CHARLOTTE — Like any receiver worth his salt, Doug Baldwin wants the ball in his hands during critical stretches of the game.
But Baldwin also understands he’s a couple rungs down the pecking order when it comes to ball distribution for the Seattle Seahawks.
“Sometimes on third down it might call for me to get open and get the route,” Baldwin said. “Or it might be for me to be a decoy for someone else to get the ball. The majority of the balls are going to go to Sidney (Rice) and Golden (Tate) just because they are the main guys, and every once in a while they’ll give me an opportunity to go out there and make a play.”
The Seahawks threw a league-low 405 times in 2012, but that number should go up with quarterback Russell Wilson continuing to develop as a passer in his second season.
Rice led the Seahawks in targets last season with 82, followed by Tate with 67. The arrival of Percy Harvin figured
to lessen the number of balls headed Rice’s and Tate’s way. However, with Harvin starting the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after hip surgery, that has opened up more chances for someone like Baldwin.
“I think that’s where I got in trouble last year,” said Baldwin, who finished with 29 catches for 366 yards and three touchdowns, after leading the Seahawks in receptions his rookie season in 2011. “I was trying so hard to make a play because my opportunities were few and far between. You’ve got to take advantage of the one’s you get. So I’m trying not to put so much emphasis on them, and just go out there and play football, and let it happen naturally.”
Seahawks tight end Zach Miller and Wilson developed a better rapport during the backstretch of the 2012 season. Miller finished with 34 receptions for 385 yards and 3 TDs in the final eight games of the regular season and the two playoff games.
“He does a real good job of reading his progression,” Miller said about Wilson. “So if one guy’s covered up, and they want to take one guy away, it’s going to open up other guys in this offense. He’s not going to force a ball downfield. He’ll take his check down, and that guy can go get the first down.”
Wilson completed passes to 12 different receivers last year and said his approach to spreading the ball around won’t change.
“It’s one of those things where I have to trust my reads and throw to the right guy at the right time and hopefully they make the play and I trust that,” Wilson said. “I trust in everybody and hopefully they trust in me to make the right decision.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said that while he wants to get the receivers more involved, Seattle remains a run-first offense that will lean on Marshawn Lynch to establish a tempo for this team. The Seahawks ran it a league-high 536 times in 2012.
“The good thing is we’ve got good players at a lot of different spots,” Bevell said. “There’s times where Sidney Rice goes for 100 yards, and then the next week it’s Zach. It just depends on how the defense decides to deploy their personnel, and where we’re able to find matchups.
“We’re always looking for that. We’re always trying to exploit the defense the best way we can.”
Ultimately, Baldwin understands that if he gets open, Wilson will find him.
“Obviously, he wants to spread the ball around and make guys happy,” Baldwin said. “But at the same time, he’s going to get it to the guys that are open. And then the game plans go in every week, and they determine who’s going to get the ball.
“There’s some plays where a guy will be in a certain spot so he can get the ball. And that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with Russell. He’s just playing football.”