Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin is on pace for a career year in receptions and yards after signing a four-year extension with the team in June.
Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin generally doesn’t do things quietly.
But the statistical line he is turning in this season may be escaping notice a bit for one reason — he’s not scoring as many touchdowns as a year ago.
It was never going to be easy, of course, for Baldwin to again score 14 touchdowns, which set a Seahawks record and tied for the NFL lead.
Baldwin, in fact, predicted in July he didn’t figure he’d catch that many again.
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“I think that, do I expect to score 14 touchdowns again?’’ he said, repeating a question. “No, I don’t. And the reason I don’t is because we are a run-first offense. In the red-zone we are going to try to pound it into the end-zone by handing the ball off. Like we have always said since I have been here, we are going to make the best of our opportunities as receivers when we get the chance.’’
In what has been sort of a strange season for the offense, though, there simply haven’t been as many scoring opportunities to go around — Seattle has 27 touchdowns this season, 2.25 per game, compared to 49 last year, just over three per game.
So while Baldwin’s five touchdowns are a drop from last season, given the context of his team and position, it should hardly have been unexpected — and it’s worth noting that five TDs also ties what was Baldwin’s career-high prior to 2015.
Still, expectations changed for Baldwin and what the team expects out of him when he signed a four-year, $46.5 million extension in June, which included $24.25 million guaranteed.
The contract was an acknowledgment from the team that it considers Baldwin, well, very non-pedestrian and capable of turning in elite numbers on a year-in, year-out basis.
But it’s the way of sports for there to be questions until it happens and “can Doug Baldwin do it again?’’ was among the popular Seahawks parlor debates heading into the 2016 season.
Other than the touchdowns, though, Baldwin is on pace to have a year that in many ways is better than in 2016, while also making a little Seahawks history along the way.
Baldwin, who has 68 catches for 832 yards, is on pace for 91 receptions for 1,109 yards this year, which would each be career highs.
That would also be the second-most receptions in team history behind the 94 of Bobby Engram in 2007. The yards would be the 10th-most and the most for a Seahawk since Engram in 2007, when he had 1,147 (the record is 1,287 by Steve Largent in 1985).
Baldwin, though, also has a catch percentage of 80 (68 receptions on 86 targets), which would be the best for any non-running back or tight end in Seattle history (since catch rate began being compiled in 1992) of any receiver who had more than 26 targets in a season. That may seem convoluted, but the point is that receivers invariably have lower percentage rates than running backs/tight ends since they tend to catch more passes downfield.
Baldwin, of course, is catching his share of passes close to the line as Seattle has had to make some accommodations to get anything going in some games, the reason is yards per reception is down somewhat (from 13.7 last year to 12.2 this year). But he’s catching everything, listed as having no drops, tied with Pierre Garcon for the second-most targets without a drop in the NFL (Denver’s Emmanual Sanders is the leader with 114 targets without a drop).
And while Seattle is throwing it a bit more this year — an average of 35 passes a game compared to 30.5 last season — Baldwin’s numbers aren’t necessarily due to attempt inflation.
He’s catching 5.6 passes a game this year, 16 percent of all attempts, while last year he caught 4.8 per game, 15.7 percent. So yes, he’s been able to co-exist with Jimmy Graham.
Baldwin needs 168 yards to get to 1,000, which would make him the fifth receiver in Seattle history to reach that mark in consecutive seasons (the last to do it was Darrell Jackson in 2003-04. The others are Joey Galloway in 1997-98, Brian Blades in 1994-95, and Largent from 78-81 and again from 83-86).
Baldwin also needs 202 yards to move past Engram into fourth on the team’s all-time receiving yards list — he has 4,658 while Engram had 4,859 — which would leave him behind only Largent (13,089), Blades (7,620) and Jackson (6,445).