NFL players never enter the league expecting to miss time in their first season with a delayed debut. For wide receiver Jon Baldwin, the mishap of him missing five games during his rookie campaign was not anything he, nor any rookie, wants.
His NFL debut came in Week 7 when the Kansas City Chiefs shut out the Oakland Raiders while Baldwin caught only one pass in the game. The following week on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers, Baldwin jumped up in the end zone, with good body control, and snagged a pass from quarterback Matt Cassel to help extend Kansas City's lead by 10 early in the first quarter. The Chiefs eventually went on to win in overtime, 23-20.
Baldwin's best game came against the Chargers in which he had five catches for 82 yards. The touchdown score he had in that game was the only one he had all season. He finished with 21 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown.
After suffering a cracked thumb, Baldwin had to sit out of three preseason games and the rest of training camp. His absence on the practice field set him back, preventing him from learning the offense and getting used to working with Cassel in an NFL environment. Baldwin found very little success in his first year as a pro.
Now, Baldwin is spending his offseason recharging his batteries and preparing for the 2012 season. He stated to the media before the end of OTAs that Brian Daboll's new offense is becoming second nature.
Baldwin is going to be an important piece for Kansas City's success after the Chiefs finished 30th in passing in 2010 and 25th last year.
The Chiefs will be getting back three offensive players from season-ending injuries in Cassel, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki. This offseason, the Chiefs signed running back Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss and right tackle Eric Winston to help the Chiefs offense improve in 2012.
With all of those returning players getting ready to work with the new players, the Chiefs are set to succeed in 2012 and should improve from their 25th placement in the passing department. Baldwin will be playing alongside those players to help the Chiefs compete in the AFC West.
The Chiefs finished OTAs and minicamp without No. 1 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who is seeking a new contract while under the franchise tag. With Bowe not having any understanding of Daboll's offense, the Chiefs feel more comfortable right now with Baldwin, who has practiced and studied through the new offense being implemented to the playbook.
Last season's statistics are not enough to define the former No. 1 draft pick from Pittsburgh. Baldwin, one of three wide receivers taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, is looking forward forward to helping the Chiefs improve from their 7-9 record.
Baldwin impressed Cassel during OTAs (per the Kansas City Star) and is hoping the impressive showing carries over to the regular season. At 6'4" and 230 lbs, Cassel wants to take advantage of his size against cornerbacks to help move the chains and eventually score touchdowns after scoring only 18 on offense last year.
2012 will be a big year for Baldwin. Expect him to make a big leap from his first year as he continues to train and prepare for what could be his breakout season. By the end of the season, Chiefs fans will look back at the 2011 draft and consider the 26th selection a big pickup for a late first-round pick.