Scouting Jermaine Kearse

Most of the talk following yesterday's blockbuster trade has been about the departing Sheldon Richardson and the incoming second round pick, but what should we make of wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Is he just a thrown-in or actually a possible key contributor to the Jets' rebuilding effort?

The 27-year-old Kearse is 6'1" and 209 pounds and was an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2012. He's been with the Seahawks for his entire career, catching 153 passes for 2,109 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's also caught 31 passes for 493 yards and six touchdowns in postseason action.


Kearse was a productive receiver in a west coast offense at Washington. After catching 20 passes as a freshman, he caught 50 in his sophomore year and then posted career bests of 63 receptions, 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior year. However, his production slipped as a senior and he ultimately went undrafted.

Seattle signed him as an undrafted free agent after the 2012 draft and he made the team, although he was active for just seven games and caught three passes.

However, his production gradually improved over the next three seasons and his profile grew due to some big postseason moments. In 2015, he posted career highs with 49 receptions, 685 yards and five touchdowns.

Having signed a three-year contract extension, Kearse had what he called a "humbling" 2016 campaign. He caught 41 passes for 510 yards and just one touchdown, while also being penalized nine times.

Kearse obviously hasn't come close to posting superstar-type numbers yet in his career and actually only has one 100-yard game in the regular season.

However, he's had some huge moments in the postseason, including a game-winning touchdown against the Packers in overtime, a spectacular catch and run for a score in Super Bowl 48 and an even more spectacular juggling catch which should have won Seattle the following year's Super Bowl as well. He's also had two 100-yard games against the Panthers in consecutive playoff campaigns, including one where he had 11 receptions including two touchdowns.

The Seahawks put Kearse, who has two years left on his contract, at $2.2 million and $5 million, on the trade block a few weeks ago.

Let's move onto some further analysis of what Kearse brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.


Kearse posted a below average set of numbers at the scouting combine, as you can see below:

However, he made dramatic improvements on some of these numbers at his pro day, running a 4.43 40-yard dash and an excellent 6.83 three-cone drill, while also adding nine inches to his broad jump and an inch and a half to his vertical.


Kearse has played primarily on the outside in Seattle, but does sometimes go into the slot and has had some modest production there, including one touchdown in each of the past four years. He played more in the slot in 2014, but has been producing less there over the past couple of years as Doug Baldwin's production has ramped up.

Deep threat

Kearse is a viable downfield threat, capable of making deep catches down the field. Here's an example of that:


He also possesses the ability to go up to get it on downfield jump balls.


Kearse's route running is impressive. He uses his size and leverage well, makes sharp breaks to generate separation and stops on a dime for button-hook and back-shoulder plays.

Here's some impressive work against one of the best cover corners in the game; Josh Norman:


One of Kearse's biggest strengths is his knack for finding open spots in zone coverage and when plays get extended - which, of course, happens with regularity when Russell Wilson is the quarterback.


Kearse shows good technique, catches the ball with his hands and has a decent catch radius to go up for high passes or down for low ones. He can make a catch in a crowd and isn't afraid to take a hit over the middle.

While you might be concerned about Kearse's hands based on his low catch percentage in 2016, he actually only had three drops and has never had more than five in a season. In fact, many of the drops he has had were tough attempts on inaccurate throws, but he's not immune to focus drops as well.

Kearse has proven capable of circus-type catches at times, including this famous one which set the Seahawks up for what should have been the winning touchdown in Super Bowl 49:


He shows good concentration and hands on this play too, along with excellent footwork to ensure both feet are down inbounds:


Yards after the catch

Kearse has good speed and may not always break many tackles but is a physical runner that will bounce off defenders and fall forwards at the end of a run.

Here's another famous Super Bowl play from Kearse, as he breaks four tackles with a double-spin move to add to the Seahawks' huge lead:


Kearse does a good job of tacking the ball away safely after the catch. He's only fumbled once on offense in his entire career.


Kearse hasn't ever really been much of a difference maker as a blocker, but he's had his moments, including this play where he lit up a defender:


Since the team has a running quarterback, there would be times where Kearse might transition from trying to get open to becoming a downfield blocker. Kearse has talked about the fact that Seattle's receivers took pride in their blocking.

His effort could perhaps have been better on this play, where he let his man get past him far too easily and that probably prevented the receiver from making a few more yards:



Despite his running style and willingness to go over the middle, Kearse's physicality has been questioned at times. Indeed there are some Seattle fans who blame him for the infamous play at the end of Super Bowl 49 where Wilson's goal line slant to Baldwin was intercepted. Some felt Kearse should have done a better job of picking the cornerback on that play.

In 2016, he was called six separate times for offensive pass interference and you have to wonder if that was indirectly a product of that criticism. Fans have also criticized him for not fighting through contact or even failing to "act" on plays where defensive players were physical with him but didn't draw a flag.

Special Teams

Kearse has made some good special teams contributions over the years, including 16 special teams tackles. He's played regularly as a gunner and as a vice with Seattle and also blocked a punt for a safety in 2014.

He was the team's kick-off returner for a while in 2013, although he averaged less than 22 yards per return with a long of 40 and lost one fumble. However, he did have a 107-yard return for a touchdown in preseason that year.

Here's a play where he saved the day after a teammate muffed an onside kick:



As already noted, Kearse has a decent knack for find open spots in the defense.

However, his focus has been questioned at times. He's had five false start penalties and an illegal motion penalty in his career so far. Penalties were an issue for him in 2016, as he had nine. However, they hadn't really been in the past, as he'd only had six in four years.


Kearse is regarded as a good citizen with a good work ethic, although many fans felt he became complacent after earning his contract extension and that this impacted upon his reduced production. Mike Maccagnan praised his character and intangibles in the conference call last night.

Kearse hasn't had any personal fouls in his career and there wasn't much evidence of chippy on-field behavior.

Scheme Fit

Kearse is an excellent scheme fit, having played in west coast offenses both in Seattle and at Washington and having generated plenty of production from being both a safety blanket and a big-play threat within those systems.


Kearse hasn't had major injury issues at the NFL or collegiate level. He didn't miss any games in college and has missed just two, with a 2013 concussion and a 2014 hamstring injury, since his rookie year with Seattle.


Kearse is a talented player, who should be considered a starter-level player but below the level of being a star. However, he was ascending until last year, which makes his downturn in performance all the more curious.

While looking for reasons why his catch level would drop off so dramatically, you might expect him to have dropped more passes or perhaps been targeted downfield more. However, neither of these things were true. In fact, his catch rate on downfield targets was slightly higher and he posted a lower yards per catch average than in the previous three seasons.

However, I found some good analysis online from a Seahawks blogger. This puts forth an extremely optimistic viewpoint for Kearse's 2016 season, suggesting that he wasn't to blame for this reduction in numbers. He suggests it had more to do with the fact that Wilson was constantly under heavy pressure and opted to throw Kearse a lot of difficult passes that were often inaccurate in such situations:

It goes into more detail about his strengths and weaknesses, to the point where many Seahawks fans likely would have seen it as making excuses for him. However, I'm sure this analysis was designed to counter the heavy criticism he had been receiving and some of the factors raised do seem to have merit.

Hopefully this means the Jets haven't necessarily acquired a player who has regressed and will continue to do so.

Ultimately, Kearse will certainly provide the Jets with an upgrade, but it's difficult to project his upside. Some of those big moments and performances in postseason action suggest he could become an even more productive player if he could play like that all the time rather than just in big games.

That's especially true as he arrives on a team that many believe will be a few years away from their next meaningful late season game.