RENTON, Wash. – A year ago, Doug Baldwin became the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in receptions since the 1970 merger.
One-quarter of the way through his second season, he’d settle for catching a break. He’s had a sore hamstring that kept him out all of August, suffered a couple of broken teeth in Week 1 that required hours of dental surgery and had a sore shoulder that kept him out of Seattle’s third game.
But after two weeks in which Seattle has struggled on third downs, expect the Seahawks to make a point of trying to find the guy who proved his importance last season.
“This is an important week, I think, for Doug,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve got to get Doug back into things.”
Baldwin caught 51 passes last season, but it wasn’t just the total that was impressive. It was the timing. Twenty-five of those receptions were on third down, tied for seventh most of any player in the league.
“The biggest area we’re struggling is third down,” said Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator. “That’s not a secret. Last week, the good thing was we only had nine of them. The bad thing is we converted only two of them.”
And both of those were on third-and-1. Russell Wilson is 1-for-10 passing on third down over the previous two games, getting sacked twice and intercepted once. In 20 third-down plays over the past two weeks, the only four that Seattle has converted came via a run.
“We need to do a better job there,” Bevell said. Baldwin has caught four passes for 23 yards so far this season. Some of the trouble for Baldwin has been adjusting to a new quarterback in Wilson after building a rapport with Tarvaris Jackson a year ago.
“I haven’t had much time with Russell, particularly on third downs,” Baldwin said. “I kind of grew with Tarvaris last year. He always knew where I was going to be and when I was going to be there last year. I had that chemistry with T-Jack. It’s just a growing process with Russell.”
And there have been growing pains, to be sure. But before anyone goes and decides Seattle doesn’t have the weapons it needs in the passing game, it needs to use the components that it has on hand.
“We had gone into this season thinking that Doug would be a focal point,” Carroll said, “and we have not been able to get that done yet.”