Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Baldwin prepped for Jalen Ramsey’s play, talk in Jacksonville—thanks to Richard Sherman

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Associated Press

These accomplished, um, matured Seahawks don’t play many games anymore where trash talking is a primary story. Especially now that chatty Richard Sherman is out for the year.

Then again, they rarely play Jalen Ramsey and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That’s who Seattle has this weekend. And that means Ramsey is talking.

Of course he is.

“No disrespect to (Doug Baldwin). He’s a good player,” the Jaguars’ quipping, second-year standout cornerback told reporters in Jacksonville on Wednesday.

“But he ain’t Larry Fitzgerald.”

OK.

So does that mean Ramsey will be yapping at Baldwin when the Seahawks (8-4) play the up-and-coming Jaguars (8-4) in Jacksonville on Sunday, more than Ramsey chirped at the Cardinals’ legendary receiver two weeks ago?

“We’ll see,” he said.

Odds are that will be a “yes.”

The Jaguars are tied with Tennessee for first in the AFC South. They haven’t been in this kind of playoff contention in December since 2010.

Ramsey is a big, loud reason why.

Jacksonville’s fifth-overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Florida State is second in the league with 16 passes defensed this season. He’s shadowed and shut down some of the league’s best receivers:

▪ DeAndre Hopkins, Houston: three receptions, 23 yards

▪ Antoine Brown, Pittsburgh: six catches, 89 yards

▪ T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis: two catches, 27 yards; six incomplete passes; then last week three catches, 51 yards, and a touchdown past Ramsey in zone coverage

▪ A.J. Green, Cincinnati: one catch, 6 yards; he and Ramsey were ejected near the end of the first half

▪ Fitzgerald, Arizona: three catches, 12 yards, five incomplete passes

And Ramsey may be first in the league in trash talking.

“For sure, Jalen is in a league by himself when it comes to that type of stuff,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson told Gene Frenette, a columnist with The Florida Times-Union.

Last month, Green got so sick of hearing from Ramsey and getting pushed after whistles by him in a game, Cincinnati’s star receiver picked up Ramsey and body slammed him at the end of a running play.

Green was ejected and fined $42,000. The Jaguars won 24-7. It was another in a season of smashing performances by Ramsey and the Jaguars. They lead the league in pass defense, total defense, points allowed and passed defensed.

dougmug
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin warms up before the game. The Seattle Seahawks played the Indianapolis Colts in a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell remembers Ramsey’s public spat with Baltimore’s Steve Smith Sr. last season. After that Jaguars game against the Ravens, Ramsey, then a rookie, said of Smith, a possible future Hall of Famer: “I don’t respect him as a man.”

“He’s usually – always – involved,” Maxwell said of Ramsey, with a laugh.

Ramsey often follows the top wide receiver for each Jaguars’ opponent. That means he will likely be shadowing Baldwin Sunday.

Baldwin chuckled Wednesday when reminded of Green slamming Ramsey.

Is he expecting Ramsey to bait him and try to get into his head?

“I don’t know,” Baldwin said. “Honestly, when I go into games it doesn’t really matter who I’m playing against. I’m really focused on me. I have to. That’s the only way I know how to do it. So, focused on my details and my assignment, and then we’ll see what happens.

“I know that he is a very talented player. He’s been in some situations, but I just think that’s the competitive nature. When you have an extremely competitive guy he’s going to try to find any edge that he can. So I tip my hat to him, in that regard.

“But from that standpoint, I have to focus on me and my preparation for this week.”

In truth, Baldwin has been prepared for trash talk from Ramsey and all defensive backs for, oh, the past decade. He’s gotten it just about every one of his football days from Sherman. The only reason that’s stopped lately is because Sherman, his former Stanford teammate, got an Achilles injury last month that ended his season.

“Yeah. Sherm. Brandon Browner. Maxwell. I’ve had a number of guys who have given me that test for a number of years,” Baldwin deadpanned.

“So I think I’ll be ready. I’ll be as prepared as I can be.”

Earlier in his career, “Angry Doug” Baldwin was liable to engage in trash talk with Ramsey. With anyone. Now, at age 29 with seven seasons of becoming one of the NFL’s top receivers, Baldwin generally stays above most frays with foes on and off the field.

Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson played against Baldwin in 2015, when Gipson was with Cleveland playing at Seattle. He noted Wednesday in Jacksonville that Baldwin didn’t talk much at all that day.

Then again, Baldwin was busy that day, catching two touchdown passes on six targets in the Seahawks’ 30-13 win on Dec. 20, 2015.

“He’s a pro’s pro. He didn’t do much chit-chatting when I played him before,” Gipson said. “That wasn’t part of his game in 2015. Maybe things have changed.

“I don’t know how much Doug Baldwin talks back. I know Jalen, he does it to everybody, no matter the opponent. He does that every game and fills the secondary with some sort of juice, some magical juice, that gets us going. Once he gets the noise talking, there’s a trickle-down effect.”

The Seahawks’ offense has Wilson. He affects everything.

And the Jaguars are coming after him.

Jacksonville’s front seven and especially lineman Calais Campbell (re-born from his Arizona Cardinals days with 12 1/2 sacks this season) usually get pressure on quarterbacks by themselves.

Jacksonville follows the time-tested Seahawks style that got them to consecutive Super Bowls: tight, press coverage with aggressive, young cornerbacks Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, behind a front four that consistently forces QBs to throw earlier than they want to, to covered receivers.

