Baldwin may not be a future Hall of Famer that you can pencil in for the All-Pro team every year, but he's been pretty damn effective.
The man once known as Angry Doug Baldwin was Humble Doug Baldwin for a moment Thursday. Asked what the Seahawks’ offense has been lacking with him stuck on the sideline with a knee injury, he opted not to serve as his own publicist.
“My ego would like to say a number of different things,” Baldwin said with a grin. “I’ll hold that back for now.”
It’s interesting to think about, though. Maligned as Seattle’s offense has been this season — with critics questioning the efficiency of the run game, pass protection and some of Russell Wilson’s decisions — the truth is this: The team hasn’t had its best receiver.
You can’t make a wholesale judgment on the Seahawks’ productivity until Baldwin rejoins the lineup.
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Maybe that will happen Sunday in Arizona. Though Pete Carroll hasn’t indicated whether he’ll return to the field, Doug has been practicing this week and said he’s ready to go.
But if he does come back, will he make Seattle’s offense go?
Baldwin may not be a future Hall of Famer that you can pencil in for the All-Pro team every year, but he’s been pretty damn effective. He has led the Seahawks in receptions in each of the past four years, and his 14 touchdown catches in 2015 was tied for the most in the NFL.
When Wilson had that historic five-game stretch three years ago, Baldwin was his primary target. And when Jimmy Graham went down with a season-ending injury that same year, the offense actually improved as Doug became the undisputed No. 1 pass-catcher.
Now you have a team with no Graham, no Jermaine Kearse, no Paul Richardson — nobody who’s caught more than five passes in a game this season. You can’t say you know what this team looks like without No. 89 on the field.
“Now that we get him back, it’s kind of like getting your best player back,” said Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. “It’s more exciting, because now we can go out there and we can put everything together.”
Perhaps Baldwin’s most critical contributions would come on third down, which wasn’t a favorable situation for the Seahawks through their first two games. They were just two for 12 on third-down conversions vs. Denver, then five for 13 vs. Chicago, as each opponent had possession of the ball for nearly 60 percent of the game.
Baldwin has said before that he takes low conversion percentages “personally.” It’s doubtful his attitude on the matter has changed much.
Of course, even if he is back Sunday, we don’t know which version of Doug Baldwin we’re going to see. Even before spraining his MCL nine minutes into the season opener, he said an injury to his other knee would cause him to be less than 100 percent for the entire season.
Whether he felt as if it would actually affect his play is another question, but it’s still concerning for a guy who entered the season having played in 88 consecutive games.
What’s of no concern is how competitive Baldwin will be when he does come back to the field. In the opener, the guy re-entered the game despite knowing he had just suffered a serious injury.
“I’m a savage,” he said. “No, but I have to give myself a motivating talk like that every once in a while, to make sure that I remembered who I am….I knew it was a serious injury, but being out for so long prior to that game, I wanted to do everything I could to go back in.”
Maybe not the wisest decision, but it’s emblematic of Baldwin’s personality. He’s going to do whatever he must to win, and when he’s on the field for this team, winning becomes a lot more likely.