Torrey Smith has proven his critics wrong.
I know. I was one of them.
When Smith first came into the league, I thought he was one-dimensional. I thought speed was all he had to offer. Since then he’s shown everyone that, in addition to being incredibly fast, he’s tough and clutch.
Three particular games in Torrey Smith’s career are evidence that he’s clearly Baltimore’s top receiver:
- at Pittsburgh in 2011 (five receptions, 71 yards, 14.2 yard average, one touchdown–the game winner)
- versus New England in 2012 (six receptions, 127 yards, 21.2 yard average, two touchdowns)
- at Denver in the 2012 divisional playoff game (three receptions, 98 yards, 27.3 yard average, two touchdowns)
Now the question becomes: Who’s No. 2?
The favorite will likely come down to either Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones or Marlon Brown. I think the Ravens will hold Jones back a bit to keep him fresh for his role in the return game. The other eight wide receivers currently on Baltimore’s roster simply don’t have enough experience. That’s not to say they won’t turn into fine players, but in terms of being named a second starter on an NFL offense, they’re not there yet.
So when looking at who will be Baltimore’s second wide out, we’re left with Brown and (Steve) Smith.
Size versus savvy.
Brown (6’4″, 205 pounds) had a strong rookie season in 2013. He made 49 receptions for 524 yards on an offense that ranked 29th overall. In addition, Brown led all Ravens with seven touchdowns a season ago.
Steve Smith was a big reason why the Carolina Panthers had a first-round bye in last year’s playoffs. Although 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns might not seem like a typical Smith stat line, Smith is averaging 64 receptions and five touchdowns per season over his 13-year career, so it’s not like he barely did anything. He was the second-leading receiver on the team and was tied for the most targets (109) with tight end Greg Olsen.
Either Brown or Smith would be a solid choice as the Ravens’ No. 2 wide receiver, but to more accurately answer this question we ought to address what will be asked of that player.
It’s my opinion that the Ravens will ask their No. 2 receiver to run routes that would convert third downs and that might be second or third in the progression (quick slant, shallow cross, over, option, post, corner). This player ought to excel at beating press coverage and catching passes in traffic.
Although I think Brown is the better red zone target, I believe the Ravens’ starting wide receivers in Week 1 will both be named Smith. Brown will see plenty of playing time, but Smith is too valuable not to have him in the starting lineup. His physicality, tenacious blocking and football acumen collectively convince me.