Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has had some pretty huge touchdown catches in his career, so it’s not that unexpected that longtime friend Russell Wilson feels comfortable throwing it to him. Let us now join hands, bow our heads, and pray that said comfort disappears immediately.
As has been well noted by ... oh, anyone who has watched a Seahawks game this season, Kearse has sadly been the bane of the offensive game plan. Targeted 56 times already (about one time less per game than Jimmy Graham), Kearse has caught just 51.8% of those throws and has zero touchdowns. He is averaging 12.2 yards per catch, which like his catch rate, is also a career-low. Take note that this career-worst season comes in the first year of a deal that pays Kearse $2.6 million this year and at least $3.6 million in dead money in 2017 if they cut him, $4 million in salary if they don’t.
That means that Kearse will make more money next year than Ahtyba Rubin and just $1.5 million less than Cliff Avril. Beautiful if Kearse was producing at the level he did a year ago (72.1% catch rate, 14 YPC, five touchdowns), palatable if he was doing what he did in 2013 (57.9%, 15.7, four), but gut-wrenching given how often we’ve had to cringe at Kearse being targeted on some of the most significant drives of the season, including the final throw against the New Orleans Saints when a touchdown would have won the game.
(Kearse made the most of a Wilson throw that was going out of bounds either way, but it’s still hard to not take it out on him that he was the subject of the throw instead of Graham or Doug Baldwin or ... anyone else?)
But if you thought that Kearse was especially bad in the red zone or was getting more red zone targets than he deserves well, you are sadly so very right. So far this season, Kearse has been targeted nine times in the red zone and caught ZERO of those for ZERO yards, ZERO yards per ZERO catches and ZERO touchdowns. How many other players have at least nine targets in the red zone with no catches? None. How many have eight? None. Seven? None. Six? Nope. Five? Sorry. SURELY THERE MUST BE SOMEONE ELSE WITH AT LEAST FOUR RED ZONE TARGETS AND NO CATCHES! I wish! Only Jermaine Kearse.
According to NFLSavant.com, Kearse is the only player in the NFL with more than three red zone targets and no catches, and he has nine such plays. Only Virgil Green, Harry Douglas, and Josh Doctson are 0-for-3 in those situations. Other players with exactly nine red zone targets include Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, and Delanie Walker. Rishard Matthews of the Tennessee Titans also has nine red zone targets and he’s caught seven of those, five for touchdowns. Kick it up to 10 red zone targets and you’ve got players like DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, and Dez Bryant. Seriously, why the hell does Kearse basically have the same number of targets as those players? Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham also have 10 red zone targets, with Baldwin catching eight of those (five touchdowns) and Graham catching five (three scores).
Things only seem to be getting worse, as Kearse has caught just seven of his last 22 targets for 4.95 yards per target. It seems as though this continuing distaste for Kearse being targeted has caught on (pun) to even Kearse himself, a self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps that “We don’t want the ball to go to you.” Also, he has five offensive pass interference penalties, most in the NFL by a longshot, and Pete Carroll noted that Kearse was properly flagged on Sunday, meaning he was doing the job he was asked to do incorrectly. (For what it’s worth, Kearse only has one drop according to SportingCharts.com.)
I understand that Kearse may be a good blocker, has caught some of the biggest touchdowns in franchise history, is a local boy, and a nice story, but having him as a part of the offense just seems to be a huge mistake. Kearse has more targets than Tyler Lockett (43 on the season) and that’s remained true even after Lockett supposedly healed up and was ready to produce on offense again. (Okay, targets to Lockett went 0-for-6 on Sunday, including the game-ending interception.) He has more than twice the targets of Paul Richardson. Nick Vannett, Brandon Williams, and Tanner McEvoy are not even part of the gameday plan at this point. Why? What has Kearse done in the last 10 months to warrant this much consideration over players who might be able to produce more than an 0-for-9 track record in the most key part of the field? And even if it wasn’t about McEvoy and Vannett and Lockett, why is it basically an even split between two elite players -- Baldwin and Graham — and JERMAINE KEARSE?
All due respect to Kearse, his presence on the field seems to be hurting the team more than helping because Wilson feels extremely comfortable with him ... and that is a bad thing. He shouldn’t feel comfortable throwing to Kearse in these situations. He should feel as afraid as we all do. The numbers bear this out and none of us are surprised by it, I don’t think. It’s time to end this trip and make him an afterthought on the offense. That’s where he use to thrive anyway.