Jon Baldwin’s Second Season

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The talk of Chiefs Nation during training camp seems to begin and end with one player’s spectacular display: Jon Baldwin.

And the reason for Baldwin’s showing is because of Dwayne Bowe not showing.

Bowe is one of the last remaining holdouts in the NFL, and while many are expecting him back before the season, there doesn’t seem a lot of hope he arrives before preseason, and less hope he sees training camp whatsoever. While Bowe’s absence might have been crippling in any other year he has been with the team, the Chiefs have been moving forward with what could be his heir apparent. It seems that daily reports coming out of camp record an incredible catch that Baldwin made. And although I haven’t been to camp in St. Joseph to see for myself (geography), the media has done enough with their words to get me excited.

Baldwin’s first season as a Chief was filled with disappointment, and it started even before he broke his hand in a fight. It was this time last year after the lockout finally ended and teams were able to assemble their training camps when fans and media alike got to take a look at their team’s new first round pick. What fans, including myself saw, was a very big wide receiver who wasn’t standing out. I was at the camp last season, and I saw what the Kansas City sports talk stations were reporting: Baldwin was losing physical battles to smaller defensive backs. If Baldwin was jammed at the line, it would alter his route to that of an unrecognizable pattern no quarterback would trust throwing to. He was being man-handled at the line of scrimmage, and although he had the hands to make the catch, he didn’t seem to have the toughness or desire to get open when a defender hit him early.

The lackluster training camp was followed up with an injury that would limit Baldwin to just 11 games and 21 catches in his rookie campaign. Being one of just three wide receivers selected in the first round of 2011, Baldwin’s 254 yards and 1 TD were dwarfed in the shadows of his peers. A.J. Green would go on to have 65 catches for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs and Julio Jones would finish the season with 54 catches, 959 yards and 8 TDs. And although Baldwin was probably never going to be put in the position to gather those kinds of stats last season behind Bowe and Steve Breaston, injury or no injury, he still has to think about what could have been and what can be done.

As impressive as Green’s and Jones’ seasons were in 2011, they are more of the exception than the norm. Baldwin’s struggles are much more common of a storyline amongst rookie wide receivers, and they are also correctable. It’s a rule of thumb that receivers are given three years to fully develop into an NFL player, but Baldwin needs to work hard not to get sucked into the undertow of failed potential that litters the history of first round wide receivers.

Between 2000 and 2010, 45 wide receivers were drafted in the first round. Of those 45, only three have gone for 900+ yards in their rookie season (Andre Johnson, Michael Clayton, and our very own Dwayne Bowe) like Green and Jones did in 2011. In fact, based on all these players, one can realistically expect a rookie receiver to go for about 36.2 catches and 508.5 yards. Baldwin, in his injury-shortened season, was below this average.

And while Green and Jones look like they may go on to be the best in the game at their position, just because a wide receiver doesn’t start off their career like them doesn’t mean they should expect failure. Many others had very Baldwin-esque beginnings; and while some of them were complete busts, either due to effort or injury, and washed out of the league in a short amount of time – R. Jay Soward, Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Craig Davis, etc. – there are plenty that improved with time and became some of the best in the league.

Plaxico Burress had an uneventful rookie season, catching 22 balls for 273 yards and no scores. He then went on to have 66 catches, 1,008 yards and six TDs in his second year. Reggie Wayne, sitting behind Marvin Harrison, only caught 27 passes for 345 yards and no scores his rookie season. His sophomore year, he caught 49 for 716 yards and 4 TDs. Even Roddy White didn’t start being dominant until his third year, only putting up 952 yards in his first two seasons combined before breaking out in 2007.

While looking at these players and the success they had after a slow start is nice, it can also be wishful thinking. Baldwin is a Chief, so I try to maintain a glass-half-full mindset about him; but success, like the three players I mentioned above, is often rare. Nothing is certain in the NFL, but what is certain for me is a set of numbers that Baldwin will have to achieve before I feel confident about him going past the 2012 season. Out of those 45 wide receivers drafted in round one between 2000 and 2010, all but three went on to have a second season (the exceptions being R. Jay Soward, Rashaun Woods, and the Chiefs very own Sylvester Morris). So given the 42 remaining players, this is the line Baldwin has to achieve to keep pace with the average: 48.4 catches, 691.2 yards, 4.7 TDs.

In other words, can Baldwin achieve about 49 catches for about 700 yards and about 5 TDs.

