Smith Will Not Be Shaken By New Responsibilities
By Cian Fahey
Torrey Smith was forced to mature much faster than most children. The Baltimore Ravens’ top receiver was the oldest of seven kids to a single mother who attended community college by day and worked at night. As the eldest member of his family outside of his mother, Smith was put in a position that required him to help his mother and play a large part in guiding the rest of his siblings as if he were an adult.
For Smith, nothing on the football field will ever intimidate him, because he has already undergone so much off of it.
This proved to be the case last year when Smith starred in a regular-season game against the New England Patriots, despite losing his brother within 24 hours of kickoff. Two of Smith's eight touchdowns for the season came in that game, as he finished with six receptions for 127 yards. It was just another example of how the former second-round selection of the 2011 NFL Draft isn't fazed by adversity.
After entering the league, Smith surpassed expectations during his rookie year finishing with 50 receptions, 841 yards and seven touchdowns. The transition from college star to NFL starter is not easy for young receivers. They must quickly learn their new playbooks, develop a rapport with their quarterback and figure out how to read coverages or they will struggle to see the field. Smith saw the field and started 14 games as a rookie. The then-22-year-old carried his form from the regular season into the postseason.
He initially struggled, getting just nine receiving yards against the Houston Texans, but had three receptions for 82 yards against the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Smith's exciting displays were overshadowed by the overall disappointment that engulfed the franchise after coming so close to a Super Bowl berth.
Nonetheless, Smith would remind them all the following season. His statistics weren't too dissimilar during his second season, but his performances didn't fall off either. Jacoby Jones' arrival coupled with the emergence of Dennis Pitta took away from his statistical production, but Smith continued to make big plays down the field. Most importantly, Smith improved his average yards per reception and as a route runner. Despite the fact that teams understood his level of speed because of his rookie tape, they still couldn't stop him from getting down the field.
This would prove key in the playoffs.
Smith finished the 2012 Super Bowl run with 11 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns. His displays wouldn't be overshadowed by any disappointment after the Ravens finished what they started this time by winning the Super Bowl. Although his play in the postseason was outstanding and pointed to even more untapped potential, the most important move for the young receiver would come during the offseason.
Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome traded away star WR Anquan Boldin for next to nothing (a sixth-round pick) at a point when the Ravens had some cap issues. However, as the offseason developed, it appeared that Boldin's trade to the San Francisco 49ers was made possible because of Smith's expectations. The Ravens had plenty of spare cap space after re-signing Joe Flacco and even after making some other free-agent moves. Boldin's $6 million figure wasn't as big a problem as it was initially perceived to be. With Boldin gone, Smith will now be forced to slip into his former teammate’s veteran leader role.
Putting the responsibility that comes with being a leading receiver on an NFL team on the shoulders of a 24-year-old receiver, who is entering his third season in the league, is borderline reckless. But given what he has dealt with to this point, putting that responsibility on the broad shoulders of Smith doesn’t figure to shake the youngster one bit.