Jermaine Kearse had the best season of his career last year, and his return helps Russell Wilson and the offense.
More than anything, the re-signing of Jermaine Kearse solidifies a receiving group that was potent by the end of the season.
Kearse played all 16 games last season and had career bests in catches (49), yards (685) and touchdowns (five). He is a reliable pass catcher, has a flair for making big plays and is a dependable blocker, no small thing for a team that runs the ball as much as the Seahawks.
Think of some of the biggest catches in the last few years, and Kearse is featured in many of them. He is like the Forrest Gump of the Seahawks’ passing game:
- The touchdown on fourth down in the 2014 NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.
- The touchdown in overtime in the 2015 NFC Championship Game against the Packers.
- The crazy, pirouetting touchdown in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Broncos.
- The game-winning touchdown catch against the Panthers in the 2013 opener that set the stage for that season.
- And, of course, the bobbled, bouncing, circus catch in the Super Bowl in 2015 against the Patriots that would have gone down as one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history had the Seahawks won the game.
- Also, this: He has six touchdown catches in the playoffs, a franchise record.
But here’s what’s really interesting about the Kearse signing, perhaps the biggest upshot: It means quarterback Russell Wilson gets to work with mostly the same group of receivers for the second consecutive year. That might not seem like headline-grabbing news, but it allows for the offense to evolve because the shared knowledge of the players involved is so complex.
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And it’s especially important for a quarterback such as Wilson, who relies so much on his ability to scramble, to cause chaos with his legs. His freelancing makes him special, but it can also be difficult on receivers, who operate on precision and timing.
As soon as Wilson takes off, the Seahawks shift gears — what quarterback Tarvaris Jackson once called a play within a play. Though there are rules and guidelines for Wilson and his receivers in those code-red scramble drills, much of it comes down to feel and familiarity.
Pete Carroll mentioned in the middle of the season how first-year tight end Jimmy Graham was getting used to Wilson’s scrambling, how he seemed to be getting more comfortable with it. The implication: It takes time to master.
Who knows how many receivers the Seahawks will keep next year, but they return their core: Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, in addition to Kearse (Pro Football Focus ranked that group the NFL’s 10th-best receiving group ). The Seahawks also bring back Paul Richardson, who has been limited because of injuries his first two years and who played in just one game last season. But in that one game, Richardson blew past a defensive back for a 40-yard catch. If he can stay healthy, he gives the Seahawks another deep threat capable of creating space.
Kearse and Baldwin have played with Wilson since his rookie season in 2012, and all three had career years last season. That’s not a coincidence. They naturally got better as they got older, sure, but they also got better collectively because they understood each other in ways that are achievable only through experience.
Kearse has been a big part of that experience in the past, and now he gets to be a part of the future.