It’s going to be a crowded receiving corps — between Baldwin, Breaston, Dexter McCluster, Devon Wylie, and Bowe when he returns — considering the Chiefs are a run-first team. Bill Williamson of ESPN, however, believes Baldwin can at least achieve the catch part of his target line. In a mailbag question, Williamson said that 50 catches for Baldwin this season is a “steep, but reasonable, expectation.” If Baldwin gets his 50 touches and maintains the same yards per catch he did last season (12.1), he’s looking at 605 yards. Still short, however, of the target line I have made for him in my mind.

But 2012 has yet to be written, and Baldwin has a lot to prove. This training camp seems to have raised his stock in the minds of everyone watching. Not having seen him myself, I can only take the word of those who have that he has vastly improved from his training camp display a year ago. Assuming that, is it crazy to think Baldwin can’t achieve these numbers? As Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star wrote, “Cassel already looks more comfortable with the youngster than he ever has with Bowe. There’s more confidence that Baldwin will run a perfect route, will be there when the ball arrives, will hold onto it when it hits his hands.”

As Bowe continues to holdout, Baldwin is making his teammate less important. He’s doing all the right things, he’s making all the catches; he’s a buzz-builder, a secret weapon, a player determined to make a name for himself. Bowe, on the other hand, is beginning to have the necessity of his presence questioned, and not just by fans.

So what do you think, Chiefs nation? Can Baldwin achieve the 49/700/5 line I established, or will he fall short? Maybe more importantly, how will Bowe be impacted by Baldwin’s performance? Fill up the comments section.

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  • Lenny Lieurance

    Cassel more comfortable with Baldwin than he ever has with bowe huh? I call bullshit on that one. 2 thousand yard seasons say different.

    • http://powellbailbonds.weebly.com/ big chief

      Have to pull the bs card with you here.

  • Danny W

    Nathan
    We have Boss, Tony Moe, McCluster, Hillis, Charles, Bowe, Breaston, and we can’t leave out Maneri, and possibly Wiley. Baldwin has an excellent camp with some circus catches and is clicking with Matt Cassel and your trying to handicap him to your expectations?
    I know there isn’t much to write or blog about right now on the Chiefs front and I get tired of hearing nothing but star crazed Chiefs post so I get what your attempting I think. I’m just missing the logic in giving Baldwin a number to live up to when Bowe will be back, we have more offensive weapons then maybe anyone in the NFL, and a Quarterback who isn’t known for his long ball.
    Here’s what will make Baldwin not be bust.
    1) Makes catches he is supposed to, not circus style catches, just ones NFL receivers are supposed to make.
    2) No diva whine bag crap because he’s not getting the ball. He will get frustrated at some point I’m sure because we have 9 other capable bodies, how he handles it will tell a lot.
    3) Blocking. If he blocks like Bowe does when Charles and Hillis are running in the secondary around the end, then he is playing like a team player.
    Baldwin will not disappoint you I’m sure. He will get some crazy circus catches and will probably have around the yards your saying he needs to have to live up to your expectations that you should admit will be hard for anyone to hit on this team this year if all of our weapons are healthy and used evenly..

  • micah stephenson

    Matt Cassel wit a QB rating of 152.8 fridays game. All summa long the Haters was hating on Cassel. Now they so quiet. Wur all the haters go so fast? Lol

    • Michael Shaw

      It is the pre-season, it doesn’t matter and I still say Matt isn’t the QB of the future for this team. Even if he has another 2010 season I will STILL say he isn’t worth $60 million freaking dollars. That is the kind of money you pay Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Andy Dalton and god help me for saying this as much as I hate the kid as a QB, Mark Sanchez. Now can you tell me what all of these guys have in common?

      • http://powellbailbonds.weebly.com/ big chief

        You just named a bunch of qb’s with a lot of talent around them that fall short in big games and have a combined zero Superbowl appearances much less rings. So why are they worth the money but he isn’t considering they are all in the same accomplishments club? Just trying to understand the logic.

      • micah stephenson

        It may be preseason but haley was 1-11 and Romeo is 1-0 in preseason games. It may only b preseason but having a GOOD O cordinator in Duboll like we did in C.Wies means Cassel will hav a chance to hav his best season. U cant act like that 1st string offense dont look waaaay better now than at anytime last yr. 60 million aint that much. Manning, Breeze, Vick all have 100 million dolla contracts. I bet D.Bowe wants a 5 yr/100 mill contract. For years this team hasnt had much talent around the QB, but the Haters want to blame everything on the QB. Now we finally have enuff talent around him to do sum n.

