Some of the common preseason speculation regarding the Seahawks was whether there was any way that receiver Doug Baldwin could sustain the historic streak he had crafted during the second half of last season.
He not only ended up tied for the NFL lead in touchdown catches, he did it with an absurd string of productivity that only Jerry Rice had previously reached.
Think of that: The inimitable Jerry Rice suddenly rendered imitable by Doug Baldwin.
No way Baldwin could keep that up, right? Not the undrafted kid who made a career out of clenched-jaw determination and playing as the chronic underdog.
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But here Baldwin is this season: In his first game, he set a career-high with nine catches against Miami, and he added a career-high in yardage (164) against San Francisco last weekend.
It leads me to a few conclusions and a speculation.
We thought Baldwin was a bargain during those seasons when he was getting paid like an undrafted free agent. I’m starting to think he’s still a bargain after his $46 million contract extension.
Although he inexplicably tends to be overlooked on the national scene, this guy is destination viewing. I mean, what kind of ridiculous catch will he make this week?
Since last November, Baldwin has made at least three grabs that would make anybody’s career highlight reel.
There was the short crossing route against Pittsburgh in heavy traffic where he pulled in a ballistic pass from Russell Wilson that he couldn’t even see until it was in his hands. He turned it into an 80-yard touchdown.
Certainly the most important catch came in the postseason, when he helicoptered into the thin, frozen air for a fingertip grab to jump-start the stalled offense in the playoff game against the Siberian Vikings.
And last week, he retrieved another high-velocity Wilson pass by stretching fully horizontal to stab it with the fingers of his left hand. Baldwin wears those gloves so I can’t tell for sure, but it makes you wonder if he has those soft gummy fingertips like geckos.
Benefiting more than ever from his telepathic connection with Wilson, Baldwin has 20 catches in the first three games of this season, and is tied for fifth in the league. At this pace, he’s on a path toward runaway franchise records of 107 receptions and almost 1,500 yards.
Possible? Sure, given good health to he and Wilson, and a dozen other unpredictable variables. The one thing certain is that Baldwin is going to go at it with everything he has.
When wondering in print during the preseason whether Baldwin had the goods to turn into a millennial version of Seahawks Hall of Famer Steve Largent, I cited the degree to which both followed a template of team leadership built on fanatical work ethic and clutch on-field production.
But further similarities are rising to the surface.
Baldwin, too, is developing a world view, expanding his influence off the field with talking points beyond post routes against Cover 3 defenses.
For the first time in any NFL news conference that I’ve ever heard, Baldwin quoted the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. He used it to call out the 50 states attorneys general to get with it on the job of establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility.
“Things need to change. Let’s start here,” he said, urging law enforcement agencies across the country to enhance their de-escalation tactics and crisis-management measures. And this is from the son of a policeman.
Consider Baldwin’s to-do list: 1) Catch more touchdown passes than any Seahawk ever. 2) Eradicate social inequity. 3) Change the world.
Clearly, Baldwin is one of those admirable achievers who try to scoop up life with both hands. It’s all just too big, and too important, to not have as many dimensions as you can manage.
Baldwin doesn’t seem content to just be an exceptional NFL receiver, even if it has been an extraordinary, long-shot accomplishment.
With a Stanford degree and the platform created by the NFL, Baldwin has the CV for bigger things.
Maybe the socially concerned Baldwin will continue to follow the Largent blueprint. Where’d that Largent guy end up? Oh, right, the U.S. House of Representatives.
Baldwin might find his urges for civic thought-shaping at home in Congress.
Face it: If you’d spent time betting against him accomplishing the unexpected, you’d have gone broke long before now.