Veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse signed a contract with the Lions Thursday morning and by lunchtime he was catching passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first-team offense.
It was a quick turnaround for Kearse, but with the Lions trying to install a new offense, and down their top two receivers as they rehab injuries, there’s little time for any easing in at this point.
“My ultimate goal out here was just to compete,” Kearse said of jumping right into Thursday’s minicamp practice. “Just get my feet going again and get used to playing football again. I was training back home, but you can’t replicate actual football until you’re in it. I felt good out there.”
Kearse caught 37 passes for 371 yards in 14 games for the New York Jets last year, but played his first five NFL seasons for the Seattle Seahawks and new Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
That familiarity with the scheme was one of the reasons Kearse signed with the Lions, and it was why he didn’t look like a fish out of water in his first practice just hours after signing with the team.
“There’s just some things to kind of refresh your memory with, but a lot of the stuff I do remember,” Kearse said of Bevell’s offense “I spent quite some time with Coach Bev and just kind of looking over the playbook and just kind of refreshing my memory a lot of things are starting to be able to come back and I’m able to pick it up pretty quickly.”
Kearse now joins a pretty experienced wide receiver group in Detroit, led by Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and free-agent signee Danny Amendola.
Kearse caught 65 passes for 810 yards and five touchdowns for the Jets in 2017 after being traded to New York right before the start of that season. This past year, Kearse started off slow and said he got lost in the shuffle in New York after some changes on offense. He was ready to move on, and sees a good opportunity for himself here in Detroit rejoining an offense he had a lot of success with in Seattle.
In Kearse, the Lions are getting a seven-year vet with over 250 career catches and 17 touchdowns to add depth to their receiver corps.
“As a player, he can certainly make some pretty ridiculous catches down by the goal line in some pretty big games at the last second, which can give defensive coordinators a problem,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Kearse, referencing the amazing juggling catch Kearse made late in Seattle’s Super Bowl matchup with New England when Patricia was the defensive coordinator for the Patriots. “So, that’s one area that I know he can do.
“I would say beyond that, just a guy that’s very experienced with Coach (Darrell) Bevell’s offense. Another veteran receiver who’s tough, he’s smart, he’s a hard worker. This guy’s fought through his entire career to make him who he is, so just another good player to get in here, evaluate, take a look at and see how he can help us.”
Kearse (6-1, 209) is a versatile receiver, having experience working both outside and in the slot. He was used in the slot a lot last season with the Jets. The Lions value that kind of versatility.
Kearse’s experience and familiarity with the scheme give him a terrific chance to earn a roster spot, but Andy Jones, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Brandon Powell, Tommylee Lewis and others have the same goal in mind.
There should be good competition all throughout camp with the addition of Kearse and the depth Detroit’s added at the receiver position.