Saturday, November 15, 2014, 12:48pm
The Steve Smith redemption song has skipped in recent weeks.
The veteran wide receiver began the second chapter of his distinguished NFL career in wildly successful fashion, emerging immediately as Joe Flacco's favorite target with the Ravens. Smith was putting up All-Pro numbers, and making the Panthers look foolish while he was at it.
It was a win-win situation for the outspoken star.
Smith's impact has lessened in recent weeks, however. Smith had just three receptions for 17 yards against the Titans on Sunday. He's been held under 40 yards receiving in each of the last three weeks. This comes after an open to the season in which Smith eclipsed 100 yards receiving in four of Baltimore's first six games.
"It's getting spread around a little bit, but I think that's the nature of the game," Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said, according to CSNBaltimore.com. "I think Torrey (Smith) is playing as well as he's played all year the last few weeks. ... I have to always find ways to get guys the ball."
Torrey Smith was supposed to be the Ravens' No. 1 option when the season opened, the story said. Perhaps this is simply a case of the offense clicking into place. He has five touchdowns over the past five weeks. We figured Smith wasn't going to be left out of the offense forever. He's always been a boom or bust type of fantasy play but Smith certainly has big-play potential.
Otherwise, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound wide receiver out of Florida State had a strong preseason and established himself as the No. 1 target the Panthers were looking for when they released Steve Smith in March.
The finger doesn't appear to be anything that will be an issue, and Benjamin played longer than he was scripted because he wanted more time on the field, the story said. Two of his four catches for 56 yards were in traffic over the middle. He's shaping up to be a potential later-round WR option who could surprise this year as Carolina's top target. His ADP is the 9th round in 10-team leagues.
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 2:06pm
The veteran wideout looked more like a rookie trying to earn his spot rather than of a 14-year veteran with a standout resume. Smith put his intensity on display for his best performance of the preseason in the Ravens' 23-17 victory over Washington.
"That's kind of vintage Steve Smith," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It was great to see that."
Smith was arguably the best player on the field. He caught a game-high six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown grab was a 24-yard diving catch in the back of the end zone near the end of the first half, which gave the Ravens a lead they would build on for the victory.
"I think this was a big step with him," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "There's a reason he's been in the league as long as he has and it's because he goes out there and fights every day."
Sunday, August 17, 2014, 10:18am
The competition for the Ravens’ final receiver spots may be closer than any other position on the team.
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said it’s the tightest receiver battle he’s ever seen. Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters this week that the preseason games will be critical in determining which receivers play their way onto the team.
Perhaps no player made a better case for himself Saturday against the Cowbys than third-year wideout Deonte Thompson. The speedy receiver delivered the games’ biggest play when he ran back a kickoff for a 108-yard touchdown.
Saturday, August 9, 2014, 5:16pm
Only a scaled-down version of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's playbook was revealed Thursday night, but the Ravens' overhauled offense got positive reviews.
Based on the limited sample of 10 plays during the Ravens' opening drive against the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback Joe Flacco is upbeat about the potential of the offense.
Flacco orchestrated an 80-yard drive that lasted nearly five minutes and was capped by running back Bernard Pierce's pounding 2-yard touchdown run behind blocks from right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Bill Wagner.
"We ran the ball really well and protected really well," Flacco said Saturday before a joint practice with the 49ers at the Ravens' training complex. "There is a lot to build on. I think we built a good foundation there. I think each week from here on out, we have to keep showing that improvement and building off what we did.”
During that drive, Flacco completed 4 of 5 passes for 52 yards. He had a long completion of 17 yards to versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk and connected with tight end Dennis Pitta on a 14-yard screen. Flacco also had a 12-yard throw to wide receiver Jacoby Jones and a 9-yard pass to new wide receiver Steve Smith.
In Benjamin, they have a true No. 1 receiver that Smith wasn't going to be at 35 years old. They have a dynamic player that makes difficult plays look easy.
The Panthers need someone to step into the WR1 role and they think Benjamin can. Keep in mind, this was a preseason game. Although you can feel the excitement in the writer's tone, rookie receivers don't always have a WR1-like first seasons in the NFL. Still, this was as good a first game as the team could have hoped for Benjamin, who also missed time in camp. Benjamin is ranked just 40th on our list but is getting some late-round draft attention.
Sunday, August 3, 2014, 6:41pm
Marlon Brown, the second-year WR who set a Ravens franchise rookie record in touchdown receptions last season, had his best practice of training camp Sunday, making a series of contested catches. It was another positive step forward for a player who struggled to hang onto the ball in the various offseason minicamps but now appears to be hitting his stride.
So the fact they’re not freaking out about his “precautionary MRI” is probably a good sign.
Benjamin was sent back to Charlotte for tests after banging knees with a teammate Sunday afternoon. He finished practice and signed autographs afterward, so there was no early sign of panic.
“It could just be one of those things where if he had iced it right away and not finished [Sunday’s] practice, maybe it would have been better,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Black and Blue Review.
The result of the MRI is just a bruise. Benjamin is expected to play a pretty big role in the Panthers offense after losing both Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell in the offseason. Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery are next in line in terms of WRs. It will be important for Benjamin to get back and continue to get his reps.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 10:22am
Now, they have to hope he’s well.
