Washington, Boldin star in new homes

There are deals and there are steals.

As Leon Washington was speeding the length of the field – twice

– on kickoff returns Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks had every right

to wonder what the New York Jets were thinking when they traded the

outstanding running back/kick returner for a fifth-round draft

pick.

And when Anquan Boldin was making three catches in the end zone

for Baltimore, the Ravens could be excused for planning to send the

Arizona Cardinals a sweet thank-you note.

Washington and Boldin headed across the country in the

offseason, and through three weeks of the 2010 schedule they look

like the best acquisitions any teams made. That includes some other

wise moves, from Chicago signing Julius Peppers, to Kansas City

grabbing Thomas Jones, to the Jets adding LaDainian Tomlinson, and

the Dolphins bringing in Brandon Marshall.

”Anquan Boldin showed today why we wanted him to be a Raven,”

coach John Harbaugh said Sunday after Boldin’s eight-catch

performance in a 24-17 win over Cleveland in which the receiver not

only made his 600th NFL catch, but scored three of Baltimore’s

touchdowns. ”He’s our kind of guy. He played (how) we want to

play.”

Boldin might be the missing ingredient on a team with a

dominant, if aging, defense that needs to make a championship run

now. For Joe Flacco to make the next step from competent

quarterback to championship-caliber QB, he needs a premier receiver

in his prime.

That’s Boldin, who couldn’t be the No. 1 target – nor the

highest-paid wideout – as long as he was a teammate in Arizona with

Larry Fitzgerald. But he’s a perfect fit in Baltimore, which has a

dangerous running game but lacked a consistent downfield passing

threat before Boldin was acquired for a third- and fourth-round

pick in April’s draft. Boldin signed a new four-year, $28 million

contract that includes a guaranteed $10 million.

So far, he’s been worth it.

”I was told to come here and be myself,” Boldin said.

”Whatever that entails, go out and make plays.”

To the tune of 20 catches for 287 yards and those three TDs.

Even as Flacco struggled in the two previous games, Boldin was

making plays.

Washington’s plays were infrequent until Sunday’s breakout. He

hasn’t caught a pass this season – he was a standout third-down

back for the Jets – and has only 11 rushes for 29 yards.

But on kickoff returns, as the Chargers learned in Seattle’s

27-20 victory, there’s no catching Washington.

He tied an NFL record with his two TD returns, good for 99 and

101 yards, and is averaging 46.3 per runback. The highest average

for a season is 41.06 by Travis Williams of Green Bay in 1967.

”My thing is not to get satisfied, don’t get complacent and

always give glory to God and work hard,” Washington said after

boosting the surprising Seahawks to 2-1 and a tie atop the NFC West

with Boldin’s former team. ”I’m a talented enough football player

to play football; I was born to play football. I just go out every

week and work hard and know eventually good things are going to

happen.”

Good things don’t always happen to players who change addresses.

Detroit’s Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme and San

Francisco’s Ted Ginn Jr. haven’t won a game in their new locales,

with Delhomme and Ginn sitting out the last two losses with

injuries.

Vanden Bosch was supposed to team with Ndamukong Suh on the

Lions’ revamped defensive line. The former All-Pro end hasn’t been

a major factor in great part because Detroit is so weak at

linebacker and in the secondary.

Delhomme took over for two quarterback flops in Cleveland, Derek

Anderson and Brady Quinn. He had a poor 59.2 passer rating in an

opening loss at Tampa and hasn’t been on the field since because of

the right ankle injury.

Ginn was slated for kick return and wide receiver duties. But a

knee injury in the season opener has shelved him. For what it’s

worth, the 49ers have the second-fewest points in the NFL and fired

offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Monday.

Only Vanden Bosch was a big-money acquisition among those three,

getting $26 million for four years to leave the Titans. That, of

course, pales compared to what Peppers received from the Bears: six

years, $91.5 million, including $42 million guaranteed.

No one in the Windy City is complaining since Peppers blew into

town.

”He’s a big, strong physical guy,” Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga

said. ”He can go over you or he can go around you. He has a good

arsenal of moves and you just have to prepare for all of them and

work your fundamentals well and do everything right. You have to be

on target every time to stop a guy like that.”

Marshall is serving the same role in Miami that Boldin has taken

on in Baltimore. On Sunday night, he was the focal point of the

Dolphins’ offense with 10 receptions for 166 yards and a TD. Miami

lost to the Jets, but Marshall’s performance showed why the

Dolphins parted with two second-round draft picks, then gave him a

four-year contract extension worth an average of about $10 million

a year through 2014.

”Brandon Marshall is a nightmare to cover,” Jets coach Rex

Ryan said. ”He has the great size, the body control, the speed. He

has everything.”

Or at least enough to be a difference maker in his new home.