Asked if the Jaguars remind him of his Seahawks of recent past, All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner shook his head.

“Nah,” Wagner said. “There’s only one Seattle Seahawks.”

Still, Wilson knows how big Ramsey’s play – if not his talk – is to Sunday’s game.

“He’s really special,” Wilson said. “He’s going to be a great one for a long, long time. ... He’s got unbelievable speed; it looks like he’s not even running, how fast he’s run.”

The former North Carolina State player said Ramsey’s been a favorite since his days at FSU. .

“He’s a true superstar,” Wilson said. “It’s cool to play great guys like that. You’ve got to know where he is, that’s for sure.”

Gipson told reporters in Jacksonville this past week he and Ramsey are “more of the talkers” in Jacksonville’s secondary, compared to Barry Church and Bouye.

“We just all feed off each other. I’ve definitely seen him get a guy rattled. I know it’s my job to kind of push him over the top. Jalen did all the hard work. I know he’s going to continue to keep the chatter going.

“I don’t know how Doug Baldwin might react. But if he reacts how Jalen wants him to, then it’s going to be a long game for him.”

Chances are, Baldwin’s going to react to Ramsey the way Baldwin wants to.

“We were sorry last year, but we’re not this year, Ramsey said. “We ain’t talking about last year. Y’all got to stop doing that, man. The media, y’all do that too much, all be hyping people up. Y’all hype teams up. Stop doing that, man. It’s a new year, it’s a new week, everything.

“There’s some new big dogs around the NFL. Stop doing that. Stop hyping people up.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

Seahawks gameday

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4) at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-4)

1:25 p.m., EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Line: Jaguars by 2 1/2.

TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.

The series: The Seahawks are 5-2 against the Jaguars. The Seahawks have won the last two meetings, both in Seattle, in 2009 and ’13 by a combined score of 86-17. The Jaguars’ second-ever win over the Seahawks was Sept. 11, 2005, in Jacksonville 26-14. Seattle committed five turnovers in the opening game of a season that ended with the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl.

SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY

Do what they often do to top running games: They don’t always have the top-ranked run defense over an entire season. But for years the Seahawks’ front seven on defense have stopped the NFL’s best runners. Just ask Adrian Peterson. LeGarrette Blount just last week. The Eagles entered last week with the league top rushing offense at 145 yards per game. They left with just 98 yards on the ground at Seattle in a loss. This time Jacksonville enters as the NFL’s No. 1 run game. If blocker-stuffing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continue what they’ve done this season, Seattle can take away rookie Leonard Fournette’s decisive running. That will put the game on quarterback Blake Bortles. And that’s where the Seahawks want this game to be decided.

Block – or escape – Jacksonville’s ends: The former Cardinals tackle has been reborn as a Jaguars end in their 4-3 base sets. He moves around the line when Jacksonville goes nickel. He has 12 1/2 sacks, more than in any other of his first nine entire seasons in the league. He most often lines up at right defensive end. That would be opposite the Seahawks’ best blocker, left tackle Duane Brown. Look for Jacksonville to move Campbell more, away from Brown. Jaguars left end Yannick Ngakoue is no picnic for Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi, who has struggled with edge rushers all season. Then again, Seattle can rely on what it has all year: Russell Wilson running around any and all pressure, anyway. Even when his pass protection fails, if Wilson gets outside Campbell and Ngakoue, the Seahawks will move the ball and score.

Get to Bortles with 4: The Seahawks have been mostly relying on their front four to pressure and dropping seven into coverage in the three games since they lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for the season to injuries. Last week they did not blitz Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz on a passing down until the fourth quarter – and held the NFL’s highest-scoring offense to three points over the first three periods. If Richardson, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark do to Jacksonville’s offensive line what they did to the more-accomplished Eagles line with multiple potential Pro Bowlers, the Seahawks will affect Bortles in game-changing ways

The pick: Seahawks, 17-16. Once again, Wilson is better than the opponent’s best player. More of No. 3’s magic plus pressuring Bortles into his penchant for killer mistakes send Seattle home with a rugged road win that will at times look like a street fight.

PRIME NUMBERS

SEATTLE

3 – Russell Wilson, QB (5-11, 215 pounds, sixth season): He remains Seattle’s difference maker, better than the other team’s best. MVP candidacy grows.

30 – Bradley McDougald, SS (6-1, 215, fifth season): Kam Chancellor’s sub has a big task up in the box against Jacksonville’s run game. More of a cover guy, he needs to make stops on Leonard Fournette’s runs.

76 – Duane Brown, LT (6-4, 315, 12th season): Here comes Calais Campbell with his 12 1/2 sacks rushing against Seattle’s best offensive lineman.

JACKSONVILLE

20 – Jalen Ramsey, CB (6-2, 208, second season): Fifth-overall pick in the 2016 draft has shut down some of the league’s best receivers and is second in the league with 16 passes defensed.

27 – Leonard Fournette, RB (6-0, 228, rookie): Powerful runner. Jags will keep pounding him throughout the game, even if Seahawks are stopping him.

93 – Calais Campbell, DE (6-8, 300, 10th season): Has 12 1/2 sacks in his first season with Jaguars – already more than in any of his nine full seasons in Arizona. Often plays RDE in Jacksonville’s base 4-3 defense. That would be opposite Seattle’s Brown.

GREGG BELL

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