By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — There are so many ways to get Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin riled up — after all, his teammates don’t jokingly call him “Angry Doug Baldwin” for nothing.
Call the Seahawks receivers “pedestrian” or “appetizers” to the main course, or question if they can make enough plays to win without Percy Harvin, or remind Baldwin about when he was drafted (he wasn’t), or … Well, you get the point.
Here’s one more term to avoid when describing Baldwin: slot receiver.
“It pisses me off, to be honest with you, when people call me a slot receiver, because that’s not who I am,” Baldwin said. “That was just my position when I got here, that’s where they told me where they wanted me to play.”
It might seem odd that Baldwin would mind being called a slot receiver. After all, he’s been a darn good one for the Seahawks over the past three years, leading the team in catches and yards as a rookie and ranking second in both categories last year playing frequently in the slot.
One could argue that Baldwin just signed a three-year, $13 million extension this offseason precisely because of his work in the slot.
But Baldwin’s problem with the label “slot receiver” is that it limits him. Baldwin primarily played as an outside receiver at Stanford, and time and time again has thrived as a flanker or split end when injuries have put him into those positions as a Seahawk. It’s not that Baldwin has anything against playing in the slot; he just wants to be known as more than a one-trick pony.
“I think I’m versatile in many ways, and I personally think that if any receiver wants to relegate themselves just to the slot, they’re limiting themselves,” Baldwin said. “There are many guys who have been able to display an ability to play the slot and play outside, and I think I’m one of those guys.”
The good thing for Baldwin is that he’ll get every chance to prove he is more than a slot receiver in 2014. With Golden Tate leaving in free agency, Baldwin is now Seattle’s starting split end. Sure, he’ll still line up in the slot plenty often, especially in three and four-receiver sets, but this year Baldwin will be on the field more often, likely be a target more frequently, and have more chances to prove himself in one-on-one matchups with opponents’ top cornerbacks.
“I’ll get a lot more passes thrown my way, that’s not a problem,” he said with a grin. “That’s different, and obviously I enjoy that. But I’ll still go into the slot at times. I like both positions.”
While Baldwin is confident at both positions, he explains that there are notable differences between the two.
“Being outside is different because the releases have to be different,” he said. “In the slot you have a three-way go — you can go inside, outside or just go off the ball. On the outside you’re designated to one side of the field, so a lot of the times teams will use that leverage to their advantage. So you have to be more creative with your releases, you have to be a little stronger with your releases, so I’m incorporating that into my game.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film of Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, trying to change my game back to being outside. It’s a mentality.”
Baldwin admits playing in the slot in some ways comes more naturally to him — it appeals to the basketball player in him, he says. But if moving back to an outside position is requiring an adjustment period, it certainly hasn’t been showing in training camp.
While Harvin has the “wow” factor and Seattle’s two rookies, Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood have turned heads, Baldwin has by far been the most consistent playmaker throughout camp. And sure he still makes the tough, chain-moving catches over the middle, but Baldwin’s move outside also has allowed him to show off some underrated speed and strong route-running ability to make plays on deep balls.
“I think Doug Baldwin is going to really shine this year,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “He’s doing a tremendous job of catching the ball. He did a great job last year and he’s just improving.”
And Wilson notes, the relationship between the two of them is still growing. Baldwin missed much of 2012 training camp and battled injuries for much of that year, so he and the then-rookie quarterback never really got on the same page. They started forming chemistry last season, and with a full season and another training camp together, things should only improve in 2014.
“He’s just really improving, and that’s the thing about Doug, he’s going to out-work pretty much anybody, that’s his mindset,” Wilson said. “That rubs off to the other receivers … Doug Baldwin is definitely leading the way on that.”
Rookie DE Cassius Marsh injured
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll singled out Cassius Marsh as one of the bright spots in last week’s preseason opener. Now the availability of the rookie defensive end is in question for this week’s game following an injury suffered in Wednesday’s practice.
Marsh got tangled up in the pile with offensive linemen on a run drill. Marsh limped off the field, then eventually into the locker room. Carroll was not available to the media Wednesday, so no update was available other than that Marsh has a knee injury and will have an MRI done to check the severity of the injury. Carroll is expected to speak to the media Thursday and should have some sort of update on Marsh then.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.