The Seahawks have lost the leading receiver from their Super Bowl championship team, and a player that Kippy Brown spent the past four years smoothing the rough edges on his ample game.
So why is the team’s wide receivers coach smiling?
|WIDE RECEIVERS 2014|
Lost in free agency
2013 reception leaders
2013 yardage leaders
2013 per-catch average leaders
2013 TD reception leaders
2013 significant statistics
Because despite the loss of Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions in free agency, Brown reaffirmed a few things during his postseason self-scouting session that were evident but too often overshadowed during a season that ended with the Seahawks’ 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Things like the fact that Doug Baldwin proved he is indeed more than just a slot receiver, as Baldwin had been saying during his first two seasons with the team; and the realization that Jermaine Kearse needs to play more after all the things he was able to do with limited opportunities in 2013; and perhaps the most obvious, but also easy to overlook, aspect as the Seahawks begin their preparations of the 2014 season next Monday.
“Hopefully we have Percy healthy for an entire season,” Brown said, smiling again.
That would be Percy Harvin, who was limited to a couple handfuls of plays in his first season with the Seahawks after having been acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings last March. Harvin had hip surgery in August, which allowed him to play in only one regular-season game. He got a concussion in the first half of the playoff opener against the New Orleans Saints, which kept him sidelined until the Super Bowl.
But the glimpses we all got of the mercurial Harvin were indeed eye opening when it comes to just what he can provide the passing game, the offense and the entire team. In that game against the Vikings, he returned a kickoff 58 yards and also made a falling catch of a 17-yard pass. Against the Saints, he added a team-high three receptions and a 9-yard run. And in the Super Bowl, Harvin was, well, simply super while returning the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and breaking runs of 30 and 15 yards that made him the game’s leading rusher.
Spread those types of explosive contributions over the course of a season, and add them to the steady production of Baldwin and Kearse, and that’s why even a brief conversation with Brown is punctuated with one smile after another.
“Our guys came up big in big situations,” Brown said. “We made some plays when they needed to be made and had to be made. So that was a big thing – the moment wasn’t too big for them. That’s good. That’s something to build on.
“A talent like Golden is tough to replace. It really is. He did a lot of good things for us. But I think we’ve got the pieces in place and we have a lot of guys who are capable.”
Baldwin has proved that by producing a pair of 50-catch seasons since making the team as a rookie free agent in 2011. He led the team with 51 receptions as a rookie, primarily from the slot; then had 50 catches last season, when he took over at flanker after Sidney Rice was lost to a knee injury that required surgery.
“Everybody kind of had Doug tabbed as a slot guy,” Brown said. “And he’s not. He can go outside and play and be effective. Now we know that.”
“All our guys can move around,” Brown said. “They’re flexible and so we’ve got guys that we can move around and allow us to be more versatile.”
But wait, there’s more. Brown also likes the potential of Ricardo Lockette, Phil Bates and Bryan Walters – three receivers who saw little action last season. The team also signed Chris Matthews, a 6-foot-5 receiver from the CFL, to a future contract in February and added Taylor Price in free agency. And it’s likely that the Seahawks will address the position during the May 8-10 NFL Draft.
“I’m fully counting on Ricardo Lockette and Phil Bates to contribute also,” Brown said of a duo that provides upper-end speed (Lockette) and a physical presence (Bates). “And Bryan Walters, there were many times we wanted him (active for games) but we couldn’t get active because of the numbers.”
Case in point: The Seahawks averaged 13.1 yards per reception, and only the Philadelphia Eagles (14.2) and 49ers (13.2) had better averages during the 2013 regular season.
Brown then pointed to something else that’s easy to overlook about his group: Baldwin, Kearse, Harvin and Lockette also play special teams – returning kicks, covering kicks, or both.
“So they’re not just receivers,” Brown said, “they’re football players.”