So was its last.
“That was by design,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “(Baldwin) made a couple of terrific reads on routes.”
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Just as he has throughout offseason workouts and training camp, he reverted to the form he showed during his surprising 51-catch rookie season in 2011, rebounding from an injury-plagued 2012 when he was held to 29 receptions.
His play in practice has elicited praise from teammates and coaches for months, predicting that he would have a significant impact again this season.
“He’s definitely the hardest receiver to hold in practice,” said safety Earl Thomas, “especially when you talk about one-on-ones in the slot. He’s so shifty, it’s hard to cover him.”
And after an exhibition season in which the starters were purposely kept under wraps for the most part, Baldwin finally got to walk the talk, leading all receivers with seven receptions for 91 yards. His last catch was a 13-yarder on a third-and-three play from the Seattle 15 on the final drive of the day as the Seahawks ran out the clock.
“I think I’m just healthy,” Baldwin said. “Last year I was coming off of a lot of hamstring injuries and a whole bunch of other stuff that we don’t even talk about. I felt healthy out there today, and then obviously to go through the entire preseason with Russell and take all the first-team snaps, I was able to build a chemistry and a rapport, and I think that showed up today.”
It showed up most spectacularly on a play in the third quarter when Wilson, as he got hit by two Carolina defenders, chucked the ball in the general direction of the Seahawks sideline on third-and-eight. Baldwin broke off his route to come back to the pass and caught the ball with his feet barely in bounds, extending a drive that ended with a field goal.
“I was trying to give him a chance,” Wilson said. “I was figuring nobody would probably get to it, to be honest with you. But I knew Doug was coming back and I knew I was about to get blown up, so I tried to throw it where nobody could get it and somehow he raced to it and made a great play.”
Said Baldwin: “I think he was trying to throw it away. … The ball was just close enough to the sideline I said ‘What the heck? I’ll go try and make a play there.’ ”
His other three third-down conversions were more routine, if just as vital.
“Third down is usually when I come in, when we have three-wide receiver sets,” Baldwin said. “That’s when I got my opportunity to make a play, and fortunately enough Russell trusted me and was patient enough with me to give me the ball in those situations.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.