to score and set them up for what would be the game-winning two-point conversion. Coaches were equally happy to see Boykin and McEvoy make the game-winning play, but I think they also recognize that it was just one play. They did exactly what the coaches wanted from them in the final minute, and you can't be mad about that, but competition at receiver is extremely tight right now, so the real question is: How did McEvoy do for every snap he was out there for? I think that's where his status as a "project" comes to play because as you know, he had 92 career touches at Wisconsin, including only 10 career catches.
2) During the off-season, McEvoy was positioned as a safety but the coaching staff switched him to wide receiver. What was the reasoning behind that move?
Pete Carroll told the media over the weekend that as far as safety went for McEvoy, "He did fine back there but nothing that made us want to stay with it." They were looking to see if he had special attributes that weren't being utilized yet and this coaching staff loves moving players around to different positions to see if that "unlocks" something inside of them. It's clear from his comments that they saw nothing special about McEvoy as a safety, so they moved him to wide receiver. After all, they're almost entirely made up of receivers under 6', so McEvoy gives them a different look on that side of the ball that they don't really have. Carroll called him a "nice catcher" and that clearly showed on the final drive on Saturday. The Seahawks had a player named Chris Matthews a couple years ago who made a name for himself for making a few huge catches in the Super Bowl as a big guy winning jumpballs. Matthews wasn't a complete player however, which is what they're hoping McEvoy turns out to be.
3) Wisconsin fans have seen first-hand McEvoy's unique athletic ability, based off of playing three different positions while at UW. How do you think head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (another Badgers connection) will utilize him within Seattle's offense?
If push comes to shove and McEvoy was actually a part of the offensive gameplan, he'd play that Matthews role; a bigger wide receiver who could win matchups at the point of attack, a red zone threat. However, the Seahawks have four wide receivers that they really love and aren't going to move away from, plus Jimmy Graham, plus three other tight ends they really like, plus rookie running back C.J. Prosise who was a wide receiver at Notre Dame. So, the number five receiver in Seattle is going to play almost never unless an injury happens. If McEvoy even makes the team at all, I don't think you'd see much of him this season, which is why special teams is going to be so important for that No. 5 receiver slot. I haven't heard much about him as a special teams player, but he's certainly not the rising star that fellow UDFA rookie Tyvis Powell is.
4) It was reported on Monday that McEvoy was running with the second group of wide receivers, and even getting some first-team reps with former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. Who is he competing against in that Seahawks' wide receiving corp for a roster spot?
As stated earlier, the top four slots are spoken for -- Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, and Paul Richardson. After that, they've got rookie seventh round pick Kenny Lawler out of Cal, plus Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams, who were both UDFAs out of the University of Washington last year and who were both active for a few games or something as rookies. So almost immediately you see the competition is pretty heavy. They also have Deshon Foxx, who was on and off the practice squad last year and who drew praise from Russell Wilson early in camp. Another guy is Douglas McNeil, who was also on and off the practice squad and is coming back to play wide receiver after previously trying to transition to cornerback. (See, they love trying players on both sides of the ball.) If that wasn't enough, Montario Hunter is a guy they've signed recently who has turned heads in camp and quickly become a fan favorite to upset everyone and make the 53. They also recently signed EZ Nwachukwu, who some may remember from last season's Hard Knocks with the Houston Texans, and the other guy they have is a player named Antwan Goodley. All told, there are legitimately nine receivers competing for maybe one roster spot at receiver, and I seriously have no idea what's going to happen. McEvoy's versatility helps but it sounds like they were really not impressed with him as a safety.
5) Where do you see McEvoy fitting in with this team on offense and special teams, and do you feel he has a chance to make the 53-man roster?
The only way he makes the team is either through injuries (which we are hoping against) or an impressive showing on special teams. His plays on Saturday against the Chiefs were nice but he also got some mixed reviews prior to catching the game-winner. The number five receiver has to be a beast on special teams because honestly they have their top four receivers signed through 2017 at least, so it might be a while before one of these young guys starts to make a name for himself on offense. The good news is that I don't really know if any of the other receivers are standing out on special teams either, but McEvoy is probably at a disadvantage if only due to the fact that Williams, Smith, Foxx, and McNeil all have at least one year of experience playing for Carroll and learning the system. I think McEvoy is probably a good candidate for the "taxi squad," that group of players who is on and off the practice squad, because I'm not sure I see another team picking him up and keeping him on the 53 all year just based on the fact that he went undrafted and he's still very much a work in progress. I do think there's a chance he makes the team, but he's got so far to go as a wide receiver that I think the Seahawks might feel comfortable testing out whether he'll pass through waivers and then placing him on the practice squad as a project for future seasons.