Ravens' Smith adds new dimension to his game
Everybody knows Torrey Smith can go deep.
The second-year Baltimore Ravens receiver is one of the premier deep threats in the NFL, averaging 17.9 yards per catch, with mostly all of it coming in the air (68 percent of his receiving yards have come at the spot he made the catch.)
But Smith has added something a little different to his résumé, which he showed last week — running after the catch.
Last week against San Diego, the Ravens put Smith in position to gain yards after the catch, which led to his best game of the season. Smith caught seven passes for 144 yards, with 88 yards coming after the catch. Smith went into the game averaging only 14.1 yards after the catch per game.
One of those catches — the shotgun four-wide receiver shallow slot cross — went for 54 yards with the majority of the yardage coming after the catch.
It's a play the Ravens have used a lot with Anquan Boldin, including during their first meeting with the Steelers. Involving Smith in the play has been a recent development.
The play is predicated on getting a favorable matchup against a linebacker or safety. That's why the Ravens line up Smith in the slot, as it is highly unusual that a cornerback will follow a receiver into the slot.
The Ravens will use a handful of different formations for the play, but the premise never changes.
Quarterback Joe Flacco lines up in the shotgun with running back Ray Rice set to his right.
Baltimore employs a four-receiver set bunched inside the numbers — two on the left and two on the right. Jacoby Jones is wide left with tight end Dennis Pitta lined up on the hash inside of him.
Smith is in the slot to the right with Boldin set to the outside of him.
Boldin comes in motion from right to left, then back to his original location to indicate to Flacco what kind of defense the opposing team is playing.
At the snap, Jones pushes up on the cornerback and runs a go route to the outside of the numbers, forcing the safety over in that direction.
Pitta runs a hook route at 12 yards and settles down in the middle of the field to draw coverage from the linebackers. On the other side of the field, Boldin runs a deep curl outside near the numbers that gets the attention of the other safety.
Smith typically will have to fight off press coverage and cross the face of the nickel back or linebacker and run a drag route across the field.
Rice will check for a blitz inside out and then release into the flat if there is no blitz to pick up.
The Ravens want to get the ball to their speedy receiver coming across the middle in stride where he can catch the ball and use his speed to gain extra yards.
Accuracy by Flacco is a key.
Flacco wants to get Smith the ball right around the far hash mark where he will be able to turn upfield. If the defense is playing man coverage, it could open up the far sideline for a big gain.
And with Smith's speed, it doesn't take much to turn a 10-yard gain into a 50-yard gain.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org