The Seahawks see it too. How could they not?
Yes, their new No. 15 looks and moves and hops a lot like their old No. 15, and what’s not to like about that?
And it makes sense: John Ursua closely studied Doug Baldwin’s movements and mannerisms during Baldwin’s illustrious career with the Seahawks. Now Ursua, as a rookie slot receiver, is wearing the same No. 15 jersey Baldwin wore as a rookie in 2011.
Baldwin switched to No. 89 after that, but Jermaine Kearse picked up No. 15 for the bulk of his Seahawks career, and Ursua knows the number carries significance for receivers in Seattle.
“I’ve been kind of enjoying the pressure that I get from it,” Ursua said. “Everybody’s been hitting me up, and they’re like, ‘Hey, 15 is a huge number in Seattle.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, that’s good.’ I’m going to come out here and work regardless. But to know that people have expectations, that’s always fun too.”
At his oldest brother’s urging, Ursua spent time in college breaking down Baldwin’s techniques out of the slot. Ursua, listed at 5-feet-9 and 182 pounds, was the Seahawks’ seventh-round draft pick this spring; Baldwin, 5-10 and 192 pounds, went undrafted out of Stanford.
“I studied Doug so much,” Ursua said. “He’s a dog when he gets out there. He has no fear. You can see it in his demeanor when he steps onto the field.”
Seahawks wide receivers coach Nate Carroll has been part of his father’s staff in Seattle since 2010. He saw Baldwin’s rise, and it’s his job to help get Ursua up to speed now.
“(Ursua’s) balance, his control come from playing multiple sports,” Carroll said. “He’s got a knack for staying on his feet and a knack for making people miss, and an awareness about him. …
“He’s got the physical tools. He can really jump. He’s got good-enough hands, and then the route-running and the releases — we love what we see.”
As for the comparisons to Baldwin?
“We see all the same things,” Carroll said. “Doug had more of a wider stance (and) gait, so does John. So they’ve got that balance where they can go laterally really, really well. He’s not a linear-type player — Tyler (Lockett) is more linear. Doug and John are more hop-hop, jump-jump — lateral. So that’s where the comparison comes. I see it too.
“And with the releases, he’s got a similar knack for it. Obviously, Doug honed his craft for a long, long time. (But) I don’t see much difference in their style of play.”
At Hawaii last season, Ursua had 89 catches for 1,343 yards and led the nation with 16 touchdown receptions. His head coach there, Nick Rolovich, talked earlier this year about the competitive passion that separated Ursua on game days at Hawaii. It’s something Ursua takes pride in.
“That’s not saying I don’t work hard at practice, but when it’s game time it’s time to show up and show all the work you’ve done,” he said. “That’s something I pride myself toward — being a gamer.”
No one in Seattle — maybe ever — displayed more emotion, more passion, on game days than Doug Baldwin, and Nate Carroll wanted to make it clear that the Seahawks aren’t expecting Ursua to mimic that side of Baldwin.
“We’ve got to find out where John’s sweet spot is,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to make him Doug by any means. I want to bring out whatever he is.”
What the Seahawks have seen so far in the preseason has probably been enough to keep Ursua on the 53-man roster when cut-down day arrives Saturday. The 25-year-old rookie appears to be part of the Seahawks’ offensive plans, particularly as injuries to DK Metcalf and David Moore have depleted some of the depth at wide receiver.
In three preseason games, Ursua has four catches for a team-high 100 yards.
“Ursua is awesome out there,’’ Russell Wilson said after Saturday’s preseason game against the Chargers. “He’s always been open. You see him. He’s got this catlike reflex. He’s got this ability that kind of make people miss. It’s pretty special. He’s the guy that led the NCAA in touchdowns. There’s a reason why he scored so much.”
One thing that’s not lost on Ursua is how Baldwin initially impressed the Seahawks as a rookie — on special teams. Ursua has been playing on three special-teams units during the preseason, and he said he’s enjoyed the challenge of learning new blocking techniques on the back line on kickoff returns.
“A lot of the plays he made early (in his career) were on special teams, so that shows what kind of person you are,” Ursua said, adding: “Guys our size in this league, there’s not many of us. So when there is, you have to make sure you gain other people’s respect, and special teams is a great way to do it.”