It's finally arrived. The 2012 NFL Season is here with the Kansas City Chiefs arriving in St. Joe's for training camp on Wednesday. Throughout training camp, I'll be here every Thursday to preview one of the key players on the team who might take the next step. This week? Jonathan Baldwin.
Baldwin flashed immense talent last year, but didn't get to showcase his skills very often thanks to a broken hand and a litany of quarterbacks getting the nod.
The University of Pittsburgh product started his first game last year against the Raiders in Week 7 and proceeded to play in every contest afterwards. Baldwin's stats were far from overwhelming, only making 21 catches for 254 yards and one touchdown. In fairness, he was playing a majority of his season with Tyler Palko at the helm.
Negative: Baldwin needs to show that he can get the job done. All of the potential in the world is wonderful, but many players have come and gone in this league with tons of supposed potential that never came to fruition.
The 22-year-old has all the physical tools, but is his mental makeup solid? He appears to be working hard this offseason and from all indications is in shape, but can he co-exist with his teammates? It's a fair question to ask regardless of who was responsible for last training camp's scuffle between he and Thomas Jones.
It's very early in his career, but Baldwin needs to continue to display some maturity this season to prove he was worth a first-round draft pick.
Positive: Of course, that doesn't tell the whole story. Baldwin at times looked like a force of nature, especially on Monday night against the San Diego Chargers. The youngster had his best game to date, hauling in five receptions for 82 yards and one beautiful touchdown in which he skied over Marcus Gilchrist.
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Baldwin is a handful to cover for any corner. He possesses excellent speed and can leap through the roof, leaving shorter and smaller defenders at a sizable disadvantage. Baldwin is one of the more freakishly gifted receivers the Chiefs have come across in years, and showed some of that ability in the catch below.
My Take: Jonathan Baldwin will take a step forward, but not a leap.
Kansas City has a ton of weapons on offense with Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki and Dexter McCluster among others. All of the aforementioned players can catch the ball and gain big chunks of yardage, so it's not as though Baldwin will be the focal point of the attack.
Matt Cassel will be looking for his second-year man more often with a full training camp to develop chemistry, but it's probably unrealistic to expect huge numbers. Baldwin has to prove himself as a playmaker on a consistent basis and that obviously takes time.
I'm looking for Baldwin to have somewhere in the range of 40-50 catches for anywhere between 600-700 yards and around six touchdowns. He won't be considered elite by any stretch with that stat line but it'll be very nice progress.
If Baldwin does indeed take the next step, the Chiefs may as well