Marcus Smith: “I was thinking too much”

Street Talk Marcus Smith: “I was thinking too much”

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WESTMINSTER — The spiral from quarterback Joe Flacco sailed high into the air behind the secondary Saturday morning, spinning perfectly before arriving crisply at its intended destination as it hit Marcus Smith in stride for a touchdown pass.

However, it was a moment that the Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver never got to experience in an actual game as a rookie last season.

After an ultra-productive college career at the University of New Mexico, Smith didn’t catch a single pass last season after being drafted in the fourth round.

Accustomed to generating big numbers, including a school-record 91 receptions for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, Smith played in five games last season and uncharacteristically struggled with his hands as he dropped some routine slants.

"I was thinking too much," said Smith, whose lone statistics were produced by three special-teams tackles. "I knew what I needed to execute, but I was thinking about what might happen instead of what was going on. The game is slowing down for me now."
 
Now, Smith is working hard to build trust and chemistry with Flacco as he heads into his second season.

Although the Ravens are fairly set as far as starting assignments with two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason and former first-round draft pick Mark Clayton, Smith could carve out a niche behind them as he battles with Demetrius Williams and Kelley Washington for playing time.

"That trust comes with time," Smith said. "It’s something that you earn, and that’s what I’ve been doing."

Smith is also slated for a significant role on special teams.

And he’s striving to make people forget that last season ever happened.

After catching 153 career passes for 2,073 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Lobos, Smith is banking on last year being an aberration.

"Definitely, I take that approach," Smith said. "I was used to getting 90 catches, so not getting a catch last year was definitely frustrating. But as long as we’re winning games, that’s all that matters. I’m out there playing my role, picking up a double-team or blocking.

"That was my role last year, and that may change this year. That was my approach and how I took it. The sky’s the limit. More than anything, yes, you’re trying to get consistency and make an impact any chance you get."

Smith regularly displayed signs of refining his technique and overall game during minicamps.

Through a few weeks of training camp, he has alternately flashed some big-play potential while also struggling with some drops at times.

Overall, the belief in Smith is rising.

"Marcus is pushing," running back Ray Rice said. "At the end of last year, Marcus was emerging. Not just as a receiver, but as a football player. I definitely see the difference in him. You’ll see him making plays at receiver and on special teams."

Smith drew a key pass interference penalty in the AFC championship game that led to a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Smith arrived in the NFL with a reputation for being sure handed, he’s still working to dispel the perception he created last season as a rookie.

"I don’t think he has any confidence issues," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "He’s a physical player. I think these preseason games are really big for him. I mean, really big for him.

"The blocking that he does, the crack blocking, his route-running is 10 times as good as it was a year ago. And we’re going to push the ball to him here in the preseason and give him some opportunities to make some plays."

Smith is a muscular 6-foot-1, 215-pound converted running back who’s capable of bullying smaller defensive backs with his superior size and strength.

The former All-Mountain West Conference selection from San Diego is an aggressive runner after the catch, often choosing to run through interference rather than take evasive action.

"Being a football player in general, when you get the ball, you become a runner," Smith said. "A big part of my game that separates me is my physical nature being that I was a running back and outweigh everyone by at least 10 pounds. My physical nature can wear out the defensive backs by the fourth quarter after I pancake them on a block."

One year removed from being shut out of the receiving charts, Smith has set some ambitious goals for this season.

He’s determined to turn it around and live up to his potential.

"My confidence is going up every day, it’s on a steady incline," Smith said. "I would like to make a couple starts, score a couple touchdowns and make it to the Pro Bowl on special teams."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital
Photo by Sabina Moran

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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