New Lions WR Jermaine Kearse returns to the familiar to reclaim career

Jermaine Kearse didn't waste any time getting his feet wet after signing with the Lions. Duane Burleson/AP

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The targets started to fall off and with that, Jermaine Kearse's production plummeted. He dealt with injuries and only started half the season after a strong first year in New York had led him to believe he'd have a bigger impact in 2018 than he did.

But the offensive coordinator changed and so, too, did Kearse's fate. He wasn't used nearly as much, which left him annoyed, unhappy and needing a change.

"It's just something that I want to move on from," Kearse said. "It was just an unfortunate year. We had some changes that happened and just things didn't work out. Ready to just move on and get back on the field and show what I can do, what I did two years before and be able to add on to that and just let last year go.

"Last year was just an unfortunate situation that happened."

Kearse had 76 targets but caught only 37 passes -- his lowest total since 2013, his second year in the league. His 371 yards were also his lowest since 2013 and last year marked the fourth time in his career that he had one or fewer touchdowns in a season.

The whole thing didn't sit well, so to let go of it, Kearse had to move on. To help reclaim a career that had been ascending, he wanted to go somewhere that was familiar. And for Kearse, no NFL offense is more familiar than the one his old Seattle offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, is preparing to run with the Detroit Lions.

The move made sense. Coaches and players love nothing more than familiarity -- that's why the Lions seem to have a bunch of players and staffers with prior ties to either Matt Patricia or the New England Patriots.

So the Bevell-Kearse connection surely helped.

"Having Bev here was a huge attraction for me," Kearse said. "Like I said, the familiarity with him and the relationship we have, it was definitely something that attracted me here a lot."

The receiver was able to understand enough of the offense to take some reps with the first team in his first day in Detroit. It didn't always mean that he was synced up with quarterback Matthew Stafford -- Stafford admitted as much -- but the fact that Kearse already knows a lot of the scheme and at least some of the terms will make for an easier transition.

This connection was weeks in the making, though. Kearse initially worked out for Detroit in May. He knew he wanted to come to the Lions. He believed the Lions wanted him. But there were roadblocks in getting a deal done. So Kearse waited and continued to train at home.

And with spring workouts almost concluded, the sides were able to get a one-year deal completed, allowing the Lions to bring in a receiver who has 255 career catches for 3,290 yards and 17 touchdowns. He joins a Lions receiving corps short on experience beyond Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola.

"I was just being patient and letting the process handle itself and (allowing) my agent and the front office to do their jobs," Kearse said. "And we were able to come up with something where we both felt comfortable and really like."

Now, Kearse is hoping his decision to return to what is familiar will help push him into a more productive future, instead of replicating what he dealt with in his immediate past.