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Sidney Rice has 10 receptions in five games. He is pulling in $8.5M this year. Luke Willson has a 70% catch rate and is averaging nearly 15 yards per catch. He has as many targets (10) as Rice does receptions. Stephen Williams showed enough unique and valuable potential throughout training camp and pre-season that the Seahawks parted ways with their fourth-round draft pick in Chris Harper. Williams was eventually released as well after only two passes had been thrown his way in four games. Life in the NFL is not as different from other professions as some might believe. Performance is derived from opportunity. Opportunity is derived from preparation and fortune. The Seahawks offensive philosophy drastically reduces the opportunities available to skill players, and therefore muddies attempts to properly judge performance.
Jermaine Kearse has four catches in five targets this season. He has two touchdowns in five targets. Only two Seahawks receivers have had a single game with more than eight targets. None have had more than one. All Seahawks receivers combined average 17 targets per game. That is targets, not receptions. Seattle, as a whole, averages only 27 pass attempts per game, which is up nearly two per game from last season. They rank 31st in the NFL in passes attempted.
People who like to mention Seattle does not have a #1 receiver fail to understand this offense does not allow any receiver to perform like a #1 receiver. When Percy Harvin returns, the opportunities will diminish even further. Harvin figures to have an impact on pass attempts per game, as the team will likely convert more running plays to short passes for Harvin, but that will only go so far in terms of spreading the wealth.
Players like Kearse and Baldwin are earning more opportunities with their performances so far, but there is a limit to how much they can shine. Baldwin is the leading receiver on the team in terms of yards, but was targeted a total of seven times in the three games prior to last Sunday versus the Colts. Kearse has had only one game where he has been targeted more than once. Rice may be fully capable of digging out of his early season slow start, but when Baldwin’s targets went up to nine last week, Rice’s drop to four. This is a zero sum game.
The best chance for the Seahawks receivers to make a bigger impact is for the offensive line to provide better protection and for Wilson to complete a higher rate of his throws. Wilson’s career high for completions in a game is 25. Peyton Manning has not completed fewer than 27 passes yet this season. Different offense. Different opportunities. Different performance.