Benjamin wasn’t going to replace veteran Steve Smith immediately, but if he’s out any amount of time, they could be in real trouble throwing the ball. It's also key Benjamin gets his reps in practice. They’ll go two-tight end more (or maybe three), their next-best options at wide receiver are Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, 1:44pm
The 32-year-old Cotchery realizes the team's younger wide receivers are looking to him for experience and occasional words of wisdom given his 10 seasons in the NFL. Cotchery is good with all of that, but said his primary concern right now is proving to his new team he can play at an elite level.
"I want to be known as a guy who can help individuals — not just on the field, but off the field as well," Cotchery said. "That's fine with me. But that doesn't get you anywhere in the NFL. Teams don't bring you in to be counselors or anything of that nature. They want you to come in and contribute and make plays and help the team win."
Cotchery was brought in as an unrestricted free agent to replace Steve Smith, Carolina's all-time leading receiver and a fan favorite.
Cotchery is coming off a year where he quietly caught 10 TD passes for the Steelers, but he's only ever had one 1,000-plus yard season. That came back in 2007 with the Jets. He's likely not getting drafted in a lot of leagues but he could end up being a free agent pickup if in fact he does end up starting for the Panthers.
Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12:32pm
In his third season, Smith cracked the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time, generating 1,128 yards on a career-high 65 catches. That puts Smith at No. 17 among all pass-catchers, and it creates a potential conundrum regarding his worth.
On one hand, Smith had a great year given the lack of complementary weapons. On the other hand, a high-end wideout should have had even better numbers, especially without players like Anquan Boldin (who was traded in the 2013 offseason) and tight end Dennis Pitta (who missed most of the year with a dislocated hip) not siphoning off throws.
This year Smith will battle with Pitta, newly signed WR Steve Smith, newly signed TE Owen Daniels and even WR Jacoby Jones for catches. We rank Torrey Smith 26th among WRs with an ADP of the 7th round. We think he'll break the 1,100-yard receiving mark, however, his projected 4.4 TDs is second lowest to only Kendall Wright among our top-30 WRs.
The Panthers' receiving corps is aware of its perceived standing in the league.
“The elephant in the room has already been stated,” Cam Newton said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Those guys have already accepted the challenge. You don’t have to go in there and tell those guys, ‘Hey, you’re projected the sorriest receiver [group] in the NFL.’ We already know. But with that, those guys already have that fire in their eyes. I would rather those guys be like that and for them to go out there and bust their tails like they’ve been doing. It’s kind of like a slap in–not only their face–but my face as well. The things that have been said, the reports, who cares? Because at the end of the day, we will be ready to play football, and Carolina Panthers football. Hard-nosed, and everybody’s going to have to do their job.”
While Steve Smith has long been held in high regard, Newton points out that there were questions about Carolina’s overall receiving corps heading into last season as well. Things went well enough for Newton to throw 24 touchdowns and the Panthers won the NFC South, so his confidence that everything will come together doesn’t come totally out of left field.
We're projecting Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin to start, with Tiquan Underwood playing the Ted Ginn role in the offense and Jason Avant manning the slot. That's not pretty, but if Benjamin can progress, then the team won't be that far behind where they were last season. Cotchery is a sleeper given the circumstances.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 11:14am
Marlon Brown was the best rookie on offense last season, making 49 receptions and catching seven touchdown passes. He won't have to start after the Ravens signed Steve Smith in free agency. But Brown will still play a major role as the No. 3 wide receiver.
Brown had a nice rookie season (49-524-7 in 14 games) and would be a 2014 breakout candidate if not for the arrival of Steve L Smith, who is likely to start ahead of Brown.
Panthers beat writer David Newton predicts eight TDs for rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin: "If Kelvin Benjamin doesn't score more than four touchdowns, I would be surprised. One of the reasons the Panthers drafted Benjamin was because at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds he is a huge target in the red zone. From what I've seen so far there will be little hesitation to throw it up high and let him go get it. I'll go one step further. I wouldn't be shocked if Benjamin equaled or surpassed Steve Smith's touchdown total (eight) of the past two seasons combined."
Friday, June 6, 2014, 11:18am
Steve Smith had made up his mind. Last January, in the days following the Carolina Panthers' disappointing one-and-done playoff appearance against the San Francisco 49ers, Smith's heart and body started leading him in the direction of his own one-and-done experience. His decision was clear. He would play one more season with the Panthers, his 14th in Carolina, and then retire, heading home to his burgeoning family and whatever life after football held.
But plans can change rapidly in the NFL, and Smith is thankful they did. Days after his surprise release from the Panthers in mid-March, Carolina's all-time leading receiver signed a new lease on his football life, agreeing to a three-year, $11 million deal in Baltimore, with a Ravens organization that has a long and successful history of adding still-productive veterans to its winning mix. The unexpected jolt Smith, 35, received this offseason might have been exactly what he needed, and he's freshly motivated by the possibility of a career-capping three-year run in Baltimore.
"When I got released, and how it happened, it made me feel a certain way,'' Smith said, moments after finishing an impressive OTA workout at the Ravens' team complex. "It gave me a little bit maybe that I had been missing. My wife said, 'How do you feel about that?' And my response was to start working out again every day after that. I started jogging, my knee started feeling better, and the next thing you know, I got a three-year deal here.
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