RENTON 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.”
So does that mean Ramsey will be yapping at Baldwin more when the Seahawks (8-4) play the up-and-coming Jaguars (8-4) in Jacksonville Sunday afternoon, more than Ramsey chirped at the Cardinals’ legendary receiver two weeks ago in Arizona?
“We’ll see,” he said.
Odds are that will be a “yes” on Sunday.
The shutdown corner is second in the league with 16 passes defensed this season. He may be first in the league in trash talking since Jacksonville drafted him fifth overall in 2016 out of Florida State.
“For sure, Jalen is in a league by himself when it comes to that type of stuff,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson told reporters in Jacksonville according to Gene Frenette, a columnist with The Florida Times-Union with whom I’ve been talking this week.
Last month, A.J. 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 nowhere near them.
Green got a $42,000 fine by the NFL for that. Ramsey’s Jaguars got a 24-7 win. 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.
Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell remembers Ramsey’s public spat with Carolina’s iconic receiver Steve Smith Sr. last season. After the game 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 Thursday 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 I mentioned to him Green slamming Ramsey.
Is he expecting Ramsey to bait him and try to get into his head Sunday?
"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 last decade. He’s gotten it on 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 Seahawks 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 with the security and peace of mind of signing a $46 million contract extension last year, 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 against Gipson’s Browns catching two touchdown passes on six targets from Russell Wilson 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.”
Speaking of talk, folks in Jacksonville are trying to get some mileage out this:
But Wilson has been saying that, more or less, for years--and especially when teams blitz him with “zero coverage,” no safety help deep. Philadelphia did that last week and got burned with a 47-yard pass to Baldwin that helped the Seahawks put away the Eagles. The New York Giants did it earlier this season and Baldwin burned that blitz, too, with a touchdown catch and run on another audible by Wilson.
The Jaguars don’t blitz often; their 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 in the 2013 and ‘14 seasons: 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.
Wilson knows how big Ramsey’s play--if not his talk--is to Sunday’s game.
“He’s really special,” Wilson said Thursday. “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 said Ramsey’s been a favorite of his back to watching his college games in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“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 says 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.
Either way, it’s going to be the most fun sideshow to watch on Sunday.
Is this the Jaguars’ statement game, to say they are now what the Seahawks have been for years?
“What’s their record?” Ramsey asked reporters who asked that in Jacksonville.
Told Seattle was, like the Jaguars, 8-4, Ramsey said, “all right.
“We were sorry last year, but we’re not this year. 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.”