After piling up absurd statistics in 2015, the pressure was on Doug Baldwin throughout the 2016 season to live up to his hefty new contract. While it was unrealistic to expect 15 touchdowns (including playoffs) in consecutive years, Doug set yet another career high in receiving yards (1,128) and still ended the year with 9 teeders (including playoffs).
This incredible campaign finally earned Baldwin his first Pro Bowl nod, which was long overdue.
While ADB’s 2016 numbers indicate his continued ascension into the top tier of NFL wide receivers, the eye test truly pushes him into the echelon of elites. Dougie made some insane catches in 2016.
Let’s take a look at the five finest plays made by Seattle’s most beloved curmudgeon.
5. @ New England Patriots, 2nd Quarter, 10:56
Lined up opposite of Malcolm Butler, Baldwin runs one of the most flawless routes you’ll ever see. He stutter steps before releasing outside of Butler. Once the goal line is reached, Russell Wilson has already thrown the ball to Baldwin’s back shoulder. After a quick little flip of the hips, Doug reaches paydirt for the first of three trips during this game.
This touchdown really demonstrates Baldwin’s ability to be a pure technician when running routes. It also doesn’t hurt that he scored on the guy who single-handedly ended Seattle’s comeback bid in Super Bowl XLIX.
It also didn’t hurt that Baldwin made two more trips to the end zone in this contest to spur on a redemption effort of epic proportions.
Not too shabby, eh?
He also demonstrated his technical prowess on this touchdown against the Rams:
This would’ve made the list, but I know you’d all much rather watch Malcolm Butler get roasted on an infinite loop. Don’t worry. I would too.
4. Arizona Cardinals, 4th Quarter, 8:57
Lined up against a corner in off coverage on the left side, Baldwin runs a simple curl route that hitches just beyond the sticks. The DB takes a bad angle in pursuit, allowing Doug to turn back to the inside. The rest of the play is pure effort from the receiver. Jimmy Graham carries his defender on a seam route into the end zone while the next closest player breaks off from coverage on Tanner McEvoy, but it is too late.
Doug’s ability to will himself into the end zone really shines through on this play, sparking an insane comeback that almost leads to a win for the Seahawks. Despite the team’s inability to finish, Baldwin continues to prove that he is the type of player that can take any touch to the house.
I think the main takeaway from this play is, obviously, that greatness can be achieved at a higher volume when Tanner McEvoy is on the field.
3. Detroit Lions, 4th Quarter, 11:09
On this particular play, Baldwin runs a deep corner route out of the left slot. Since the ball is marked on the right hash, he has more room to gain separation. This also means that pass protection needs to hold up to allow for the route to develop. It does (somewhat) and Wilson, out of a deep drop, is able to wait long enough and fire the ball downfield. Baldwin has his man beaten badly over the top and the execution of the corner route means the safety has no chance to get there in time.
Once the ball arrives, Baldwin makes the great over-the-shoulder grab before expertly tapping both feet and controlling to the ground. In a moment where the Seahawks desperately needed an explosive play in a postseason contest, Dougie delivers.
He makes similar catches nonstop, so it’s hard to put this play higher than third on this list, despite its awesome nature.
2. San Francisco 49ers, 1st Quarter, 10:37
There’s not a lot to analyze here. On 3rd and 10, Wilson feels immediate pressure (not like senses pressure closing in - he feels the fucking rusher touching him because he essentially came unblocked) and rolls to his right. Doug works back to the sideline with his quarterback. Russell tosses a dart towards Baldwin, but it ends up quite a bit too far out in front.
“I’ve gotchu covered, Russ.”
-Doug Baldwin, probably
The diminutive receiver lays out and plucks the ball out of the air like... like... honestly, like only Doug Baldwin would.
We first experienced Doug’s ability to make ridiculous one-handed grabs in January of 2016:
He had another in this year’s wild card contest against the Lions which didn’t quite make the list.
The sample size has reached an extent where there’s no doubt in my mind that Baldwin has become one of the most spectacular receivers in the league.
1. @ New York Jets, 2nd Quarter, 13:17
Field Gulls’ own Lars Russell wrote an entire article about this play after the Seahawks’ win against the Jets. That’s how effing unreal it is.
Lined up again in the left slot, Baldwin runs a deep crossing route that allows him to gain significant separation from his coverage defender. The strong safety is in position to pick up Doug in coverage or make a huge hit if the ball arrives.
The ball arrives.
The first thing to recognize here is that Wilson’s throw is unbelievable. On basically one leg, he threads the needle into the tightest of windows before the safety gets there.
The next realization one must make is that there is no alternate universe where Baldwin holds onto this ball. He takes an absolute shot to the helmet and still finds a way to hang on while he is possibly unconscious. It’s basically impossible that he caught this ball.
Doug was required to come off of the field after the reception, due to the brutal nature of the hit. While this would make many a receiver stay down on the ground, Baldwin pops right back up, ready to roll, save for the NFL’s concussion protocol.
The concept has been gaining national attention over the last year and a half, but Doug Baldwin is truly an elite receiver in the league. He makes absurd receptions left and right that go largely unnoticed. I’ll admit that I take his seemingly not-of-this-earth sorcery for granted on occasion, but only because I’ve grown so accustomed to his on-field divinity.
If he keeps making grabs like these, I don’t frankly give a shit what the rest of the football world thinks.
I’m sure he doesn’t either.
That is all I have to say on the matter.
Note: I’ll be writing pieces like this throughout the offseason for Seahawks defenders and skill position players. If you have a specific player you’d like me to hit next, let me know in the comments!