Photo Courtesy SB Nation via Steven Bisig US PRESSWIRE
By Andy / PNW Sports Fans
With training camp just weeks away I’ve decided to attempt to fill the time by breaking down each position group while focusing on key contributors, battles for snaps and intriguing story lines. Today I’ll be looking at a group that’s sure to be competitive; the receivers. Oh yeah, I’ll also throw in links to highlights to hold you over until September. Just click on each players name to watch.
Who Are They?
Doug Baldwin: Fresh off the most productive season of his career and a shiny new 4 year extension, Baldwin will look to take another step forward both as a leader and playmaker. Angry Doug is the glue that holds this group together. He is the model of consistency. You don’t see him let the ball hit the turf very often. He runs his routes sharply and with a sense of urgency. Not to play in to the classic Stanford man clichés, but Baldwin is truly a student of the game. But perhaps Doug’s best characteristic is the fiery passion he approaches the game with. How does an undrafted Free Agent become an All Pro caliber receiver on a perennial title contender? He never stops. The hunger to be better than yesterday drives Doug. It’s that fire that has helped him become a master of his craft. No matter the accolades or achievements, this guy will always find a reason to have a chip on his shoulder. Though some would argue his emotions have got the best of him at times (See 2014 NFC Championship post game rant, or his act of dropping a deuce in the end zone during Super Bowl XLIX) I love to see a little nasty in one of the teams leaders. Doug has some dog in him and how can you not like that? That’s raw passion and emotion for the game. I don’t need my team’s receiver to be cool,calm and collected at all times. I don’t need him to say what people want to hear all the time. Those are things I ask out of our quarterback. At receiver, I simply need a playmaker who plays every down like he’s starving for success. That is what Doug Baldwin gives Seahawk’s fans. This dude has a contagious edge to him. And for those reasons I expect another big year out of one of the most integral parts of this squad.
Jermaine Kearse: Like Doug, Jermaine Kearse is also a former undrafted Free Agent “glue guy” coming off a career year and capped it by recently inking a new deal to stay with the Hawks. However the similarities pretty much stop there. Jermaine’s greatest asset is his frame. At 6’1″ and 210lbs, Kearse is the most physically imposing receiver in Seattle’s otherwise smallish lineup. His size and physical nature makes Russell Wilson feel that he has a favorable match up every time he drops back to pass, especially in man to man coverage. Kearse has had a knack for big plays in crucial moments throughout his career. Whether it was hauling in the only touchdown against Carolina in week one of the 2013 season, the human pinball play in Super Bowl XLVIII, the game winning grab in the 2014 NFC title game, or what could’ve gone down as one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history ( had Malcom Butler not picked off Wilson two plays later) as he made the circus catch in between two Patriot defenders to set up first and goal. Yes, Jermaine has had a flare for the dramatic in his time with Seattle, but there’s also been stretches of inconsistency. He has struggled with drops here and there and sometimes disappears for stretches of time. But when this guys locked in, it’s a long day for the defense. If he can find a way to bring it all together for 16 games this season, watch out.
Tyler Lockett: This guy is the real deal. If you want to incite passion and excitement in your conversations with fellow Seahawk’s fans, simply drop Tyler Lockett’s name. EXPLOSIVE! In all caps and with that exclamation point is the word I would use describe Lockett. He’s a small guy, who is an absolute nightmare lining up inside or out. The old adage , “you can’t teach speed” definitely applies to Lockett. He has the ability to blow the top off of the defense on a go route, but can also catch a five yard slant in traffic and turn it in to a monster play. This guy makes defenses play on their heels. Nobody is happier to have Lockett back for year two than Baldwin and Kearse. It’s a lot easier to get open when the defense is terrified of this guy getting the ball in space. As the season progressed for Lockett last year, you could see the light go on somewhere near the midway mark, and after that I knew number 16 was going to be a “dude” for years to come. Tyler is probably the receiver I’m most excited to watch in 2016. With a full NFL season and off-season under his belt, you can bet Lockett has only scratched the surface of his potential. We might witness something pretty special with him this season. And I’m not even going to dive into his ability in the return game in this installment. So when you go to bed tonight, dream of Lockett leaving entire defenses and special teams units in tears for the next decade.
