On the heels of signing a record-shattering contract, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will enter his first NFL season without the services of reliable receiver Doug Baldwin, who had his contract terminated with a failed physical designation earlier this month.
Dominating opponents for six years together in Seattle, Wilson posted a 115.9 passer rating and completed 72.5 percent of his 680 total targets intended for Baldwin. Including the postseason, the duo hooked up for 49 touchdowns, emerging as one of the best quarterback/receiver tandems in the sport.
“He had this fire that you didn’t see in anybody else, almost in a way.” Wilson said following Tuesday’s OTA session. “And I think that in terms of his passion, his love for the game, his love for just competing, his love for making plays, I mean, when the game’s on the line, he’s going to make a play, you know, and so, you’re going to miss that for sure. Going to miss his leadership, I’m going to miss his work ethic.”
With his departure into retirement, Wilson knows the Seahawks will be hard-pressed to replace the legendary Baldwin on the field and in the locker room.
But while he acknowledged losing a Pro Bowl receiver like Baldwin leaves a significant void offensively, Seattle’s franchise signal caller can’t wait to break in a talented young group of receivers this summer.
“I know one thing, I’m excited to play quarterback here just to be able to throw it to these guys and how many guys are going to be able to get open, create separation and make plays.”
Preparing for life without Baldwin, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll invested three of their 11 picks in last month’s draft on receivers, selecting D.K. Metcalf out of Ole Miss, Gary Jennings out of West Virginia, and John Ursua out of Hawaii.
Headlining the group, Metcalf has already left teammates, coaches, and media members in awe during his few short weeks as a Seahawk. After lighting it up at rookie minicamp, Wilson had his first chance to throw to the 6-foot-3, 228-pound “freak of nature” and was blown away.
“He’s a guy that can run as fast as can be. He can go up and get it, he can run all the routes and stuff like that. So it’ll be exciting to see his evolution, I think his work ethic and everything else.”
Along with Metcalf’s arrival, a returning core featuring Tyler Lockett, David Moore, and Jaron Brown will give Wilson plenty of experienced talent at his disposal on the outside.
Coming off a career year in which he nearly hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time and caught 10 touchdowns, Wilson believes Lockett can take yet another step forward in his progression to help offset the loss of Baldwin.
“It’s his time to step up again. He’s going to have to play a major, major role this year, which he’s one of the best receivers in the league and all the things he can do to separate.”
As Carroll has mentioned multiple times this offseason, Seattle hopes to get Brown more touches after underutilizing him during his first year in Seattle. Wilson lauded him for his leadership and ability to create separation, citing him as the “ultimate professional.”
As for Moore, he could be Seattle’s ultimate wild card, as some fans have forgotten about how well he played during the middle of the 2018 season before ending the year mired in a slump.
At one point, Moore caught 20 passes for 374 yards and five touchdowns during a seven-game stretch, emerging as one of Wilson’s favorite weapons. After finishing with just four receptions in his final five games, becoming more consistently reliable will be the biggest key for him entering his third season.
“I mean, you saw what he could do last year.” Wilson said. “And I think for him it’s the consistency and just staying hot, cause when he gets hot, [when] he’s on, he’s unstoppable. And so we want to get him the ball as much as we can.”
Unexpectedly, forgotten former third round pick Amara Darboh also drew praise from Carroll and Wilson, who indicated he put together two great practices to kick off OTAs.
There’s never been a question about the ex-Michigan standout’s talent, but injuries have hindered Darboh’s development during his first two seasons in the league. He spent a brief spell with the Patriots last September before reverting back to the Seahawks injured reserve and didn’t play a single snap in 2018.
With past experience playing the slot at Michigan, Darboh could be a surprise contender to replace some of Baldwin’s snaps if he can stay on the field.
With three draft picks as well as two intriguing undrafted free agents in Jazz Ferguson and Terry Wright added to a stable already featuring Lockett, Brown, Moore, and a host of others, an intense competition will play out over the next few months. Once the dust settles, Wilson may have the deepest receiving corps he’s had in eight seasons in Seattle, a welcome development for the league’s top paid quarterback.
“It’s going to be exciting competition to watch guys evolve and it’s a long, long preseason. It’s a long off season and everything else. But the guys who want to work, the guys who want to be great, the guys who are going to do the extra work, the guys who at the end of the day are going to make a play and want to make the play, those are the guys are going to make it and we’re going to have a lot of great players.”