T. Smith Breaks Ravens Rookie Record

Poll: Is Torrey Smith having the best offensive rookie season in Ravens history?

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

Of any rookie class in NFL history, this one should have it the toughest.

Because of the lockout and forfeited camps, the rookies came in especially green. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said he felt like somebody coming off the streets.

Yet Smith is having perhaps the best rookie season of any Raven in franchise history.

Last Sunday night, Smith broke running back Jamal Lewis’ Ravens rookie record with his seventh touchdown of the season, a streaking 36-yard touchdown across the middle.

“Put behind the eight-ball, it’s been pretty amazing what he’s done,” Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Jim Hostler said.

“I tell him all the time, he’s far surpassed my expectations. He’s way down the road where I thought he was going to be.”

Smith’s seven touchdowns are tied for the most among NFL rookies with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. His 770 receiving yards are the second-most in the NFL behind Green.

But how does it stack up in the Ravens annals?

Who had the best offensive rookie season in Ravens history?

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Lewis started 13 games and ran 309 times for 1,364 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 27 passes for 296 yards and was a major reason why the Ravens reached the Super Bowl.

Smith has also altered Baltimore’s offense – giving it a long-lacking vertical threat. Whether it’s enough to help take the Ravens to the Super Bowl remains to be seen.

Lewis smiled and said “it’s great” that Smith broke his record. He’s been watching him this season.

“Torrey has come out and progressed and done very well,” Lewis said. “He’s respected around the league with his speed. … He’s a big, big addition to this offense.”

There’s no denying that Smith has had a remarkable rookie season. Hostler said a big reason is that Smith has overcome obstacles.

First it was the previously mentioned lockout, which put the rookies in overtime trying to learn the system. But Smith bought in from the start, Hostler said.

“You don’t have to spend time to keep convincing him to do it our way,” he said.

Second, Baltimore had just cut veteran receiver Derrick Mason and had yet to trade for veteran Lee Evans, which put Smith’s progression on fast forward. He was immediately placed on the first team opposite Anquan Boldin.

“Force-feeding me helped a lot,” said Smith, who will now step into an even larger role with Boldin out.

What it also did was apply more stress, which Hostler said led to a few of Smith’s early “breakdowns.” It was all part of Hostler’s process.

“We grind the rookies down probably a lot more than other teams do,” Hostler said. “They don’t have a chance to ease into it. That was a little bit of a shock to him.”

Third, Smith had some problems with drops in training camp practices that ultimately pushed him to fight harder. His mistakes were displayed for everybody to see when he had a pair of drops against the Washington Redskins in the preseason.

He had a total of four receptions in the preseason, fewer than fourth-round pick Tandon Doss and the same as undrafted rookie LaQuan Williams. The second-round Maryland product admitted he was pressing.

Through those times, Hostler saw the maturity that factored into the front office’s decision to draft Smith.

The struggles led Smith to roll up his sleeves and work harder. Throughout the season, he’s taken extra balls from the JUGS machine after practice, even on players’ days off on Tuesday, to improve his hands. He’s also come a long way in his route-running, ensuring that he’s not just a speed burner.

“A lot of guys can’t accept or handle failure. He’s extremely good at it and can grow from it and get better from it,” Hostler said.

“Through those down times, you’re always looking for that little indication that he’s not going to be able to pull out of it, that he’s not going to accept coaching well enough to pull out of it. It’s all a credit to Torrey that he was.”

Hostler said he was absolutely happy – as strange as it sounds – that Smith had some early drops. Looking back on it now, Smith is too.

“I’ve been through things already that vets haven’t experienced,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve been as high as you can be and as low as you can be. I think it helps you be level-headed.”

Smith was aware that he broke Lewis’ record. But when asked how much it meant to him, he showed some more of that modesty and maturity.

“Not much really,” he said. “I’ve been able to have a little bit of success, but the biggest thing for me is winning.”

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