Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith entered the league out of the University of Maryland with high upside and explosive play-making ability, but he was still very raw. He struggled with drops in training camp prior to his rookie season in 2011, but he was given a chance to start against the Rams in Week 3 of that year when Lee Evans went down with an injury. In the first quarter in St. Louis, Smith recorded the first three receptions of his pro career; they all went for touchdowns.
Since then, even if Smith has not been the team’s No. 1 wideout by name, he has been the receiving threat that has garnered the most attention from opposing defenses. He has quietly become one of the premier deep threats in the game, but, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, he enters his contract season with very little fanfare. The Ravens would like to extend his contract, but no progress has been made on that front as of yet. Although new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak does not run a pure West Coast offense–which means that Joe Flacco will still have a chance to take a few deep shots per game to burners like Smith and Jacoby Jones–Smith must become a more reliable short and intermediate route runner in order to thrive and earn a contract on par with some of the better receivers in the league. As Florio notes, Smith has every reason to emerge as one of the better wideouts in the game in 2014, and, given his work ethic and the strides he has made thus far, it would be foolish to bet against him.
Now for some more notes from around the league:
- Speaking of Smith and the Ravens‘ receiving corps, Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com writes that, although the top four receivers are set–Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Marlon Brown, and Jones–the battle among the remaining wideouts will be an intense one. Seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro could emerge as a reliable slot receiver, the team has been impressed with undrafted find Jeremy Butler, and veterans like Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams will also have a shot.
- Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer writes that, despite losing Smith Sr. and Jordan Gross, the Panthers‘ leadership void can be adequately filled by franchise cornerstones like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, who have slowly developed into locker room leaders.
- Free agent offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is not only looking for a job, but he probably needs one, writes Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. Despite having made tens of millions of dollars in the league, McKinnie has not managed his money wisely and recently had his car repossessed.
- Ryan Broyles, who is attempting to secure a spot as the Lions‘ primary slot receiver, has made good progress in his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, writes Carlos Monarrez of The Detroit Free Press.
- Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News takes a crack at the Lions‘ starting lineups for 2014, and he also notes that the competitions at right tackle, strongside linebacker, and kicker will be ones to watch.
- In a column for CBSSports.com, and in the wake of an arbitrator’s ruling in Jimmy Graham‘s grievance case, recently-retired tight end Tony Gonzalez argues that players should be paid based on their production rather than their position.
- The NFL announced the suspensions of Dion Jordan and Rokevious Watkins on Friday, which has left some to wonder why there has not been an official announcement regarding Eagles‘ right tackle Lane Johnson‘s suspension. Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com explains the league’s process when a player tests positive for a banned substance and posits that Johnson is still going through that process.