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Kasen Williams tired of practice squad, ready to make Seahawks final 53 and stay there

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, the Washington Huskies’ leading receiver was senior Jermaine Kearse, falling one yard shy of 700. Trailing him by a fair amount was freshman Kasen Williams, who had 427 yards. Sophomore Kevin Smith was even further back with 208 yards.

In 2012, Kearse was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent, then waived at final cuts as the team opted instead to keep Charly Martin and Ben Obomanu, as well as veteran Braylon Edwards, over him. Kearse eventually made his mark, playing in seven games for the team that season with three catches for 31 yards. Meanwhile down the road at UW, Kasen broke out for 77 catches and 878 yards with six touchdowns. Smith had six catches for 68.

In 2013, Kearse cemented himself as a regular on Seattle’s roster, catching 22 passes for 346 yards and drawing attention for making big plays. In the playoffs, he caught a crucial touchdown pass to help send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with a win over the San Francisco 49ers. He caught another score in their blowout victory against the Denver Broncos. Smith also enjoyed a breakout season, catching 50 passes for 765 yards on the Huskies, then entering the NFL draft. Williams broke his leg and suffered a Lisfranc foot injury after eight games, finishing with 421 yards and one score.

Another year, another problem for Kasen. In 2014, things were beginning to look up for Washington thanks to the addition of Chris Petersen at head coach, but it was still a transition period. Returning from injury, and losing playing time to players like John Ross, Kasen had just 20 catches for 189 yards as he tried to return to the field. Smith began his fight to get into the NFL as an undrafted free agent, spending time with the Cardinals and Jags. Kearse notched career highs in targets, catches, and yards, then he caught a thrilling game-winner in an overtime victory against the Packers in the NFC Championship.

2015 and the Seahawks have an interesting battle at receiver on their hands. Kearse is in no danger, but now Smith and Williams are in camp with Seattle trying to do the improbable and make the final 53. Smith, a little older and a little less likely to be injured, has a slight advantage. In the end, both have time on the practice squad and both get promoted to the game day roster on occasion. Smith has five targets, three catches, and 43 yards, then two more catches in the playoffs. Williams has one catch for eight yards. Kearse has a career-best season with 49 catches, 685 yards, and five touchdowns.

In 2016, things start to get weird.

Kearse signs a three-year contract that does a decent job of securing him on the Seahawks roster through 2017. A decent chance, but not a guarantee. He goes on to have a terrible 2016 season that includes a 46% catch rate and constant red zone trips that end in disappointment. Kasen makes it back to the practice squad, finishing the year with one target and zero catches. Williams also spends a little time on the practice squad, but his career all but ends.

Now two games into the 2017 preseason, six years after they were teammates on UW, it seems as though Kasen Williams has surpassed Jermaine Kearse as a receiver. Or at least, that’s what most of us want to believe.

On Friday, Williams had two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Both catches were very impressive, just like his four catches in the preseason opener were against the LA Chargers. At one point, he was 6-for-6 for 147 yards, but Kasen had a drop against the Vikings that afterwards he was saying was the only thing he could think about. Not his fantastic catches — including when he moved up to play with Russell Wilson and the ones and then took Xavier Rhodes (one of the top corners in the game last year) to school — or his impressive downfield tackle on kickoff coverage. He could only think about the one thing we’ve seen him do wrong all year.

He should start thinking about what he’s going to do with that NFL-sized paycheck that it looks like he’ll be collecting in September this year instead of for a game or two in December.

After the game, Williams said that he’s tired of the practice squad.

Just six days ago, it seemed far too improbable for Williams to make the final roster over guys like Tanner McEvoy, Cyril Grayson, David Moore, Amara Darboh, and yes ... Jermaine Kearse. Two games into the preseason schedule and Williams is considered by some, perhaps rightfully, to be the safest receiver on the roster outside of Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Paul Richardson. And it’s not like even Richardson is doing himself any favors.

Eventually, Seattle is going to make some tough decisions at receiver and running back when the final cuts are made. Kearse once made himself into a must-have receiver for the Seahawks, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Washington, a zombie who pulled himself out of the dirt of the practice squad and onto the lands of the Sunday starters, and now a lot of fans aren’t so sure about him. He set an example for Williams as far as what was possible and what he could do for himself on this team one day.

And now for Kearse, that improvement and unlikely breakout from Williams, could be coming at his own expense.