Torrey Smith Can Only Blame Himself for Recent Struggles


Oct 5, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith(82) attempts to catch a pass over Indianapolis Colts defender Greg Toler (28) during the final play of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts won, 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Torrey Smith has managed just 11 catches this year, barely over two per game, and analysts and fans alike are scrambling to make excuses for the popular wide receiver. “The offense isn’t a great fit for him,” some say. “He’s not being targeted enough,” others opine. I won’t make excuses for him. The only person Torrey has to blame is himself.

Smith has been targeted the second most of anyone on the team, yet he is fifth on the team in receptions, so clearly his targets are not the problem. This table should sum up the problem nicely (stats from Pro Football Focus):

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Yes, Torrey Smith is catching just 40.7 percent of the balls thrown his way. That’s pathetic, and there is no one to blame for that but Torrey himself.

Even much-maligned receiver Jacoby Jones has done better, catching 44.4 percent of his targets.

I took a look at every single one of Torrey’s targets, including penalties, to get some perspective on what is happening.

First of all, despite the move to a more conservative passing game, Torrey Smith continues to be used predominantly as a deep threat. Ten of his 27 targets came 20-plus yards down field, and 13 came between 10-19 yards down field. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 23 targets more than 10 yards down field.

With that in mind, Smith’s catch rate will never be as high as guys like Owen Daniels, Justin Forsett and even Steve Smith, all of whom are much more a part of the short passing game.

That’s not to say Torrey doesn’t run short routes or that he can’t be a successful receiver in the short passing game. But Joe Flacco clearly doesn’t have the same level of confidence in Torrey in the short passing game as he has in his other targets, who receive far more targets in within ten yards of the line of scrimmage.

The problem is not usage. A total of 16 of Torrey’s targets have fallen incomplete. Of those, I counted half that were either catchable or just straight up dropped.

Ultimately, the problem is not usage. A total of 16 of Torrey’s targets have fallen incomplete. Of those, I counted half (that’s eight targets) that were either catchable or just straight up dropped. Some of those were diving or sliding catches, but all of the eight targets I counted as catchable either hit him or the hands or should have had he played the ball correctly. If he comes down with just four of those balls, his catch rate improves to over 50 percent, which is not bad for a deep receiver.

This brings us to Torrey’s crippling weaknesses as a receiver.

First of all, Torrey Smith’s body control and ball skills are both mediocre. Unless the ball is thrown absolutely perfectly, Torrey rarely comes down with it. He doesn’t adjust well when the ball is in the air, and his catch radius when the ball arrives is not impressive.

Second, Torrey has an alarming tendency to give up on plays when he feels he has been interfered with or on balls that are uncatchable. Until the ball hits the ground, Torrey needs to be hustling to try to make a catch, regardless of what the defender is doing.

Finally, and this is why Torrey has struggled to become a threat in the short passing game, his short-area quickness is poor. Torrey takes a long time to get in and out of his cuts, making him a liability on the routes most common in the short passing game. This is the main reason guys like Steve Smith and Owen Daniels have been better; they are smoother route runners.

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Despite these weaknesses, Torrey Smith is not a bad wide receiver. His hands have become more consistent, he still maintains excellent burst off the line and good long speed, and he is tough over the middle. Those attributes should be enough to get Torrey back on track.

Schematically, the Ravens should look at targeting Torrey on slants more often, as he seems comfortable running the route and making the contested catch in the middle of the field.

As for the deep balls, they will come with time. Hopefully Torrey is working extra with Joe Flacco to get their timing down, because the two are clearly not on the same page.

I still remain confident that Torrey will get back on track, but make no mistake. Torrey has been awful this year, and he has no one to blame but himself.