Doug Baldwin started the season as the third receiver on the Seahawks depth chart, behind Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, respectively. On Sunday against the Panthers, Baldwin put on a show and acted very much the part of a top target.
He led the team in catches with seven for 91 yards, the most he has had since December 2011. More importantly, Baldwin was there when Russell Wilson needed him, catching four third-down conversions that lead to first downs.
The third-year wideout was limited to 29 receptions last season due to injuries, but believes if he can keep his health up, he can have a good year — and the Seahawks would love that. After Sunday’s victory, Baldwin spoke with the Seattle Times:
“I think I’m just healthy,” Baldwin said. “Last year I was coming off of a lot of hamstring injuries and a whole bunch of other stuff that we don’t even talk about. I felt healthy out there today, and then obviously to go through the entire preseason with Russell and take all the first-team snaps, I was able to build a chemistry and a rapport, and I think that showed up today.”
While Baldwin was Wilson’s top target on Sunday, seven other receivers caught at least two passes to give Wilson 320 passing yards for the day.
The Seahawks may be able to utilize that passing game — and Baldwin — next week to exploit a San Francisco 49ers secondary that gave up 322 passing yards to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in their season opener.
The last time the Seahawks played the 49ers, the Hawks dominated San Francisco in a 42-13 rout at CenturyLink Field near the end of last season. In that game, Wilson threw for 171 yards while the rushing game, led by Marshawn Lynch, racked up 176 yards on the ground. However, Wilson had a career-high four touchdown passes — two of which went to Baldwin.
Baldwin could be an impact player in this year’s first match up against the 49ers as well. If he can have a big day the way he did against the Panthers, the Seahawks should start the season 2-0.
And using Baldwin may not even be an option for the offense. If Marshawn Lynch struggles to get going against a tough 49ers run defense, the Hawks will look to Wilson to start throwing. With Sidney Rice still nursing a sore knee, Baldwin will be on the field with Golden Tate more than usual, which could be the key factor in a Seahawks victory.