KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs seemed to make a point of showcasing wideout Jon Baldwin — who had been invisible for most of their preseason opener — last Friday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
Baldwin was targeted three times in the Chiefs’ 15-13 preseason loss, but came away with no receptions to show for it. All three opportunities neatly summed up his short tenure in the City of Fountains: On the first, a fade route in the end zone, he stumbled during the route and was unable to separate from two defenders; on the last, he just flat-out dropped a clean ball from new quarterback Alex Smith.
“You have to catch the football,” coach Andy Reid said on a conference call the day after the game.
Baldwin couldn’t. Which goes a long way toward explaining why the former first-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft was traded Monday morning to the Niners for another underachieving first-rounder, receiver A.J. Jenkins.
“We felt like this trade was beneficial for all parties involved,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a news release. “A.J. is a talented individual with a skill set that we feel can add value to our football team. Jon Baldwin is a hardworking player and a professional. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Baldwin had been tapped by former personnel boss Scott Pioli with the No. 26 pick overall two drafts ago as a potential bookend to trot out opposite of star wideout Dwayne Bowe. But despite impressive physical credentials — at 6 feet 4 with prodigious length, he’s a big target — Baldwin struggled with the rudiments of the position, especially getting open against live competition and, once open, securing the football in game situations. He’s notched 41 catches over the past two seasons, but collected just 20 last season over 10 starts. He also drew attention, in a bad way, during an altercation with veteran running back Thomas Jones two years ago this month that left him with an injured wrist.
“We keep shooting the ball to him and that’s the thing, and you don’t know what you will get out of him,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson told reporters Sunday. “If he is in a slump, and I don’t think he is, I just think he needs to continue to focus and detail his work. Alex (Smith) has the utmost trust in him and is still going to throw him the football.
“You slowly work yourself out of, if he’s down from drops or mental errors or whatever it is, you just work yourself out of it. You continue to press on. We always talk about short-term memory. You have to have it in this business and move on.”
Only in this case, the Chiefs are doing exactly that.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.