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A mile-high noisemaker
The best thing about Doug Baldwin’s performance against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night?
Easy, it was the rookie free agent from Stanford returning a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. The play not only added a dash of excitement to the Seahawks’ 23-20 loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, it gave a long and lasting glimpse of just how impressive Baldwin has been during the preseason.
No. Then it must have been his back-to-back receptions of 9 and 10 yards on the drive to a 53-yard field goal by Jeff Reed that tied the score at 20 late in the fourth quarter.
Not that, either. So just what was it? Baldwin’s approach to all the good things he had done on a night when the Seahawks’ offense didn’t do enough of them.
“I have a lot of things I need to work on, a lot of things that I can improve on, obviously,” Baldwin said in the locker room. “I pride myself on having high expectations for myself. So if there’s one play that I missed out there, it’s not a good day.
“There’s some good plays I left out there. So I come back tomorrow in practice and get it right.”
Don’t get him wrong, Baldwin was as excited as everyone else about his electrifying return – and a lot more exhausted.
“I was exhausted. Ex-haus-ted,” he said with a smile. “But I tried not to get into the oxygen tank. I didn’t want to get into the oxygen tank. That was my mindset when I came back to the sideline.”
And did he, after the elevating return that came at, well, a mile high?
“I didn’t get it,” he said.
But his not-good-enough – never-good-enough – approach to the game is what really stands out about Baldwin. More than that return. More than the 41-yard kickoff return or 20-yard punt return he had in the opener against the San Diego Chargers. More than any of the team-leading eight receptions he has made in the first three preseason games.
As good as he has been, Baldwin wants to be better – and knows that he can be better.
Watching him play this summer has been reminiscent of what Deon Butler was able to do last summer, when he led the team in preseason receptions by teaming time and again with backup QB Charlie Whitehurst.
“He’s talented,” said Whitehurst, who led that drive to the game-tying field goal. “And he kind of acts like he belongs. He doesn’t really act like a rookie. He’s going to help us. He’s a good player.”
In his quest to make the 53-man roster, Baldwin also has other friends in high – and influential – places.
“Doug has been very, very effective in this preseason so far,” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “There’s really been nothing that he’s been asked to do that he can’t do. So he’s made a big impression.”
Even if he is only 5 feet 10 and 189 pounds.
“That (kickoff return) was a huge play,” Carroll said. “But he’s looked good on the other stuff he’s done, too. In every game, when we’ve got the football to him, he’s been effective. So he’s making a loud noise about ‘I need to be on this team.’ And good for him.”
Baldwin’s kickoff return is worth another look, or two. He got blocks from, in order, Justin Forsett, K.J. Wright and Mark LeGree in getting to and up the sideline. Baldwin then cut to the middle of the field at the 30-yard line and was home free after Broncos cornerback Chris Harris missed him with a lunge at the 12.
“I told the guys when we got out there, I was like, ‘You know, we haven’t got a kick all game, so if I touch the ball we’re bringing it out,’ ” Baldwin said.
And bring it out he did, all the way to the opposite end zone.
“It was easy,” Baldwin said. “Once I hit the first hole, those guys, they mowed everybody down. So it was easy for me to just run.”
The run wasn’t that easy, but it was one that just might carry the always-striving-for-more rookie to a spot on the 53-man roster.