After being signed as an undrafted free agent and only catching three passes in 2012, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse became a regular contributor in the Seattle Seahawks‘ offense last year during their Super Bowl run. The local product out of Lakes High School and the University of Washington caught 22 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns during the season, including a game-winning touchdown in the season-opener against the Carolina Panthers. But it was his postseason performances, particularly in the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl, that have Kearse pegged as a favorite to become elite for the Seahawks this year. His touchdown catches against the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos were two of the biggest plays of the year for Seattle.
In an offense full of undersized receivers — fellow undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Paul Richardson — Kearse is one of Russell Wilson‘s biggest targets at 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds. And Kearse is becoming one of Wilson’s favorite targets. After catching seven balls for 134 yards and two touchdowns in three postseason games last year, the wide receiver was one of the more consistent targets throughout training camp for Wilson. He had four receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ third preseason game — usually is as close as it gets to a regular season game — against the Chicago Bears. Seattle’s quarterback has raved about how Kearse is going to do great things in the NFL.
Kearse possesses great hands and a knack for making big plays in big moments. If there is a clutch situation, he is usually involved. Kearse also has underrated speed and great leaping ability, which is why he is one of Wilson’s favorite deep targets. Additionally, this is the last year in Kearse’s contract before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2015. That means he’ll be motivated to have a great season for a team that hopefully will re-sign him.
Kearse is ready to take another step forward this year, and he should find himself in favorable matchups with Harvin and Baldwin attracting the most attention in Seattle’s receiving corps. Wilson will certainly be looking his direction if the Seahawks need a big play. With a run-first mentality, Seattle’s offense won’t allow Kearse to put up crazy numbers, but he has the potential to become an elite receiver in the league from an impact standpoint. If he keeps making plays in clutch situations, Kearse will find himself having his hands on the ball more and more.
No doubt, Kearse is one of the Seahawks’ most improved players over the past two seasons, but will he take the next step and become elite? He has the potential. At the very least, it’s reasonable to expect Kearse to lead the team in touchdown receptions.