PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Last year, General Manager Ozzie Newsome remembers watching practice and never seeing the ball hit the ground.
The infusion of youth into the receiving corps has brought more speed and playmaking ability, but it’s also played into an increase of drops.
The Ravens had the fewest number of drops in the NFL last year with 14. This season, they have the fourth-most with 26. Cleveland leads the league with 35 and Atlanta and Philadelphia both have 30.
As Baltimore looks to tighten up its offense heading towards a playoff run, hanging onto the ball better is one area where they would like to improve.
“We’re going to be in tough games, tight games and we’re going to have to make those plays,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I’m going to have to make the throws and they have to make the catches.”
Flacco said he doesn’t harp on receivers when they drop a ball. He often chooses positive reinforcement, telling his teammates they’ll get another chance and to just keep getting open.
That’s what Flacco told rookie Torrey Smith in Pittsburgh when he dropped one game-winner, then caught one a few plays later.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin leads the Ravens with seven drops, which is tied for eighth-most in the NFL and fifth-most in the AFC. He has also been targeted with a team-high 96 passes, so that plays into it.
“We’re all in this together and we all understand,” Flacco said. “Anquan understands. When he drops a ball, he knows he has to catch it. When I miss a throw, I know I have to hit it.”
Running back Ray Rice is tied for 12th in the NFL with six drops. He also leads the team with 56 receptions.
Smith has five drops, but hasn’t had much of an issue since the early stages of the season.
After the game in Pittsburgh, Smith went to Newsome for advice. He asked the Hall of Fame tight end what he can do to be a better player.
“He said, ‘You’re doing everything right. The only thing I really see that you can work on is catching the ball with your eyes more,’” Smith said. “I knew what he was talking about because I was turning my head too quick. It’s all about looking it in.”
Smith studied his drops and says he can recite the exact technical problem with each. He takes about 100 balls from the JUGS machine every Tuesday (players’ day off), Wednesday and Thursday.
“Drops happen,” Smith said. “Obviously, I don’t want to have any drops, but I know I can get open. For me, it’s really focusing on the good things and technique.”