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The secret to his success
The secret to Doug Baldwin’s sudden and surprising success has been revealed.
“You have to have a bit of an anger management issue, to be honest with you,” the rookie free agent wide receiver said on Wednesday, while standing in front of his cubicle in the locker room and surrounded by reporters.
Everyone laughed. But Baldwin was serious – and, as a result, has done some serious damage to opposing defenses in his first four games in the NFL.
On a team that includes Sidney Rice, a Pro Bowl wide receiver while with the Minnesota Vikings; Mike Williams, the Seahawks’ leading receiver last season; and tight end Zach Miller, a Pro Bowl player with the Oakland Raiders last year, it’s Baldwin who leads the Seahawks in receptions (12) and receiving yards (194) entering Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.
That’s the same Doug Baldwin who stands all of 5 feet 10, weighs 189 pounds, played his college ball at Stanford and was passed over by every team in the league for seven rounds during the NFL Draft in April.
But it’s also the same Doug Baldwin who flaunts that anger management issue, and uses his free-agent status as a motivator every time he steps on the field. Baldwin earns his receptions the hard way – by running routes in the middle of the field as a slot receiver in the Seahawks’ three- and four-receiver packages.
“Usually slot guys are a lot smaller and quicker, but at the same time they have to go in there and block linebackers, safeties,” Baldwin explained. “So you have to be aggressive and have a mentality that, ‘I’m about to go in here against a guy who’s bigger than me, but I don’t care. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get my job done.’ ”
Baldwin arrived with that management anger issue when he signed with the Seahawks on July 26, as just another name on the list of 18 rookie free agents the team added.
“A lot of my friends at Stanford and Richard Sherman would tell you I have an anger management problem,” said Baldwin, referring to the rookie cornerback who was drafted in the fifth round by the Seahawks.
“But I use that to my advantage when I’m playing against guys who are bigger than me.”
Or, guys who are smaller and younger than he is – like his 9-year-old brother, Devon.
“My little brother makes me upset when he beats me at ‘Madden,’ because he starts dancing and doing all kinds of stuff,” Baldwin said. “It’s just the competitive nature in me. Always striving to be better. If I’m not the best, then there’s a problem for me inside. I feel like I can do better.”
Devon was in town over the weekend to watch his big brother catch five passes for 84 yards in the Seahawks’ two-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons – and school Baldwin in “Madden.”
“He beat me in ‘Madden,’ ” Baldwin said. “That was his goal. He told me when he got here for the game, ‘I’m going to beat you in ‘Madden.’ ”
The opponent Devon beat in the video game was his brother’s all-free agent team – the Pensacola Cavaliers.
“I like doing that kind of stuff, taking the teams that are not that good and trying to make them into better teams,” Baldwin said.
He’s done a pretty good job of it in the real game of football, as well – anger management issue, and all.
“I can vouch that he has an anger management issue,” said Sherman, who was only a few lockers away at the time Baldwin was holding court. “He’s got a Napoleon complex, too. But it all works well for him.”
It’s all part of the perseverance that paved Baldwin’s path to the NFL.
“A lot people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt; don’t give him the respect that he deserves,” Sherman said. “You have to prove them wrong, time and time again. I think this is about the last time he’s going to have to prove them wrong.”
Because Baldwin has been doing just about everything right from the first day he stepped on the practice field during training camp. He had nine receptions during the preseason to share the team lead with slot receiver Golden Tate and tight end Anthony McCoy. During the regular season, six of Baldwin’s receptions have produced first downs.
All while working from the slot, and getting less reps than some of the other receivers on the team.
“Since Day One he’s kind of caught our eye with the quickness that he has, the separation that he has,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He’s one of those guys who really has the feel for the inside game.”
Playing the slot in the NFL is one of those fools-rush-in-where-angels-fear-to-tread situations. It’s not for the faint of heart, or those with slippery fingers or alligator arms.
“You have to have a certain knack to do it,” Bevell said. “You’re reading coverages, No. 1. He has that ability. But then the ability to be able to sit in zones and find the soft spots, or run away from man, there’s more of that inside than there is outside.
“Doug does a real nice job with that.”
It all goes back to the coaching he got at Stanford.
“Our offensive coordinators at Stanford, they kind of had this idea where there’s parameters on our offense,” Baldwin said. “You have to run things a certain way. You have to be at a certain spot at a certain time. But how you get there, they allow you to be creative in doing that.
“Here, they let me do that in the slot and be creative. They give me the freedom to do that and I’ve been slightly successful to this point.”
That’s because things rarely unfold after the ball is snapped the way they’re drawn up in the playbook. So it’s adapt or perish. Baldwin has been a pass-catching chameleon in his ever-changing surroundings.
“He’s really a natural football player,” said coach Pete Carroll, who coached against Baldwin while at USC. “Things come easy to him. He’s a really good special teams player, as well, which tells you something. He has such a feel for the game in general.”
Not to mention that anger management issue that continues to serve him so well.