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Originally published October 26, 2011 at 8:25 PM | Page modified October 27, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Rookie wideouts for Bengals, Seahawks rise on different paths

Bengals' A.J. Green is as advertised out of college, but Seattle's Doug Baldwin is a surprise.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Cincinnati @ Seahawks, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 7

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The pair of rookies are separated by nine catches, but a good six inches.

Cincinnati's A.J. Green stands 6 feet 4, was the first receiver chosen in this year's draft and leads all rookies with 29 catches.

Seattle's Doug Baldwin is 5-10, wasn't among the 28 receivers drafted, and his only pre-draft visit was with the New York Giants that consisted of little more than an introduction to coach Tom Coughlin. But Baldwin has caught 20 passes this season, tops among the Seahawks and fourth-most among all rookies.

"It doesn't matter what situation you're in, anything can happen," Baldwin said.

Baldwin is the inspiring surprise to this Seahawks season — a player that wasn't even invited to the NFL scouting combine who leads the team in receptions.

Green's success is a fulfillment of all the expectations heaped upon him when the Bengals chose him in the first round, No. 4 overall.

"This is what we really expected," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. "We felt like he was the one or two players in the draft that could make a difference."

That cuts to the core of the difference between a slot receiver and someone who lines up on the outside as a split end or flanker and is a threat to blow the lid off any defense.

"They make touchdowns," coach Pete Carroll said of those outside receivers. "Really, it's simply that. Sometimes they make touchdowns all by themselves."

That's not to undercut the importance of a slot receiver. They are essential to an offense's ability to sustain drives and find the cracks in the coverage schemes. The outside receiver is less subtle, providing a constant threat of going over the top.

A lot will be made of the success of Cincinnati's rookie quarterback, and Andy Dalton deserves that. The Bengals' 4-2 record is one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. The best rookie in Cincinnati, though, is Green, who has shown exactly why he and Atlanta's Julio Jones were considered the two top-flight wideouts available in this draft.

"A.J., he's got that stuff," Carroll said. "He's got that quickness, he's got that explosion, he's got the confidence and he has a marvelous catching range. He can make catches that other guys can't make, can't get to."

A year ago, Green was just one of the guys. Every week at Georgia, Green would go to the same Italian restaurant — Carrabba's — with his quarterback and fellow receivers, a group that included Kris Durham, who is now a Seahawks rookie. Green blended into the crowd.

"If you didn't know what he looked like, you wouldn't know who it was," Durham said. "He's very quiet, very to himself."

It's impossible to overlook him on the field, though. He stands out, and not just because he's 6-4.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Catch a rising star
First-round pick A.J. Green leads all rookies in receptions while undrafted Doug Baldwin ranks fourth.
Player Ht. Drafted Rec Yds TDs
A.J. Green, Cincinnati 6-4 1st round (4th overall) 29 453 4
Julio Jones, Atlanta 6-3 1st round (6 overall) 25 358 0
Greg Little, Cleveland 6-3 2nd round (59 overall) 25 234 0
Doug Baldwin, Seattle 5-10 Undrafted 20 330 2
D. Sanzenbacher, Chicago 5-11 Undrafted 19 172 3
Greg Salas, St. Louis 6-1 4th round (112 overall) 15 158 0
Titus Young, Detroit 5-11 2nd round (44 overall) 15 209 0
Denarius Moore, Oakland 6-0 5th round (148 overall) 14 212 2

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