As far as campaigning goes, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman always has had a knack for injecting his message. And his newest target happened to be an old friend.
“Doug could easily be one of the best receivers in this league,” Sherman said Sunday night after the Seahawks had defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Doug” was receiver Doug Baldwin, Sherman’s teammate in Seattle for the past five years and the four years before that at Stanford. Baldwin had the best game of his career against Pittsburgh, catching six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He had never had so many yards or so many touchdowns.
“If he got those kinds of targets,” Sherman continued, “if he was featured in an offense, I think he’d be right up there in the top five in catches and yards and touchdowns. But unfortunately he has a different job title in our offense and takes that in stride and continues to fight. But today he had the kind of game that he can have week in and week out if he’s featured. I’m just proud to see that.”
Baldwin heard what Sherman said, mostly because Sherman let him know he said it. “He didn’t hesitate to let me know that he said something positive about me,” Baldwin said, laughing. “That’s my boy. I’ve known him for too long.”
Through 11 games, Baldwin is on pace to finish the season with 73 catches, 995 yards and nine touchdowns. All would be career highs. But if Baldwin reaches those numbers — or if he exceeds them — he would finish with the best season by a Seahawks receiver in eight years.
The Seahawks haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Bobby Engram had 94 catches and 1,147 yards in 2007. In the seven seasons since, only T.J. Houshmandzadeh, in 2009, had more than 900 yards or more than 70 catches in a season.
The 2007 Seahawks attempted 568 passes; the 2015 team is on pace for about 100 fewer attempts. Baldwin should finish this year with close to 100 targets, or about 35 fewer than Engram or Houshmandzadeh.
“A lot of people will probably be put off by this, but I just started caring less,” Baldwin said. “And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the problem that I’ve had in the past, just the person that I am, I always feel like I have to be in control. And even things that are out of my control, I always have problems with when things don’t go my way. As a competitor, I try to do everything in my power to control the uncontrollable.
“I know as cliché as it sounds, I’ve always told myself, ‘Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Control the things you can control.’ That battle has beat up on me for years.
“So now my mind-set is just that I have to care less. Not that I don’t care about winning or I don’t care about doing well, but I have to care less about the things that happen that are outside of my control. If something happened that was outside of my control, even if I knew it was outside of my control, I would be bothered by it. But now I don’t let it bother me, and I don’t let it take up any of my mental space. I let it go.”
What’s funny is that on the day Baldwin posted season-bests against the Steelers, he also recorded his first dropped pass, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF actually assigned two drops to Baldwin, although they are subjective. He hadn’t dropped a pass since Oct. 6, 2014.
Baldwin’s role should get magnified in the final five games, even if he doesn’t see it that way. The Seahawks are without tight end Jimmy Graham, out for the season because of a knee injury. He is second to Baldwin in catches and yards.
The Seahawks’ receiving corps, and in particular Baldwin, has been in this position before. In 2013 they lost Sidney Rice, forcing Golden Tate, Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to shoulder more responsibility. And last year they traded Percy Harvin during the season, again leaving Baldwin and Kearse to move up the food chain.
“Obviously we’ll miss Jimmy, but we have guys behind him who have been making plays, who can make plays,” Baldwin said. “Jimmy is a dynamic weapon in our offense that we haven’t seen before in this offense until this year, but I have the utmost faith in Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet and the rest of our receiving corps to continue doing what we’ve been doing.”
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