Paul Richardson: P-Rich oozes big play capability thanks to his world class speed. He showed flashes in 2014 and just seemed to be hitting his stride late in the year, when he went down with an injury that ultimately ended his rookie campaign. He fought nagging injuries well into the 2015 season and when he tried to come back in a Monday Night game against the Cardinals, it looked like he might be a real spark to the offense going forward. He hauled in a deep pass along the sideline, but the excitement was quickly replaced with disappointment as he came up gimp following the big play. The lack of real game action for about 10 months proved costly. He injured his hamstring and wouldn’t be healthy again the rest of the year. I hope to see a fully healthy Paul Richardson this season. He no doubt has some play making potential and could be yet another weapon for this offense. The question is, will he be healthy enough to be on the field and give us a chance to see that potential materialize into ability? That is what will define Richardson in 2016. In my opinion, if this guy is healthy he’s going to find a way to make a sizable contribution to this team. There is simply too much raw speed and ability to not get the ball in his hands.
Kevin Smith: An undrafted Free Agent from the University of Washington, Kevin smith is somewhat of an unknown. I like the physical attributes. A taller receiver with a thick frame, Smith has shown the ability to make plays on the practice field. The coaches are high on this guy, but this is an extremely deep and competitive position group. Smith will have to show up in a big way during training camp and preseason to push for playing time. I think the capability is there, but he’s got to show something on every single snap he gets. I’m excited to see what he does in August, because it will go a long way in deciding his role this season.
Kasen Williams: An undrafted U-Dub receiver with size. Sensing a theme here? Pete Carroll and John Schneider seem to really like the talent pool within city limits. Like Kevin Smith, I don’t know what Kasen Williams will end up being as a member of the Seahawks. Another guy the coaches love, go figure. Will he be able to do enough to separate himself and really challenge for playing time? I can’t say. I do know he is another big physically imposing pass catcher, and Pete likes to have guys like that on the roster. Again, there is a lot of talent in the receivers meeting room and if Williams wants to earn field time, he’ll have to leave a resounding impression come camp and preseason.
Kenny Lawler: For those of you who pay attention to PAC 12 football, you know what this guy is all about. Kenny Lawler can flat-out catch the football. A wiry dude who’s build and hair remind me of a young Randy Moss. This guy can flat out make plays and showed it in his time at Cal. A seventh round draft pick ensures that he is in no way a lock to make this football team. However in his limited time on the practice field he’s already seemed to leave an impression. I believe the Hawks will take a long hard look at Lawler. The NFL is certainly a different animal from college, but I think this guy has the ability and work ethic to translate his game to the next level. On a roster that also boasts receiving tight ends in Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, I don’t see the powers that be keeping more than six receivers on the team. As with others, Lawler will have to earn it.
Other Guys Currently Battling for a Spot:
Deshon Foxx, Antwan Goodley and Tyler Slavin: It will be an uphill battle for any of these three to make the final 53 man roster. But Coach Carroll’s “Always Compete” mantra is no joke. He lives by it and so does the entire organization. Look no further than the two most accomplished receivers on the roster. These young guys will have their chances. The only question is what will they do with it?
Most Intriguing Storyline Heading into Camp:
I alluded to this earlier, but I really don’t foresee the Seahawks keeping more than six receivers on the 53 man roster. Again, Jimmy Graham is essentially another receiver and Luke Willson is an adept pass catcher as well. On a team loaded with talent you can’t use up too many roster spots on any one position. It’s going to be an absolute dog fight for that sixth spot. If I had to make a prediction I would say that Kenny Lawler will snatch one of those spots and force Richardson, Williams or Smith out of the mix. One thing is for sure, training camp and preseason will be quite a spirited competition amongst these teammates.
Overall, this group of receivers has a chance to be one of the best in the league in 2016. Certainly health will play a role in what they will ultimately be, but on paper this platoon is as deep and as talented as any I can ever remember in franchise history. But paper doesn’t win you football games. Only time will tell what this season will hold for Seattle at the receiver position, but I can’t help feeling very optimistic.