Focus on: Doug Baldwin

Posted Nov 6, 2013

Primarily a slot receiver in his first 2½ seasons with the Seahawks, Doug Baldwin is getting an opportunity to also play flanker because of an injury to Sidney Rice. And he’s making the most of it.

Doug Baldwin’s game has been turned inside out.

But that’s just fine with the Seahawks’ third-year wide receiver. While Baldwin as exceled as a slot receiver since being signed as a rookie free agent in 2011, he also has wanted to play more – and at one of the outside spots in the offense.

That is happening because flanker Sidney Rice was placed on injured reserve last week with a season-ending knee injury. So Baldwin is starting for Rice, but still sliding inside to the slot in the three- and four-receiver sets.

“It’s different,” Baldwin said Wednesday, when the 8-1 Seahawks began practicing for Sunday’s game against the 2-6 Falcons in Atlanta. “When you’re on the outside, you’re routes are different obviously. It’s more of a timing thing. You’ve got to be at a certain spot on time.

“Whereas in the slot, I have more freedom to get open, I’m usually the third read, so Russell (Wilson) has time to get back to me. When you’re on the outside, there’s not much leeway. You’ve got to be a specific route runner, which I think I’m pretty capable at.

“So I enjoyed it.”

Baldwin had a team-leading six catches – the third-highest total of his career – for 75 yards in Sunday’s overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field, including a 10-yard touchdown reception to tie the score with less than two minutes left in regulation.

“The game plan was the same,” Baldwin said. “I just think that obviously I had more opportunities because I filled in for Sid, but then also when we went on third down I still went back to my normal position. So I got a lot more opportunities than I’m used to, but I just tried to make the best of them.”

The game didn’t start as well as it ended for Baldwin, but then it’s not how you start it’s how you finish.

“I think he did fine,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said after practice. “I think a little bit early he might have been a little nervous or whatever you want to say. He had a tough catch he would have had to make on the first one. We say he dropped the ball. We say the quarterback needed to put a better throw on it, as well. Then we come right back and he drops the next one.”

Those back-to-back plays in the second-quarter followed Baldwin’s one catch for 2 yards on a wide-receiver screen in the first quarter. But Baldwin was targeted seven more times and had five catches, including another how-did-he-do-that grab along the sideline for a 19-yard gain on the drive to the Seahawks’ second touchdown; a 28-yard reception and a 9-yarder on third-and-3; and his TD catch.

“We took Doug out for one play and then he got his head right and kind of took a deep breath and got himself going,” Bevell said. “Then he made some really big plays in the game, none bigger than the one that he had on the sideline with tapping his toes and getting his feet in.”

Baldwin is second on the team with 29 receptions, and 13 have come on third downs for a 15.7-yard average. But that is to be expected for a slot receiver who gets most of his snaps in third-down situations.

But Baldwin is expanding his game. Or turning it inside out.