Tanner McEvoy says his last-play TD grab that gave Seattle a win last Saturday was fun but he knows he needs to do a lot more to make the Seahawks' roster.
Preseason games, NFL coaches often say, are most valuable for seeing which young players can make the same kind of plays in a game they routinely make in practice.
Showing, in other words, that the pressure of the moment — even if it’s just the preseason — isn’t too big for them.
It’s hard to have succeeded more noticeably in fulfilling that goal than Seahawks undrafted rookie free agent receiver Tanner McEvoy did last Saturday at Kansas City, hauling down a 37-yard touchdown catch on a heave into the end zone from Trevone Boykin after the clock had already hit zero. The TD and a subsequent two-point conversion gave the Seahawks an improbable 17-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I mean you go up and make a play and win the game, I mean that definitely helps (a player’s chances of making a team),’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
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But McEvoy also knows that as much fun as it was, it was just one play, one that also came against a Kansas City defense that in that situation was stocked with players like him — unproven players trying to make a name for themselves.
“I think some people now know my number a little bit more,’’ McEvoy said Tuesday. “But it’s just another early preseason game and we’ve got a lot more work to do. And I do especially.’’
Still, the play did show off some of what attracted the Seahawks to him in the first place. At almost 6-6 and 235 pounds, McEvoy has uncommon size for a receiver, which on the touchdown he was able to use to shield off 5-11 Kansas City cornerback Malcolm Jackson.
“We were able to see the size,’’ Bevell said of McEvoy, who finished the game with three catches for 77 yards. “He was physical enough to be able to go up and make those catches, and in his case there’s going to be probably a lot of contested catches. He had a slant earlier in the game that he did a nice job and made a contested catch there as well, so those are things that definitely help him.”
The Seahawks also love McEvoy’s versatility, which comes from having played quarterback, safety, running back and receiver while in college.
Seattle, in fact, initially used McEvoy as a safety during the off-season program before switching him to receiver.
McEvoy says of being asked to change positions that “it happens every year, I feel like now. I’m kind of used to it.’’
There was a time when McEvoy wanted to be solely a quarterback. He redshirted as a quarterback in 2011 at South Carolina, signing on with the Steve Spurrier-coached Gamecocks after having been named the New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
But finding himself still buried on a deep depth chart after one year, he decided to transfer, ultimately spending a year at Arizona Western. He threw 24 touchdowns in eight games and was considered the best dual-threat junior college QB in the nation, again drawing the interest of numerous schools — Oregon was among the schools that offered. He signed instead with Wisconsin where after being judged to be third on the depth chart at QB entering the 2013 season, coaches asked if he’d consider playing receiver, and then safety.
That led to a continual position carousel as McEvoy returned to quarterback in 2014, starting the first five games, then moved back to primarily defense in 2015, though also used at times in a wildcat-type quarterback role on offense and playing enough receiver to catch 10 passes.
While McEvoy hoped to get drafted, he didn’t hear his name called, which then led to what he says wryly was “a fun three minutes’’ waiting for his phone to ring. The Seahawks were the first to call with coach Pete Carroll later calling him “such an unusual athlete,’’ potentially the kind of unpolished gem with a unique characteristic that the team has been able to turn into standout players in the past.
“Wanted to see what would happen, wanted to see if he had the kind of instincts that are really special that no one had uncovered yet,’’ Carroll said.
Saturday gave a glimpse with the team understanding that McEvoy’s constant shuffling positions means he’s had little time to master anything.
And in a sign that he has further piqued the team’s interest, special teams coach Brian Schneider said McEvoy will be given a bigger role this week on special teams — which are a critical responsibility for backup receivers — than he had against Kansas City.
“He has a really good feel in space, which is good,’’ Schneider said. “We want to give him more reps this weekend and see what he can do.’’
Plays that McEvoy hopes will show he’s more than a one-hit wonder.
“It’s always good to have your name out there and make a play,’’ McEvoy said. “But you’ve got to be consistent and coach (Carroll) preaches that. So I’m just trying to keep going and take advantage of my opportunities.’’