Jon Baldwin did it again on Tuesday. He was the talk of the Chiefs training camp yet another day when he made a spectacular grab over Arizona cornerback Michael Adams. Baldwin adjusted to an underthrown ball and jumped over Adams to grab it out of the air.
"That's Baldwin," coach Romeo Crennel told the Kansas City Star. "That's what he does. He makes plays. When we give him the chance, he'll make the play for us."
Baldwin's chances increase each day as Dwayne Bowe sits out of training camp. Bowe, who is waiting to sign his tender, is the only receiver the Chiefs have had in a long time worthy of a franchise tag. He has three 1,000-yard seasons. He led the NFL with 15 touchdowns in 2010. Last year, he had 19 receptions for 20-plus yards. As a team, the Chiefs only had 39.
The expectation, after two weeks in St. Joseph, Mo., is that Baldwin is next.
"He feels like he might be the guy, and without Bowe being here, he sees that opportunity," Crennel told the Star. "When we drafted him, we felt good about his talent, about his size, about him going to get the football the way he goes to get it. He worked hard this offseason. He reported in great shape. He has a good attitude, so I anticipate that he'll have a good year."
Baldwin has a lot going in his favor. Not only is Bowe not around, Baldwin also had his first year of OTAs, giving him time to develop a rapport with Matt Cassel. Last year, Baldwin broke his hand in training camp and missed the first five regular season games; he was playing catch up the entire year.
It takes time to get acclimated to the NFL game, and second-year wideouts typically experience a big jump in numbers.
Take a look at these 19 receivers drafted in the first round from 2005 through 2010. First-round picks who played in less than nine games in one of their first two seasons were not included. What's shown is the increase in their numbers from Year 1 to Year 2.
*Meachem underwent knee surgery the year he was drafted (2007), so his rookie season was in 2008.
**Played only 12 games in 2010; played 16 in 2009.
Baldwin had 21 catches, 254 receiving yards and one touchdown in 11 games last season. If you average out that production over 16 games, then add the average increase of the 19 wideouts on the list, Baldwin's expected numbers this season would be 46 receptions, 599 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
That's a nice season, especially if it is next to another productive season from Bowe. But the expectation is that Baldwin will be more of a big-play receiver than those numbers would suggest.
Baldwin, at 6-4 and with a 42-inch vertical leap, is a deep threat in the making. He had only two receptions go for more than 20-plus yards last season -- he should have had three, but one was called back. That catch and his first touchdown of his career were the type of grabs that make Chris Berman thumb through his superlative thesauras. Just watch.
Those are the kind of catches Baldwin is making in camp. In his final two years at Pitt, he averaged 17.6 yards per catch and had 13 touchdowns. Those are the kind of numbers the Chiefs are after.
And if training camp is any indicator, that's what we're in for this season.