Torrey Smith would be better suited as the slot receiver
You can make a really great argument that right now, Torrey Smith is the best player on the Ravens offense. That used to be a title held by Ray Rice. Blocking troubles or not, Rice is not the same player he once was, at least for this year. Expectations of Joe Flacco grew this offseason after signing at the time the highest contract in the NFL. He hasn’t lived up to those expectations, and the “E” word is pretty much not even up for debate.
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I touched on this subject about a month ago prior to the Ravens/Steelers matchup. Torrey Smith is showing the talent to be a top ten receiver in this league. He makes great hands catches instead of relying on his body. He has the speed in the open field that if a defender is slightly off on the angle he takes that Smith will leave him in the dust. So why do the Ravens continue to stick him split out wide where most of his targets pinch him near the sideline, or deep down the field where Joe Flacco’s accuracy drops off severely? It’s limiting the best offensive threat they have. Smith has caught barely half of his targets, while only dropping one pass on the season. Smith isn’t targeted as much as a top receiver should be because they aren’t designing the passing game around getting him open.
Torrey Smith should be moved to the slot often. Especially with the increase in shotgun and three-wide sets Coach Harbaugh wants to run. Slot receivers rarely face press coverage meaning Smith won’t get jammed at the line and timing routes won’t get thrown off. It also means that most times a team’s best CB won’t be lined up opposite him. Quick passes in soft coverage will him allow him to use his speed to advance the ball forward, even a little bit. They can’t run for four yards a clip, why not throw for it? Traditionally, speedsters are lined up split out wide. But that doesn’t mean that Torrey can’t go deep out of the slot. He can run a post, fly, or flag route from the slot and still get behind two deep safeties.
When you think slot receiver, you think Wes Welker. You also think lots of catches, and lots of short passes. But that’s not necessarily the case. Take a look at this video of Welker, and look at how many different routes he runs. Quick passes, deep passes, outs, ins, even running reverses. The big thing I take away from the Welker clip is how many times he’s wide open. Credit Welker for being one of the best route runners in the game, which helps get him open, making up for his lack of speed.
Unlike Welker, Torrey Smith has speed. Here’s a video of his highlights from 2012. First let’s look at the 0:44 mark. Torrey lined up in the slot versus the Browns. This is proof that Smith can still be a deep threat out of the slot. He’s facing two safeties, and three LBs dropping back into coverage. Smith gets behind all of them and credit Flacco for a pinpoint accurate TD pass. Yes, this was from just outside the redzone, but if this was a 50 yard pass, Torrey is still wide open behind the defense.
Then take a look at the 2:30 mark. Smith is in the slot versus the Chargers, actually facing press coverage this time. He takes a two yard pass, and turns it into a 53 yard gain. Speed kills. The Chargers tackling was also poor that day. Remember 4th and 29? Even if Smith is brought down by the tackler there, it’s still more yards than the running game is getting.
The next clip, 2:43 mark, Smith is again in the slot. Eric Weddle gives Smith room, he breaks inside and it’s easy pitch and catch. Some green in front of him, an easy 22 yard pickup. Simple, right?
At the 3:41 mark, the Ravens are in the red zone looking to score against the Giants on 3rd and goal. Smith from the slot and Ray Rice split out wide. It’s the same formation as the one that Smith scored on last Sunday. Flacco faces a blitz and is about to be leveled. Something he can relate to a lot this year. Joe finds his security blanket slot receiver, pitch and catch, touchdown Torrey.
Deep balls, short balls, press coverage, red zone, Smith can do it all out of the slot. However, only 31 of the 377 routes Torrey Smith has run thus far in 2013 have come out of the slot. Targeted nine times, with five catches for 84 yards. 16.8 YPR and yes, both of his touchdowns on the year also came from the slot.
The coaching staff has been tinkering with the offense all year long, making subtle changes, trying to get it going. Moving Torrey Smith to the slot is the next change that needs to be made.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]