Receivers Complement Seattle’s Attack

Seattle's no-name group of receivers, led by Jermaine Kearse, put up big-name numbers against Carolina on Saturday. The Seahawks had only two drafted receivers on the roster. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY)

RENTON, Wash. — There is a certain humility that must come with choosing to be a pass catcher for the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle's offensive structure leaves so few opportunities for its wide receivers and tight ends to stand out that they often get panned for not bringing a dynamic element to the Seahawks' passing game.

But give them the opportunity to shine — as they did in Seattle's 31-17 win over Carolina in the NFC divisional playoff game on Saturday — and that group of Seahawks can be on par with other receiving units around the league.

"The makeup of the guy, the attitude that he brings, the toughness that he brings, and the grit that the guy brings, that has a lot to do with the guys that we like," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "We've got a very feisty, competitive bunch of guys and they complement one another but they're all unique in their ways."

Seattle's receivers stood out in the win over the Panthers. Jermaine Kearse had a career day with 129 yards receiving and a 63-yard touchdown. Doug Baldwin caught his first touchdown since Week 14. Tight end Luke Willson led Seattle with four catches, two of them coming on a decisive drive in the fourth quarter that Willson capped with a 25-yard TD catch.

The likelihood is that Seattle's receivers will get overshadowed again this week give the proficiency of Green Bay's passing offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Seattle's receiving group has lacked big names for most of Carroll's tenure. The most notable was Percy Harvin and he lasted all of eight games with the Seahawks.

Where Seattle has thrived is finding players with lesser profiles and the desire to prove others wrong. There is a reason Seattle has only two drafted wide receivers on its roster. Finding the undrafted and overlooked has been beneficial.

Baldwin, Kearse, Bryan Walters, Ricardo Lockette and Chris Matthews all went undrafted coming out of college. The only draftees that spent most of the season on Seattle's active roster were rookies: second-round pick Paul Richardson — now out for the season with an ACL tear — and fourth-round pick Kevin Norwood.

Even in the previous seasons, the only high draft pick to have a major role in Seattle's passing game was Golden Tate. Baldwin said the team has taken pride in seeing what Tate did this season with Detroit with 99 catches and 1,331 yards receiving.

"The only two guys that are drafted in our room are the guys that were drafted this year. They've made big plays for us but the majority of the plays throughout the course of the four years that I've been here have been from the undrafted guys," Baldwin said. "It's indicative of the work ethic our receiving corps has instilled. When you come here as a receiver, whether you're drafted or undrafted, you're going to get a fair opportunity."

While the group continues to get maligned by pundits for being average — and yes, they hear everything that is said about them — they also understand their role in Seattle's offense. Offensive line coach Tom Cable said this has been the best season for Seattle's receivers blocking downfield and giving Marshawn Lynch opportunities to get bigger chunks of yardage.

The most impressive example was Lynch's 79-yard touchdown run against Arizona in Week 16 when Lockette made four different blocks on the play.

"When you have probably the best running back in the NFL in Marshawn you kind of pride yourself to get him those open runs," Kearse said. "When he gets to the secondary it comes down to us for those long runs, it comes down to us executing and making those blocks. I think we just take pride in it."

It's an attitude that doesn't come naturally, especially at the start.

"Naturally as a receiver you want to throw the ball. Everybody was the guy at their college and you come into an offense who runs the ball a lot, you kind of have to change your focus and you've got to learn to take pride into it," Kearse said.


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