      • micah stephenson

        Those QBs hav n common that all of them hav made the playoffs on better teams wit better talent, but still havnt done anything more than Cassel has.

    • Danny W

      Hey Micah if he does well I will be the first to say I WAS WRONG. I’ll be glad to because my team will be winning. Let me make some points.
      Can you name one guy on the cards secondary, besides, Pat Peterson? What about anyone who can rush the passer? Matt Cassel completed his small throws well, and thats fine but he didn’t look as good as RG3 A Luck, or Russell Wilson did and their rookies. It’s the first game of the preseason, so try and temper your ego trip with the I was right and you were wrong for now would yah? If he has the passer rating that high this year and doesn’t turn around every other game and have a rating in the 30′s the next game then your on to something. He did nothing spectacular against Arizona then make common throws all NFL quarterbacks should make.

      • micah stephenson

        And I also said if Cassel sucks this yr I will b the 1st one calling for his head on a platter. Without looking it up Richard Marshall and Greg Toler are good DBs. Adrian Wilson is one of the best safetys in the nfl. BOTH Calais Cambell and Darnell Docket are better than any of our Dlinemen at pass rushing. And Mlb Daryl Washington is also pretty good. Cassel and RG3 had similer numbers. Luck passed the ball a gigantic whopping 3 whole yards to the RB and he ran 60 sum n yrds for a td against possibly the worst team in football the Rams. I am right that Haley has held Cassel back, our oline pass protection has sucked, we played all of last yr without an NFL caliber TE, our Rbs Jones and Battle sucked, Bill Muir sucks, & we havnt had much at wr. And if you say all that is Cassels fault or any Elite QB cud win with that mess you are WRONG. You said Cassel didnt look as good as those rookie QBs and you hav that right. I do know Cassels numbers wur better than P.Mannings, P.Rivers, C.Palmers, A.Rogers, & M.Vick jus to name a few. Lol then you want to discredit his throws by calling them small throws. His 25 yard pass to dex was perfect even tho cassel aledgedly cant throw deep or accurately. Let me guess u still gon say he didnt complete any 50-80 yard passes tho, even tho the field is only 100 yrds and who drops back and launches it downfield 50 yrds on everyplay anyway?

        • Danny W

          You looked up those DB’s names Micah.
          Dont twist my words and look at Andrew’s multiple touchdown throws not just his check downs. If Cassel can have a 135 game then not turn around and have 35 qb rated game then he will have improved. You can boast about how right you were and how wrong everyone else is in the first preseason game against the Cardinals but trust me when I say you will sound a lot smarter if you give it sometime instead of letting your ego run crazy over a preseason quarter.

          • micah stephenson

            O trust me I didnt look them up. If you play madden online franchise mode u prolly know every DB on every team. Trading for tall fast cbs is wat everyone wants to do. We just played the Cardinals so y wudnt I know who they hav. Right now im studing the rams personel. I know almost everyone on the chiefs roster and most of the good players on all the other teams, alot of it has to do wit the fact i prolly make more trades on madden in online franchise mode than most. My friends call me to ask most football ?s. I like how u want to compare Cassel to A.Luck wen Luck supose to b the next manning. Cassel only had 2 drives. 1 ending in a td pass to hillis, and another drive wur he had a 25 yard pass to dex set n the chiefs up inside the 5 yrd line for an easy run for a td. You also say its only preseason so wait till Cassel do it in a regular game but you dont say its only a preseason game wen Luck, RG3, or Wilson puts up good numbers. Luck went 10-16 wit 2 tds. If cassel had 16 passes his numbers shuda looked like around 13-16 176 yards 3tds. A.Luck played the Rams not the Ravens.

      • micah stephenson

        You said he did nothing but make the throws a common NFL QB shud. I guess you wont b impressed till he starts making throws so impressive that not even the common nfl QB cuda(could have) made that throw. Mayby Cassel needs to complete more 50-99 yrd throws b 4 he gets any credit.

  • Talicore

    Jones breaking his hand may have been the best thing that could have happened to him. For a supposed “trouble” player, he seems to have his head on his shoulders. Doing and saying the right things right now. Humbling experience at the beginning of last year, translating to what we are seeing now? I’ll take it :)

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