Why Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith Is More Complete Than You Think

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Why Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith Is More Complete Than You Think
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Torrey Smith is not just a big-play receiver. He's fine-tuned the other aspects of his game to become a complete receiver.

Over his first two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Torrey Smith has made a name for himself as a home run hitter and one of the premier deep threats in the league.

Despite this fact, it would be a mistake to label him as only a speedster.

It's easy to get sucked in by the big plays and miss all the finer points of his game, but he's shown an extremely well-rounded style in 2013.

Without Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta on the team, Smith has taken over the role of being Joe Flacco's go-to target and he's doing it in ways that we haven't seen from him before.

Over the past two years, he has been mostly used to keep defenses honest and open up the field for Boldin and Pitta—both of whom were phenomenal intermediate targets for Flacco. There wasn't a great need for Smith to be involved in the short passing game, so Baltimore used him to stretch the field.

Pro Football Focus (subscription required) calculated that over 40 percent of Smith's targets in 2011 and 2012 came on plays of 20 or more yards—the highest percentage in the league.

The threats of Pitta and Boldin underneath helped Smith find room down the field and resulted in big plays, like his 59-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the 2012 divisional round.

59-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs.

The high safety focused on Pitta crossing the middle of the field (light blue), which left Smith in one-on-one coverage with Champ Bailey. In that scenario, Smith's speed is deadly and the result here was a long touchdown.

Without Pitta and Boldin, Smith has become the focal point of the passing attack.

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has gotten him more involved with short routes, which lets Flacco get the ball to Smith quickly so he can make plays in the open field using his speed.

This strategy was evident against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 and achieved more success than when Smith ran "9 routes" (or the fade).

11-yard gain against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.

This play was called immediately after Joe Haden deflected Flacco's pass to Smith on a fade. Both Brandon Stokley and Marlon Brown run go routes (light blue), which takes their defenders up the field with them.

Ed Dickson runs a seam route (purple), which makes two defenders follow him up the field.

This clears space for Smith to run a shallow cross underneath (yellow). Once Smith catches the ball, his speed allows him to run past the inside linebacker that dropped back into zone coverage (red) and pick up 11 yards on the play.

Baltimore used this concept multiple times throughout the game and found even more success with it in the second quarter.

27-yard gain against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.

Like the last play, Brown and Stokley run streaks (light blue), but this time they take three defenders down the field. Dallas Clark runs a post (dark blue), which occupies the high safety and one of the inside linebackers.

On this occasion, Haden and the other inside linebacker blitz (red) while Tashaun Gipson (circled in black) drops back in zone coverage instead of picking Smith up. This leaves Smith wide open in the middle of the field on his shallow cross (yellow).

With so much room to work with, Smith picks up 27 yards on his longest play of the day.

Not only does his speed help him beat cornerbacks down the field, it also makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands. So far, he's also shown the ability to fight for yards after the catch, like he did against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

11-yard gain against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

On 3rd-and-10, Smith runs a hitch (yellow) and receives the ball on Denver's 9-yard line. He powers through Tony Carter and gains seven extra yards after the catch to pick up the first down.

Similarly, on the curl-flats play below, Haden is sagging off Smith (red). Flacco quickly hits Smith in the flat (yellow), where he has the room to get past Haden and pick up eight yardsmost of which came after the catch.

Eight-yard gain against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.

In just two games, we have seen a completely different side to Smith. As the primary receiver, he can no longer run deep routes all game and is displaying his full route tree as well as excellent route running.

For the rest of the 2013 season, expect Caldwell to keep using these concepts to get the ball in Smith's hands. Flacco will still look for the opportunities to connect with Smith on some deep balls, but he is no longer a one-trick pony.

He doesn't get the recognition he deserves as one of the game's best young wideouts because he hasn't put up gaudy numbers.

This year, he might just get the chance to catch around 70 passes and break the 1,000-yard plateau.

With the Baltimore Ravens needing him more than ever, Smith is proving that he is a complete and true No. 1 wide receiver.

 

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