Doug Baldwin doesn’t think fellow wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is any different a player now than he was at this time last year.
The skills, the athletic ability, the hands haven’t changed much in the course of a year. The only difference, Baldwin said, is Kearse’s confidence.
Kearse, the former Washington receiver, took another step forward in Saturday’s preseason game against the Broncos. He carried the 12th-man flag onto the field, was a team captain before the game, hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass and returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown – all by the end of the first quarter.
He has gone from the guy who knew his best chance of making the team a year ago was on special teams to a guy who could now impact the Seahawks in a variety of ways.
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“I definitely feel confident out there,” Kearse said. “I worked hard this offseason, and I feel comfortable with the offense. I have less to worry about instead of worrying about things rookies worry about: the scheduling, how games are going. I got that one year under the belt, so I’m able to go out there and play fast and play freely.
“It’s a mentality, and when you play with that type of mentality, good things happen.”
Kearse’s biggest highlight was the kickoff return for a touchdown. Kearse hadn’t returned a kickoff since his high school days at Lakes in Lakewood, and coach Pete Carroll only approached him about returning kicks earlier this week.
Kearse jumped at the chance.
Coaches told him the cutoff point for taking the ball out of the end zone was between seven and eight yards. Kearse didn’t know how deep he was, so he fielded the ball near the back of the end zone and took off.
In explaining how he rumbled 107 yards for a touchdown down the left sideline, Kearse heaped all the credit on the blockers in front of him. But in the middle of doing so, Baldwin, whose locker is just to the left of Kearse’s, interrupted.
“Hold up now,” Baldwin said. “Don’t let him fool you. He called that play. He told our special teams coach that he wanted that play, and then he went out there and made it happen. So don’t let him fool you and try to be humble.”
“I mean, I called it,” Kearse said sheepishly. “I asked for the left return. But I couldn’t do it without the blocking. It was perfect. I had only one guy to make miss and that was the kicker. When you have that type of blocking, it makes things easy.”
On his touchdown catch in the first quarter, Russell Wilson initially dropped the snap but quickly picked it up and looked left to where Kearse was working against starting Denver cornerback Chris Harris. Kearse shook Harris enough to create separation and hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass – his only catch of the game.
Kearse is Seattle’s fourth receiver – at least until Percy Harvin returns – but he is also a starter on special teams, the attribute that allowed him to stick around a year ago. If there were any questions at all about Kearse’s chances of making this roster, they should be put to rest.
As Carroll put it not long ago in training camp, “He’s a vital part of what we’re doing now.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or email@example.com