RENTON, Wash. – The initial reaction is to chuckle, because on first blush there is no way Doug Baldwin appears the type to suffer from anger problems.
This guy? All 5-foot-10, 189 pounds of Stanford education has problems with his temper?
“I’m not that bad,” Baldwin admits. “But when it comes to football, my competitive nature takes over.”
That attitude is why four weeks into his first NFL season, the undrafted rookie receiver has carved out a niche in Seattle and become the Seahawks’ leading receiver.
That distinction might not last for long – he only has 12 receptions and is just one ahead of Sidney Rice for the team lead. But on an offense struggling to produce highlights, Baldwin is standing out.
“He has such a feel for the game in general. So he’s able to make sense of what we’re asking him and then he naturally kind of makes the right decisions, too, so he’s got a savvy that has helped him,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a real tough kid, too. His mindset is he’s a really hard-nosed, competitive kid with a chip on his shoulder – the way you like it.”
Baldwin was one of three undrafted rookies to make Seattle’s roster, along with safety Jeron Johnson and No. 3 quarterback Josh Portis.
While Johnson is playing some on special teams and in defensive packages with multiple defensive backs, Baldwin is by far making himself the most noticed.
But that was the case in training camp, when it became apparent Baldwin would find himself among the final players being considered for a roster spot. He made the 53-man squad, then went out and caught a 55-yard touchdown in his first regular-season game, then added a career-high five catches for 84 yards last week against Atlanta.
“He’s one of those guys that really has a feel for the inside game,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
Many were surprised that Baldwin didn’t get drafted. He was getting plenty of game tape at Stanford catching passes from Andrew Luck, but his numbers weren’t overly impressive. His senior season, Baldwin caught 58 passes for 857 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Look where he’s playing now. He’s playing ahead of a bunch of guys that have been drafted around the league,” Carroll said. “So it’s unfortunate for him, in a sense, but fortunate for us.”
His role in Seattle meshes with what Baldwin was asked to do at Stanford, except now most of his plays are run from the slot. In that position, Baldwin is essentially told where he needs to be at what point during a specific play, but is given the freedom to assess the defense and take his own route to get to that spot.
Often that means running across the middle and taking shots from bigger defenders. Last week he was slow to get up after getting hit helmet-to-helmet by Atlanta’s William Moore, but was back moments later.