Watching and rooting for his understudy, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt similar exasperation as other onlookers when Jermaine Kearse would drop a pass while with the University of Washington.
Carroll wanted his pal, UW coach Steve Sarkisian, to win. Kearse often helped that. At times, opportunity slipped through his hands.
“I always thought that he was better than what showed,” Carroll said. “I always thought that he had more potential than what showed because he could always make terrific plays, and then I thought some plays got away from him.”
The same thing happened to Kearse last season, when the former Lakes High School star was a rookie with the Seahawks. In limited duty, he’s beginning to change that this season.
Kearse has been targeted four times in 2013. He has made four catches, two for touchdowns, both involving leaping and snatching the ball away from defenders. The
plays mirror each other. Kearse pushed through the press coverage of a smaller cornerback up the sideline, leaped, then turned back to apply a steel trap to the ball above his head.
Those are the kind of plays Carroll envisioned Kearse making. That’s why he pushed Kearse early after the Seahawks signed him as an undrafted free agent.
“He used to be on me, extra tough,” Kearse said. “Those are the type of things you want as a player. You want a coach to continue to push you.”
The Seahawks worked out Kearse at their headquarters, the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, and worked him out at UW, where he finished as the school’s second-leading career receiver.
After signing him, he still had lapses.
“He had some plays he didn’t make,” wide receivers coach Kippy Brown said. “We talked about them and why he didn’t make the plays. He’s got the ability; (it was) just something technical that he worked on and fixed.”
Kearse also had Lasik eye surgery in the offseason. He says that has helped him track the ball better.
“Whether it helps at all, I don’t know,” Brown said with a smile. “He thinks it does. That’s the most important thing.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says Kearse believing in himself has been the biggest leap for the second-year receiver.
“I think that he feels like he belongs now,” Bevell said. “At the beginning, going all the way back to when he was undrafted, I think he was just kind of feeling it out, wondering where he was going to fit, all of those things that young guys do go through.
“His confidence is soaring because of the plays that he’s been able to make. That helps him. That first touchdown ball at Carolina that he caught you could go back and you could see two that he didn’t make last year in basically the same type of situation.”
Kearse receives the fewest snaps of the Seahawks’ four receivers. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin have all been on the field more often.
Rice has little to show for his playing time. He has 10 catches this season, five of which came during a 45-17 drubbing of the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.
Considering recent events – including Kearse’s punt block last week – Carroll is interested in giving Kearse more opportunity. That would give Kearse more chances to do the things he does well: get off press coverage, run routes at the proper depth and come out of his breaks clean and smooth.
There’s a lot of work still to be done, however.
“He’s not there yet, we’re not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame,” Brown said. “But, he’s heading in the right direction.”
Which is what Carroll anticipated happening in the first place.