CHARLOTTE — Like any receiver worth his salt, Doug Baldwin wants the ball in his hands during critical stretches of the game.
But Baldwin also understands he’s a couple rungs down the pecking order when it comes to ball distribution for the Seattle Seahawks.
“Sometimes on third down it might call for me to get open and get the route,” Baldwin said. “Or it might be for me to be a decoy for someone else to get the ball. The majority of the balls are going to go to Sidney (Rice) and Golden (Tate) just because they are the main guys, and every once in a while they’ll give me an opportunity to go out there and make a play.”
The Seahawks threw a league-low 405 times in 2012, but that number should go up with quarterback Russell Wilson continuing to develop as a passer in his second season.
Rice led the Seahawks in targets last season with 82, followed by Tate with 67. The arrival of Percy Harvin figured
to lessen the number of balls headed Rice’s and Tate’s way. However, with Harvin starting the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after hip surgery, that has opened up more chances for someone like Baldwin.
“I think that’s where I got in trouble last year,” said Baldwin, who finished with 29 catches for 366 yards and three touchdowns, after leading the Seahawks in receptions his rookie season in 2011. “I was trying so hard to make a play because my opportunities were few and far between. You’ve got to take advantage of the one’s you get. So I’m trying not to put so much emphasis on them, and just go out there and play football, and let it happen naturally.”
Seahawks tight end Zach Miller and Wilson developed a better rapport during the backstretch of the 2012 season. Miller finished with 34 receptions for 385 yards and 3 TDs in the final eight games of the regular season and the two playoff games.
“He does a real good job of reading his progression,” Miller said about Wilson. “So if one guy’s covered up, and they want to take one guy away, it’s going to open up other guys in this offense. He’s not going to force a ball downfield. He’ll take his check down, and that guy can go get the first down.”
Wilson completed passes to 12 different receivers last year and said his approach to spreading the ball around won’t change.
“It’s one of those things where I have to trust my reads and throw to the right guy at the right time and hopefully they make the play and I trust that,” Wilson said. “I trust in everybody and hopefully they trust in me to make the right decision.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said that while he wants to get the receivers more involved, Seattle remains a run-first offense that will lean on Marshawn Lynch to establish a tempo for this team. The Seahawks ran it a league-high 536 times in 2012.
“The good thing is we’ve got good players at a lot of different spots,” Bevell said. “There’s times where Sidney Rice goes for 100 yards, and then the next week it’s Zach. It just depends on how the defense decides to deploy their personnel, and where we’re able to find matchups.
“We’re always looking for that. We’re always trying to exploit the defense the best way we can.”
Ultimately, Baldwin understands that if he gets open, Wilson will find him.
“Obviously, he wants to spread the ball around and make guys happy,” Baldwin said. “But at the same time, he’s going to get it to the guys that are open. And then the game plans go in every week, and they determine who’s going to get the ball.
“There’s some plays where a guy will be in a certain spot so he can get the ball. And that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with Russell. He’s just playing football.”
SEATTLE at CAROLINA
10 a.m., Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: This is the sixth meeting between the teams. Seattle leads, 3-2. The last time the teams met, Seattle claimed a 16-12 victory at in Charlotte on Oct. 7, 2012. The teams faced off once in the postseason, with Seattle defeating Carolina, 34-14, in the 2005 NFC Championship game at then-Qwest Field (now CenturyLink) to advance to Super Bowl XL.
What to watch: Cornerback Brandon Browner will be a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury suffered at practice on Wednesday. If Browner can’t go, Walter Thurmond would likely be his replacement. In passing situations, Thurmond will move inside to play nickel cornerback, and Byron Maxwell will take his place at the outside position. Seattle coach Pete Carroll also said defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) will be a game-time decision, although he was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report. Defensive end Chris Clemons (knee), offensive lineman Michael Bowie (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jordan Hill (strained biceps) have been ruled out for today’s game. … For Carolina, Quintin Mikell likely will start in place of expected starter Mike Mitchell, who’s doubtful with a calf injury. Mikell played the past two seasons in St. Louis before signing with Carolina on Monday. Rookie running back Kenjon Barner (foot) and cornerback James Dockery (thumb) have been ruled out for Sunday. Receiver Domenik Hixon (hamstring) and starting left guard Amini Silatolu (hamstring) are questionable.
The pick: Panthers, 21-17. Prime numbers
3 Russell WilsonQB5-11206second
The Wisconsin product gets his first real opportunity to show he can avoid a sophomore slump.
64 J.R. SweezyOL6-5298second
Converted defensive lineman will have his hands full against Carolina’s physical defensive front.
23 Bobby WagnerMLB6-0241second
The former Utah State player will shoulder most of the task of keeping his eyes on and keeping up with Cam Newton.
72 Michael BennettDE6-4274fifth
If Cliff Avril does not play, the Hawks are counting on offseason addition Bennett to put pressure on the quarterback.
1 Cam NewtonQB6-5245third
Talented signal caller needs to let the game come to him and not force the issue.
89 Steve SmithWR5-918513th
Wiley veteran still has the speed and athleticism to take over a game.
98 Star LotuleleiDT6-2315first
The first-round selection out of Utah has been a force inside during exhibition play.
41 Captain MunnerlynCB5-10195fifth
Expect the Seahawks to target the smallish cornerback.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams email@example.com