By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The 2012 season has been a frustrating one for Doug Baldwin, who just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to his health.
The Seahawks’ slot receiver, who led the team in receiving as a rookie last year, has already dealt with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason, and a shoulder injury that kept him out of Seattle’s third game. Baldwin also needed oral surgery after busting up his front teeth in the season opener. Now, Baldwin will be sidelined for at least this week’s game and perhaps longer after suffering a high-ankle sprain in last Thursday’s loss to San Francisco.
“Doug’s not going to make this game,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “Unfortunately he’s going to be a couple of weeks anyway. That’s a change for us, because we were just getting him going, we felt like he was coming around. We’ll get him back when we can. Charlie Martin will fill in, we’ll see Golden (Tate) do some things in his place to do the void there.”
And speaking of frustrated receivers, this year hasn’t gone according to plan for Sidney Rice either. While Rice has battled through more than his fair share of injuries during his career, this season’s frustration has nothing to do with injuries. Instead, a finally-healthy Rice is being limited not by a bad shoulder or hip, but rather by an offense that has attempted the fewest passes in the NFL.
Only four days before Seattle’s loss in San Francisco, Rice gained 81 yards in a victory over New England, including the game-winning 46-yard touchdown. But just when it seemed like Rice was finally turning into the go-to receiver the Seahawks were hoping for when they signed him in 2011 — he had five catches for 67 yards in Carolina two weeks ago — he was limited to two catches for 32 yards against the 49ers. In Thursday’s game, Rice was shown on the TV broadcast throwing his mouthpiece to the ground after Russell Wilson threw a pass into triple coverage that was intercepted. The pass was intended for Braylon Edwards, but Rice appeared open on the other side of the field while facing single coverage.
Rice insists that his only concern is wins and losses, not his stats, and that in that particular instance, he was upset to see his team turn the ball over.
“It’s all about winning,” Rice said when asked about showing frustration. “… I just may show emotion different ways when I’m out there on the field. I take it you’re talking about last week when I threw my mouthpiece? I was a little upset, because you can’t win ballgames turning the ball over to a team like the 49ers.”
That Rice or any other Seattle receiver occasionally shows frustration shouldn’t be that much of surprise. Rice is Seattle’s No. 1 receiver, yet has been targeted only 36 times through seven games. That number leads the Seahawks, but ranks 67th among NFL pass catchers. Not only are numerous receivers getting more balls thrown their way than the Seahawks’ top target, 16 tight ends and even three running backs have been targeted more times than Rice.
When asked about the offense, Rice noted, “We’re one of the top running offenses in the league with Marshawn (Lynch) back there — he’s doing a great job. The fellas up front are doing a great job getting him to the second level, and it’s up to us as receivers to continue blocking down field and just make plays when the ball’s thrown our way.”
It’s hardly a coincidence that he mentioned blocking down field before he did catching passes. That’s the life of a receiver in the Seahawks’ offense these days. But Carroll is confident that Rice, and every receiver for that matter, will get more chances to make plays as the passing game grows. That could start this week against a Detroit secondary that has been weakened by injuries. But if the passing game struggles once again, Carroll is OK if Rice or other receivers are frustrated, as long as it doesn’t go too far.
“That’s natural,” Carroll said. “They all want the ball as much as they can get it, and I want to throw it as much as we can, but we just have to keep growing. I want our guys to be so competitive that they do feel that, and they’re pushing. If it goes over the top and causes us issues because we can’t catch the football or we’re not running routes right, then we’ll scale it back, but right now I like the way our guys are fighting for play time and that they want that ball. It’s good.”
In addition to Baldwin, the Seahawks were also without defensive tackle Jason Jones (ankle) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) during Wednesday’s practice. Guard John Moffitt, who has missed four games with a knee injury, was limited in practice. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who left Thursday’s game with a concussion, was cleared by doctors and practiced fully.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org