In his first game since inking a four-year, $46 million contract, Doug Baldwin demonstrated that the Hawks actually might have signed him at a discount.
Sometimes, the most flattering compliments contain no superlatives or florid language. Sometimes, a generic response is the most effective way to praise.
On Sunday, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin had a career-high nine receptions for 92 yards. He reeled in the game-winning touchdown pass and made a pivotal fourth-down catch before the two-minute warning.
And yet, when Pete Carroll was asked about Baldwin’s performance after Seattle’s 12-10 win over Miami, the Seahawks coach did not feel compelled drop any superlatives.
“It just looks like the same old Doug,” Carroll said. “Just doing his thing.”
In case you were wondering about his ability — and he probably thinks you were — Baldwin has a message: He’s no fluke. In his first game since inking a four-year, $46 million contract, Doug demonstrated that the Hawks actually might have signed him at a discount.
Baldwin made headlines in the days leading up to the game for his efforts to create unity. But ask most NFL defensive backs, and they’ll tell you he’s equally adept at creating separation.
You can’t overlook the numbers anymore.
In the second half of last season, Baldwin was the league’s most statistically effective receiver. He tallied 47 receptions worth 724 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final eight games. He ended up tying Brandon Marshall and Allen Robinson for the most TD catches in the NFL (14) despite being targeted 70 fewer times than Marshall and 49 fewer times than Robinson. He also had a four-game stretch in which he caught 10 touchdown passes, becoming the only receiver not named Jerry Rice to accomplish such a feat.
But the stats don’t stop there.
Emerging as a star receiver in a run-first offense is no small task. It requires an elite level of efficiency, and Baldwin has provided just that. In 2015, the 27-year-old had the league’s second-best drop rate, catching 78 of 80 catchable balls. He also was second in receptions per target, catching 78 balls off 99 targets (78.79 percent).
The catch-per-target numbers speak partly to quarterback Russell Wilson’s accuracy and decision making, but the greater point is that Baldwin maximizes his opportunities like few of his peers do.
Even so, it takes more than a great eight games for a receiver to convince the general public that he is on the top tier of the league. Glance at subjective receiver rankings around the Internet, and you’ll frequently find Baldwin out of the top 10.
He has never been selected to the Pro Bowl and, from a national standpoint, seems to lack the A-list status that many of his teammates enjoy. But perhaps that’s beginning to change.
Baldwin has never been shy about voicing disapproval toward critics. Whether the slight comes from Deion Sanders or Cris Carter, No. 89 has made a habit out of transforming condemnation into inspiration. On Sunday, however, he didn’t seem to feel any compulsion to talk up his own game.
On the game-winning touchdown catch: “Well, first of all I have to give a lot of credit to Russell Wilson.”
One the fourth-down play before the touchdown: “That’s giving credit to our (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell.
He credited Carroll. He credited fellow receiver Jermaine Kearse. He might have credited the nacho guy on the concourse.
But at this point, Baldwin deserves some credit of his own.
If the Seahawks opened up their offense the way a a team such as New Orleans does, Baldwin’s numbers would be turning heads across the country. Since the bye week last season, the man has gone from undrafted to unguardable.
Asked about Doug’s game-winning TD on Sunday, Wilson said, “One of the best receivers in the league.”
It’s becoming harder to say otherwise.