At 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, Doug Baldwin rarely has a size advantage over the man across from him.
Yet the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver is one of the most undeniably effective players in the NFL. Since 2015, only Antonio Brown has more receiving touchdowns than Baldwin's 29. The man they call "Angry Doug" is also just one of 11 NFL players to accrue 3,000-plus receiving yards in that same span.
While Baldwin might not be a genetic freak in the mold of Julio Jones, he wins with his route running. Baldwin is widely regarded as one of the game's sharpest route runners, as he often creates massive amounts of separation off the line of scrimmage and at the top of his patterns.
"He's very deliberate in his route-running—sudden would be the word," cornerback Richard Sherman told Seahawks.com of Baldwin in 2017. "Literally if you blink, you miss him. If you're blinking while he's making his move, that's just your biggest mistake. If you haven't seen him before, if you haven't played against him, if you haven't lined up in front of him, he'll take you by surprise. He'll jump up on you quick, it'll be difficult to adjust to his movements and his quickness. He could probably have 2,000 yards if he wasn't double-teamed and things like that all of the time."
How did Baldwin go about building his dynamite route-running skills? In a recent clip from NFL.com's #Back2Camp series, Baldwin reveals that basketball is the key to his ankle-breaking abilities:
"The best workout, best exercise for me, in terms of route running, has always been basketball. So when I'm dribbling or when I'm reading screens or I'm trying to get to the hoop, I'm reading all that stuff. All that stuff translates to the field. So when I'm running my routes, I'm looking at where the guy's feet are. So I'm trying to set those things up," Baldwin says.
Baldwin was an all-area selection in basketball at Gulf Breeze High School (Gulf Breeze, Florida), and he's described the sport as his first love. Baldwin believes shaking a defender in basketball is about reading their positioning and using their own momentum and leverage against them. Creating separation against a defensive back is no different. The Seahawks coaching staff also affords Baldwin freedom in the way he runs his routes, allowing him to utilize his agility and quick feet to the fullest.
"Some guys go to a certain area because that's where they're told or that's what it says on the paper, that's where the line's drawn. I'm able to recognize, 'OK, there might be a little bit more space this direction, or in this angle," Baldwin recently told NFL Network.
Baldwin previously stated much of his route-running prowess can be traced to basketball in the aforementioned Seahawks.com piece. "My favorite (move) is a hop-skip, I call it a hop-skip hesitation. Basically I hop into it, hesitate, then give a jab left or a jab right, then depending on his leverage at that time, then I decide which side I'm going to go to," Baldwin stated, comparing the move to a "basketball crossover dribble, minus the ball." And Baldwin doesn't just draw on his high school hoops experience for this cross-training effect—he can be found participating in pick-up games at public gyms every offseason.
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