It’s hard to think of a player who’d have more of an excuse for underachieving than Jermaine Kearse. The former Seahawks wideout was shipped to the Jets on Sept. 1, plunked down in an offense he didn’t know and hooked up with a quarterback he’d never met.
But the near-villain (for New Englanders) of Super Bowl 49 has settled in much better than anticipated for the surprisingly successful Jets (3-2).
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He’s got 22 catches on 28 targets for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets are getting by on grit, moxie, want-to, elbow-grease and good, old-fashioned American work ethic and it ain’t gonna last. But Kearse and quarterback Josh McCown will always have September.
“The transition was really fast,” Kearse said of the period after he came to the Jets in exchange for DT Sheldon Richardson. The Jets also got a second-rounder along with Kearse.
“I don’t even think there was a transition, because when I found out I got traded, I left that night and got in and the next morning I went straight into the facility to start learning the playbook because they told me I was going to play the first game, so I had to prepare myself for that,” he added. “It gets better each day. I felt like I had a solid grasp on the playbook, now it’s getting down to the details – running certain routes certain way or certain splits – just fine-tuning my craft and continuing to get better.”
Kearse has become a huge fan of McCown’s. No surprise since he’s the Jets leading receiver and on pace to far exceed his most productive season in the NFL, 2015, when he had 49 catches for Seattle.
“[McCown’s] ability to lead – the confidence that he brings into the huddle, his excitement and his knowledge. He’s played in the league for 15 years now and there’s a reason why he’s still playing,” said Kearse. “He has that “it factor” in the huddle that allows guys to rally up and make things happen when we need to and I think you saw that last week when we had a 97-yard drive.”
Kearse first burrowed into the consciousness of Patriots fans in Super Bowl 49 when he pulled in a 33-yard pass from Russell Wilson with 1:14 remaining. The ball ponged off five different limbs and body parts before settling in Kearse’s stomach and putting Seattle on the brink of a Super Bowl win that they famously failed to secure.
Does Kearse think about the catch?
“I guess the only time I would reflect back on that game is if somebody asked me about it,” he said. “As far as the catch, it’s just my competitive nature, just the ability to be opportunistic and make the most of each opportunity that I had and in that play, Russell [Wilson] gave me the opportunity and I did whatever I could in my will to come down with the ball and I was able to.”
Does he now appreciate how great that game was and how historic his catch remains?
“This league is a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-type-league” when it’s all set and done and I’m done playing,” he said, “I think that’s when I can sit down and look back on those types of plays and the plays I’ve made in certain games and reminisce on that, but as I’m still playing, I understand it’s a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-league,” so you’re always trying to not stay second place and do more.”
Kearse said he’s trying to infuse the Jets with a little bit of the Seahawks fight.
“Obviously, you have a high-energy coach with Pete Carroll who is running all over the place and then you have Coach [Todd] Bowles who is not running over the place, but they get their message across in different ways,” Kearse said when asked about the differences between Seattle and New York. “I really enjoyed playing for Pete Carroll. I enjoy playing for Coach Bowles now. We have a very young team. We have guys who are playing with a lot of chips on their shoulders who are being competitive. I’m trying to bring the same mindset I had in Seattle and bring it over here and be able to relay any message that I think can help our team in the long run.”