After being selected by the Chiefs in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, wide receiver Jon Baldwin had Kansas City fans salivating over the thought of another top notch receiving threat lining up across the field from their current number one receiver, Dwayne Bowe.
However, that was not meant to be as Baldwin was involved in a locker room fight with teammate Thomas Jones during training camp and the Chiefs rookie receiver subsequently missed the team’s first five regular season games because of the resulting thumb injury.
Once Baldwin returned he never really got going and its questionable whether Chiefs coach Todd Haley really allowed him to get going. Kansas City quarterbacks rarely seemed to look Baldwin’s way and for a guy who was drafted in the first round and who also happens to be 6’4″, that is unacceptable.
The 22-year-old spent the majority of the season as the Chiefs third receiver behind Bowe and Steve Breaston and he never truly got a chance to show what he could do as the team’s number two receiver like many thought he would be when Kansas City made him the 26th selection in the draft.
Baldwin played with Chiefs starting signal-caller Matt Cassel in just four games before Cassel was finished for the season due to injury and after that he had Tyler Palko throwing him passes for much of the remainder of the year. Palko proved to be unworthy of playing quarterback in the NFL and the fact that Cassel was out for much of the year was yet another big blow to Baldwin’s rookie season.
The Pitt product showed what he is capable of in the Chiefs Monday night contest against the Chargers last season when he had the best game of his young career, hauling in five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin got behind the Chargers secondary and made a great grab for a 29-yard touchdown as he showed the big play ability that fans were expecting to see often from the Chiefs new imposing target.
After making a big splash in primetime, that reception turned out to be Baldwin’s only touchdown of the season. For a team that struggled offensively and particularly at scoring points, the Chiefs failed to utilize their biggest red zone target in the final nine games of the season.
The 2011 season can only be described as a disappointing start to a promising career for Baldwin and he appears hungry to prove that he can be a major contributor in his second season in the league. Baldwin is very active on Twitter and he recently tweeted a video of himself going for a late-night run where he talks about how bad he wants to succeed.
All indications from Chiefs workouts this offseason have been that Baldwin really does want it and that he is finally looking like the guy that Kansas City shrewdly selected in the first round despite some character concerns.
Talent and ability have never been the issue for Baldwin, he was quite productive at Pitt and he showed plenty of ability to go up and come down with difficult catches for big yardage. Cassel and the Chiefs need to give him the opportunity to do so this year and if they do, Kansas City fans will sleep much easier over the uncertain future of franchise receiver Dwayne Bowe. knowing they may have found his replacement.