RENTON, Wash. -- It happens every summer in the NFL. Young wide receivers flash ability during training camps, but something doesn't quite translate to the preseason games.
What's the key to these summer disappearing acts? How can young wideouts such as the Seattle Seahawks' Jermaine Kearse, Stephen Williams, Chris Harper and Phil Bates, among others, maintain the momentum they've built in camp when the preseason opener arrives Thursday night?
"There are two things in terms of playing receiver that you have to be able to do," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after practice Tuesday.
Consistency over countless practice reps, play after play and day after day, is No. 1 on Wilson's checklist for wideouts (assuming, of course, that they can catch the ball, run fast and meet the basic requirements for the position).
"When things aren't going well, when you drop one, how can you keep coming back?" Wilson said. "That is what Sidney Rice does well; that is what Doug Baldwin does well; that's what Golden Tate does really well; that's what Percy Harvin does really well when he's here. Those guys are just relentless competitors, and they want the ball again."
Wilson sees conditioning as the second key for receivers -- before and particularly after the reduction to 53-man rosters. Receivers run, run and run some more. They run during practice and during games, whether or not the ball is coming their way. Some of them must run on special teams, too.
"You gotta be able to keep your conditioning up," Wilson said. "You really only keep 5-6 receivers, maybe. During a game and during the season, you have to be able to run those routes and continue to keep your legs fresh and take care of your body."
Wilson offered specifics when asked about Kearse and Bates in particular.
On Kearse: "We went down to California together, and Jermaine was one of the guys that really stood out. Kearse, he looked unbelievable down there. He has looked unbelievable since we've been training here in Seattle all offseason together. He just has great hands, great instincts. He has great hips in terms of moving and adjusting to the football. I'm really excited to see where he goes this year. He can do it all."
On Bates: "Phil is more and more aggressive every day. That is one of the things I've been trying to push him with and talk to him about, because he has huge hands. He has long arms. He is a strong kid. He goes and just attacks the football and has that mentality of, 'I'm going to get to this every single time the ball comes to me.' ... He has really attacked the football, and it has taken a lot of dedication to that. We have worked at it every day. I'm really proud of him."
Rookie fourth-round pick Harper is another young receiver trying to stick with Seattle. I didn't get Wilson's take on him, but I did see Harper step in front of cornerback Jeremy Lane to make a touchdown grab in the red zone during practice Tuesday. The 6-foot-1, 234-pound Harper is easy to spot for a height-weight ratio generally associated with fullbacks or linebackers, not wide receivers.
Another receiver, 27-year-old Stephen Williams, has had arguably as strong a camp as any other Seattle wideout. He flashed ability with Arizona in past offseasons but never quite broke through. Following Wilson's advice wouldn't hurt.