Sure, everybody pays attention to Quintorris Lopez Jones.
They usually call him “Julio,” though, and any previews for the Seattle at Atlanta playoff game will designate him as the receiver to watch.
No question, he’s an extraordinary playmaker, going all the way back to when the Falcons traded five draft picks to move up to get him with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
So once again, Doug Baldwin, the undrafted free agent receiver the Seahawks signed following that draft, will be an afterthought.
At least until the game starts and the Seahawks need a special spark of life on offense, which Baldwin repeatedly provides far beyond any rational expectations they could have had for him.
The meeting of these teams in the division round of the playoffs makes it timely to reassess the unexpected and enduring value of Baldwin to the Seahawks and recognize that if he’d been drafted at some point early in that draft, he’d eventually have proved himself worth the expense.
Baldwin finished this season with 94 catches and seven touchdown receptions — 11 catches and a TD more than Jones. Jones has been targeted several hundred times more than Baldwin in their six-season careers, but has just four more career touchdowns (40-36) than the Seahawk.
Baldwin has missed only two games (hamstring injury in 2012); Jones has missed 17 to injury.
At nearly 6-4, Jones is a different threat, no question. The point is not to diminish him, but to recognize the relative value of the bargain-basement Baldwin.
Baldwin finished 2015 in a tie for the NFL lead in touchdowns (14) and is on a streak now, too, having pulled in 25 catches for 319 yards in the past three games.
So there’s flash to go with the more mundane qualities of durability and reliability.
In recent seasons, he’s been among the league leaders in fewest drops per reception, so it’s fair to say he has some of the best hands in the NFL.
And that’s not even mentioning his butt.
In the wild card win over Detroit on Saturday, Baldwin made another of his many Cirque du Soleil catches in the fourth quarter, reaching well behind him for a Russell Wilson pass that he ended pinning against his backside to keep from hitting the ground.
As is the case with so many of Baldwin’s contributions, the value of this catch went far beyond the obvious.
The Hawks were leading 19-6 at the time, but if Baldwin hadn’t been able to at least bend backward and deflect the ball, it appeared to be heading directly for a Detroit defender, who could have intercepted and taken it the other way.
Suddenly, it would have been a different game.
Another example: In the late-season loss to Arizona, Baldwin truly led the battle, setting career highs in catches (13) and reception yards (171) — but what stood out to me was a fierce rush he put on the Cardinals punter that forced the up-back protector to hold him, drawing a penalty.
Wait a minute, is that the star receiver giving everything he’s worth fighting to block a punt?
Yes, that’s Doug Baldwin.
And that’s Doug Baldwin racing down the sidelines to congratulate Paul Richardson for a ridiculous touchdown catch. And offering a sincere apology to receiver Jermaine Kearse after he pulled in a scoring grab that might have been targeting Kearse.
And that’s Doug Baldwin working to enhance social awareness of contemporary racial issues — on local and national platforms — with his perspective as a professional athlete and son of a police officer.
It is fair, when crediting this maturity and leadership to mention how far he’s come. It’s getting time to set aside the visions of the Doug Baldwin who so inappropriately pantomimed the excretion of a football in the end zone in the worst imaginable touchdown celebration, and who also once execrated a gathering of media with the repeated shouting of the kingpin of all curses.
Near the end of his sixth season, Baldwin is still improving on the field, too. Now 94 regular-season games into his career, he’s just 11 catches behind the pace of Seahawks Hall of Famer Steve Largent. Largent lasted for 14 seasons.
The Seahawks liked Baldwin’s skills and combative nature when they gave him a chance to make the team.
But nobody had a clue he could turn into the player and man he’s become.